Opinion

Evaluating Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 at the five-year mark

Evaluating Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 at the five-year mark

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Following the collapse of oil prices in mid-2014 and growing pressure to balance the fiscal budget, the Saudi leadership, headed by King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, launched Saudi Vision 2030.

Vision 2030 aimed to reduce Saudi Arabia’s dependence on oil revenue, transform and diversify the economy, and improve public sector services. Other goals included enhancing the quality of life of the country’s citizens, increasing employment, and improving health, education, recreation, tourism, e-government services and infrastructure.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman observed that Vision 2030 is an ambitious yet achievable blueprint that expresses Saudi Arabia’s long-term goals and expectations, and reflects the Kingdom’s strengths and capabilities. Achieving Vision 2030 is based on three strong pillars: A vibrant society, a thriving economy and an ambitious nation.

The strategic concept of Vision 2030 in its infancy called for change to tackle the inevitable challenges brought about balancing the fiscal budget and addressing the collapse of oil revenues.

Knowing the problem is half of the solution, so the leadership conferred with international consultants to deliver strategies to achieve the ambitious long-term goals of Saudi Vision 2030.

Consultants and experts delivered a state-of-the-art strategy. One challenge concerned the people chosen to execute and deliver the strategies, programs and initiatives of Vision 2030. The long-term vision requires agile, efficient, motivated, well educated and experienced individuals, in order to strengthen and achieve the programs and initiatives.

Part of the launch of Vision 2030 involved programs and initiatives such as the National Transformation Program and the establishment of Vision Realization Offices in Saudi ministries. Moreover, various government institutions were merged to support efficiency, deliver change, and promote an agile strategy to achieve the goals and objectives of the long-term strategy.

Before the launch of the long-term vision, public sector services often failed to meet the expectations of citizens in delivering satisfactory services.

To achieve the goals and objectives of Vision 2030, the Saudi leadership trained civil servants and employees, and recruited private sector executives to lead the transformation.

Recruiting private sector executives for leadership positions in the public sector reflected the strategic objectives, promoted a new approach in the public sector, and enhanced public-private networks and partnerships.

Achieving Saudi Vision 2030 and the associated restructuring of government institutions has led to several dramatic shifts in public sector institutions.

Dr. Turki Faisal Al-Rasheed

The transition of private sector executives to the public sector requires considerable motivation to adjust to organizational, cultural and personal differences.

One of the main factors in enabling private sector leaders to transition into the public sector was the opportunity to be part of a transformation that would impact the Kingdom and region at large.

They wanted to be part of a team that builds a future for the new generations to come, and they saw significant opportunities to learn and grow by being a part of government.

The typical challenges that face private sector leaders moving to the public sector are the extensive processes, policies and procedures required to achieve change. Leaders need to learn and re-learn government office protocols and communications. They need to learn the procedures to receive approval from multiple levels of the government’s chain of command. And finally, they need to learn how to work with public sector stakeholders.

Achieving Saudi Vision 2030 and the associated restructuring of government institutions has led to several dramatic shifts in public sector institutions.

One policy shift that created organizational change involved the end of a damaging stereotype of civil servants: That they work fewer hours and are less productive than private sector workers. Now, civil servants and young people are motivated to work long hours and want to be part of Vision 2030’s success.

Institutions have also reformed, and are providing outstanding services with dignity to service receivers. Examples of this include passport, national ID, driver’s license and resident ID services, on top of health, legal (marriages, divorce, power of attorney) and company services. Outdated bureaucratic processes were removed when the government provided e-services to citizens and residents. Now it is all available online.

There are differences in organization culture between the public sector and the private sector.

In the public sector, making no decision is preferable to making the wrong decision. Additionally, the concept of mujamala (accepting something out of politeness) and the tendency of some long-term legacy government employees to adopt an “us vs. them” attitude toward private-sector recruits is still evident, according to research by the Misk Foundation and the Center for Creative Leadership Private-to-Public Transition.

The culture in public sector jobs is attractive because of shorter working hours, less work pressure and more job security, while private sector culture is a place for professional development. People who prefer private sector jobs therefore tend to be more dynamic and talented than those who choose to work in the public sector.

However, there have been successes in the public sector, with civil servants becoming better public servants and agile leaders, and an increase in coordination among various institutions. The shift in civil servants’ capability and capacity to deliver programs and initiatives has been enormous. We can see the success reflected in public health, e-services and e-commerce, and good information technology. What Vision 2030 created is coordination and support for one another.

The participation of stakeholders is paramount to the success of Saudi Vision 2030. Achieving the goals and objectives of the long-term vision requires the coordination and cooperation of the private sector, public sector and the engagement of citizens. Stakeholder engagement is one crucial part for success in the delivery of programs and objectives.

Some of the successes of Saudi Vision 2030 are manifested in the leadership’s dedication to delivering successful programs that increase the quality of life of the Kingdom’s citizens and residents. This is evident in the recently published 2021 World Happiness Report, where Saudi Arabia ranks first in the Arab world and 21st globally, according to the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network.

