Commodore, Royal Saudi Navy (Retired)
Whether you believe it or not, I just realized that in order for me to see ancient Islamic artifacts, works of Islamic art, archaeology, coins and books, I would have to visit a neighboring country or to travel as far as Europe to find some museum housing such treasures.
As a matter of fact, it was the Islamic Museum of Australia that made many of our youngsters ask as to why the place of the birth of Islam had no museum that could educate people, Muslims and non-Muslims or Saudis and expatriates, about the rich history of Islam and Muslims.
This important question was answered by Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman when he unveiled a new vision for Saudi Arabia — Saudi Vision 2030.
Undoubtedly, Saudi Arabia has a lot to offer to its people and to the lovers of history across the globe. As a matter of fact, the Kingdom is a treasure trove when it comes to historical sites. It is a great country brimming with talent and bubbling with untapped potential. The wait is, however, over. April 25, 2016 will always be remembered as an important day in the history of the Kingdom, as on this historic day our leadership unveiled a new vision for the Kingdom and set a new road map for the country to realize its full potential.
Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman conveyed his message to the masses in a very straightforward manner. Earlier, in a television interview with veteran journalist Turki Al-Dakhil, he candidly expressed his views on a host of issues. The deputy crown prince spoke in detail about the world’s largest oil producer and exporter Saudi Aramco, which until today is considered the main source of our income. Selling part of the company will ensure not only Saudi citizens’ participation but it would ensure more transparency in the overall functioning or administration of the company, about which even many Saudis know too little.
One more thing that is no less important is that he talked very extensively about unemployment and how to resolve the issue. He talked about housing problem and how to expedite the process of providing Saudis with their own homes. He did not only speak about corruption but also shared his views about ways to tackle the menace. In short from mismanagement of budgetary allocations to military, the deputy crown prince shared his views openly on almost every issue of socioeconomic importance.
To the surprise of many, the deputy crown prince spoke bluntly about cutting down government subsidies on some of the utilities without touching the middle- or lower-class. He favors decreasing subsidies that benefit only the rich and top government officials.
The Saudi Vision 2030 has been unveiled at a time when the western analysts are working overtime to write articles about the Kingdom using beautiful vocabulary and technical jargon but without having real knowledge about Saudi Arabia, its people, its economy, its politics and the relation between the rulers and the ruled.
A few weeks ago, the water tariff was increased but people did not like the hike. We did not witness any protests or riots. People’s messages were conveyed to the relevant top officials and they reversed the decision. A few years ago, there were talks about housing shortage and a few weeks later, the governing body allocated SR250 billion for the purpose. There are many cases where people ask and the government gives.
However, the Saudi Vision 2030 is basically a long-term plan and we all have to work together to achieve our goals and to help make our country stronger.
This is the reason Prince Mohammed spoke very transparently about fighting corruption and finding the best ways to use our assets in the best possible way. In other words, the Kingdom is heading for faster reforms and this will be done without affecting or influencing our deep heritage and culture. Now, it is the duty of all Saudis, men and women, old and young to make efforts for the successful implementation of the vision.
It is heartening to note that the deputy crown prince didn’t forget the expatriates who had been living and working in the Kingdom for years. They have played a crucial role in the progress of this country. The government also plans to introduce a green card system for those who are not Saudis but very much part of the Saudi society.
Written by Abdulateef Al-Mulhim. Saudi Vision 2030: Dawn of a New Era reprinted with permission of Arab News and Abdulateef Al-Mulhim.