Commodore, Royal Saudi Navy (Retired)
The recently announced Saudi Vision 2030 is creating waves across the world. Every political, social and economic analyst is keenly studying the Vision 2030.
The policies, announced by Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, pertain to all aspects of the Saudi life. Since the vision is about a secured future, it is directly linked to the youth of the country. Two things, however, came to the minds of people in the Kingdom and of those outside of Saudi Arabia. First one is if the Kingdom is addicted to Saudi Aramco and whether or not the vision is feasible.
The irony of the two above topics is that they can be seen as questions that answer themselves. Yes, the Saudi Vision 2030 is feasible and can be achieved. And doing it is simpler than many think. We just look at the old Saudi Aramco blue prints of earlier visions. In other words, we probably can do it if we if we use the Aramco way because Saudi Aramco did it in the past with a lot less assets and without even a simple Texas Instrument.
The Saudi Vision 2030 is a vision that aims at improving the overall lifestyle in Saudi Arabia, better utilization of its assets, better education, better health care, housing facilities, new rules for expatriates, unemployment and last but not the least eradication of corruption. The deputy crown prince discussed all these issues in a candid and transparent manner. So, where is Saudi Aramco and what is the Saudi Aramco way?
The day oil was discovered in Saudi Arabia in 1938, the face of Saudi Arabia changed forever. And yes, we Saudis became addictive to Saudi Aramco when its old name was changed from CASOC to Aramco and later on to Saudi Aramco.
And from that day, many of its American geologists and engineers enhanced their skills to become politicians, farmers, educators, physicians, housing developers and social workers. In other words, for many Saudis, the oil company wasn’t only an oil company. The company became part of the society. And they became an executer of a plan that paved the way for other Saudi government ministries and agencies.
When Saudi Aramco was on the path to become the largest oil company in the world, a lot of measures were required to achieve that status. Better infrastructure, better schools, better hospitals and healthier society. Amazingly Saudi Aramco did all this fast and in a professional manner.
The company needed more educated young people so they established quality schools in Dhahran. A railroad track was needed so the company supervised the work on a 600-kilometer track and finished it in three years at a time when there were no computers. The Kingdom had some chronic diseases and it was Saudi Aramco that eradicated those illnesses through an extensive health program and education. Saudi Aramco introduced housing plans for its employees and introduced the insurance sector to the Kingdom. Also, it made better plans for better cultivation in Al-Ahsa, Qatif, Alkharj and Haradh.
The Kingdom saw Trans-Arabian Pipeline that even established new cities along the line and state of the art refinery and loading facilities. And when the electricity consumption increased dramatically all over the Kingdom in the 1970s, it was Saudi Aramco that had the solution. And it was Saudi Aramco that introduced modern aviation in the 1950s. Lighted sports facilities were first seen in Aramco. It was Saudi Aramco that introduced the world’s first driving safety law when it issued a mandatory use of seat belts. And more ironic, Saudi Arabia saw the world’s first reserved car parking spots for ladies in Dhahran. These spots were reserved for women working for Aramco. Usually, these parking spots are closer to the offices. But, what’s more, Saudi Aramco even influenced our diet. We all remember the so-called Cake Aramco. But, most important, Saudi Aramco employees became known for their hard work and Aramco introduced the words overtime to the Saudi dictionary.
Saudi Aramco didn’t only dig for oil, but also dug for political public relations when King Faisal dispatched a team from Saudi Aramco led by former Aramco CEO Frank Junger to the United States to talk about the 1973 oil embargo.
Later on, Saudi Aramco became a breeding ground for top Saudi politicians and top holders of Saudi government posts like former Oil Minister Ali Al-Naimi, newly-appointed Minister of Energy Khalid Al-Falih, former SAGIA Governor Abdulateef Al-Othman, Deputy Minister of Health Hamad Al-Dhuwelia and many others.
So, are we addicted to Saudi Aramco? The answer is yes, we are. And it is true that not everything is perfect in Saudi Aramco, but, at the end of the day, Saudi Aramco introduced development visions and succeeded. And if Saudi Aramco can do it, then it can be done. To achieve Saudi Vision 2030, we need to eradicate corruption, enforce transparency, safe keeping the allocated public funds, hard work, determination and honesty.
Written by Abdulateef Al-Mulhim. The Visionary Saudi Aramco reprinted with permission of Arab News and Abdulateef Al-Mulhim.