Saudi Arabia maintains high levels of confidence as one of the most trusted governments in the world, according to the results of Edelman’s 2021 Trust Barometer report. The levels of confidence in the performance of Saudi Arabia’s government increased from 78 percent in January 2020 to 82 percent in January 2021, adding four percentage points, which qualified it to be at the forefront of the 28 countries highlighted in the index as the most trustworthy governments.

All told, Saudi Vision 2030 has been a success so far, and we look forward to this continuing.

• Dr. Turki Faisal Al-Rasheed is the co-author of “Public Governance and Strategic Management Capabilities: Public Governance in the Gulf States” with Paul Joyce. He is now writing “Saudi Arabia’s Transformation: Sustainability and Uncertainty” together with Joyce. It is due to be released during the first quarter of 2021.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News' point-of-view

What Saudi Vision 2030 reform plan has achieved at the five-year mark

Saudi Arabia’s then Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman unveiled the vision 5 years ago. (SPA)
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Updated 30 April 2021

What Saudi Vision 2030 reform plan has achieved at the five-year mark

  • Experts say the programs have addressed structural challenges since the plan’s launch
  • Plans in the offing for transforming the Kingdom’s health sector among other targets

RIYADH: Five years ago, Saudi Arabia’s then Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman unveiled a strategic plan designed to transform the Kingdom’s economy, reduce its dependence on oil, and nurture a “vibrant society ... characterized by strong roots and strong foundations that emphasize moderate Islam, national pride, Saudi heritage and Islamic culture.”

On the same day, in an interview with Al Arabiya news channel, he talked about the Saudi government having targets, key performance indicators, and project management offices, thus charting a new course for a nation with 60 percent of its population aged under 35.

Five years on, in a review of Vision 2030’s results, Saudi Arabia’s Council of Economic and Development Affairs highlighted on Tuesday the achievements covering the three major themes of “vibrant society,” “prosperous economy” and “ambitious nation.”

The council noted that access to emergency health services within 4 hours has improved from 36 percent when Vision 2030 was first inaugurated to 87 percent today. Better road management and enforcement has seen annual traffic accident fatalities fall to 13.5 deaths per 100,000, down from 28.8 when the reforms began.

The number of people participating in sports activities at least once a week has risen from 13 percent prior to the reforms to 19 percent in 2020.

“It helped develop sectors related to life quality, such as sports, entertainment, culture, tourism, and others,” Khalid Albaker, acting chief of marketing and communications at the Quality of Life Program, told Arab News.




Long dependent on oil exports, Saudi Arabia’s economy is now branching out. (AFP)

“It has also created job opportunities and diversified sources of income and contributed to GDP (gross domestic product).”

With regard to housing, the council noted that the number of homeowners has increased from 47 percent five years ago to 60 percent today as a result of more easily accessible housing assistance.

“This is in parallel with increasing the supply of housing units at reasonable prices, implementing programs specialized in securing housing for society’s underprivileged, developing and improving the legislative and regulative environment for the housing sector, and maximizing the sector’s impact on the overall economy,” Meshaal Al-Shammary, director of Housing VRP 2030’s studies and research department, told Arab News.

Separately, the number of heritage sites that can be visited in Saudi Arabia has risen from 241 in 2017 to 354 last year, creating new jobs in the tourism sector and contributing significantly to GDP, according to the council.




The number of heritage sites that can be visited in Saudi Arabia has risen from 241 in 2017 to 354 last year. (AFP)

To promote tourism, including religious pilgrimages to the Two Holy Mosques, the Kingdom has streamlined travel documentation. An Umrah visa, which previously took 14 days to process, can now be obtained within 5 minutes, while the tourist e-visa is just a few clicks away, according to the council.

During the same period, seven royal natural reserves to help preserve plant and animal species have been established.

As part of its commitment to combating climate change, the Kingdom has encouraged the concept of a circular carbon economy, adopted by the G20, and expanded its solar, hydrogen and ammonia projects.




One of the overriding goals of Vision 2030 is economic diversification. (AFP)

Saudi Arabia hopes to obtain 50 percenit of its energy capacity from renewables by 2030. This comes alongside the Saudi Green and Middle East Green initiatives, designed to boost vegetation, reduce carbon emissions, and combat pollution and land degradation.

On the financial front, the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF) has doubled to approximately SR1.5 trillion in five years while foreign direct investment has increased from SR5.321 billion to SR17.625 billion.

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To simplify foreign investment, Vision 2030 has developed the financial sector, adding the Saudi Stock Exchange (Tadawul) to the emerging market indices MSCI and Standard & Poor’s Dow Jones.




non-oil GDP ratio rose from 55 percent in 2016 to 59 percent in 2020. (AFP)

With the establishment of the Fintech Saudi Center, the Saudi Stock Exchange (Tadawul) has become one of the 10 largest financial markets around the world, according to the Council of Economic and Development Affairs.

“The (coronavirus disease) COVID-19 pandemic has had a positive impact on the speed of adoption of modern solutions and technologies in various financial transactions, especially in financial payments, lending and financing services,” Abdullah Al-Jaidan, a member of the National Committee for Information Technology and Communication at the Council of Saudi Chambers, told Arab News.

One of the overriding goals of Vision 2030 is economic diversification. Long dependent on oil exports, Saudi Arabia’s economy is now branching out. Its non-oil GDP ratio rose from 55 percent in 2016 to 59 percent in 2020. Non-oil revenues also rose from SR166 billion in 2015 to SR369 billion last year.

Saudi Arabia is now a digitally competitive nation. It is ranked sixth among the G20 states in the Global Cybersecurity Index of the International Telecommunication Union, having expanded connectivity from 1.2 million homes in 2017 to 3.5 million by 2020.

“Saudi innovation in digital payments wouldn’t be possible without a visionary investment in the entire information and communications technology infrastructure,” Ibrahim Al-Hudhaif, a business development specialist at Sulaiman Abdul Aziz Al-Rajhi Holding Co., told Arab News.

“Both residents and corporations in Saudi have benefited from well-established infrastructure. The majority of government transactions are made online, enhancing services delivery and easing business transactions.”

Through legislation designed to protect their personal and professional rights, workforce participation among Saudi women increased from 19.4 percent in 2017 to 33.2 percent in 2020.




Ibrahim Al-Hudhaif

The five years since the launch of Saudi Vision 2030 has also seen greater accessibility to public institutions and progress in the fight against corruption.

The total money recovered by the public treasury following anti-corruption settlements reached SR247 billion in the past three years, representing 20 percent of total non-oil revenues, in addition to tens of non-cash assets transferred to the finance ministry.
 




Workforce participation among Saudi women increased from 19.4 percent in 2017 to 33.2 percent in 2020. (AFP)

The council also said that law courts have become more effective and accessible, and a culture of accountability is becoming entrenched within government and among citizens.

Vision 2030 planners want to increase public participation and private-sector partnerships in the next phase, with plans in the offing for a health-sector transformation among other ambitious targets.

As Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has noted, much more remains to be done on various fronts to achieve Vision 2030’s goals.

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Building on tradition: The enduring appeal of Hail’s mud houses

Updated 15 May 2021

Building on tradition: The enduring appeal of Hail’s mud houses

  • The region is replete with historical heritage because it is an ancient region known for its generosity and hospitality

RIYADH: Old neighborhoods in the heart of the city of Hail, in northern Saudi Arabia, are popular attractions, especially with older visitors who like to wander around and look at the traditional mud houses that remind them of their childhood days.

In recent years, there has been a resurgence of interest in the region in these buildings, both the surviving examples of those built a century ago and the more recent buildings that mimic their style.

Mohammed Al-Na’am is the supervisor of several Al-Na’am heritage houses. These properties, which are owned by his family and were built many decades ago, are open 24 hours a day to visitors and passers-by, who can stop by for a coffee and some food or even stay the night. There are many other houses across the Hail region that are similarly welcoming, he said.

His heritage houses are usually busy with visitors from Hail and beyond, who appreciate the generosity of their hosts, he said. Most of those who visit the houses, the origins of which date back as far as 1500 AD, are particularly impressed by the ornately decorated walls and ceilings, which have been restored and renovated with a modern touch, Al-Na’am added.

“Hail is replete with historical heritage because it is an ancient region known for its generosity and hospitality,” he said. “This explains the interest in the ancient buildings of the region.”

The traditional buildings in the region differ from those in other parts of the Kingdom, and some other Gulf countries, because they were designed and built with the help of Iraqi specialists and architects and so include distinctive plaster decorations in a variety of shapes and forms, he explained. Some examples have been well maintained and preserved while others are in need of restoration.

While this traditional style of building enjoys enduring popularity, Al-Na’am said, the high cost of constructing mud houses and the need for continuous maintenance means that modern versions are often built using concrete. This allows the classic mud-house style to be preserved while reducing the cost of construction and maintenance.

“Some modern buildings maintain the traditional design used in ancient buildings and use the same style of decorations, especially those in the city center,” he said. But this style of ancient buildings originally developed and spread in the villages of the region, not in the city.

HIGHLIGHT

The traditional buildings in the region differ from those in other parts of the Kingdom, and some other Gulf countries, because they were designed and built with the help of Iraqi specialists and architects and so include distinctive plaster decorations in a variety of shapes and forms. Some examples have been well maintained and preserved while others are in need of restoration.

One feature of these buildings is the design of the majlis or sitting rooms, which often have relatively high ceilings to make it easier to keep the room clear of smoke from the fire during the winter and keep it cool in the summer, said Al-Na’am.

“Most of the sitting rooms are decorated with plaster featuring geometric shapes,” he added. “However, today’s buildings use gypsum plaster and cement, which have lower costs.”

Some people continue to keep the old traditions alive by working with authentic materials. Abdullah Al-Khuzam, a member of the National Program for the Development of Handicrafts, has been passionate about building mud houses for more than 30 years.

He said he mixes the mud he uses, and that other materials used in the construction include tree trunks and palm-tree fronds. He described the Hail architectural style as durable and solid, with strong walls ranging in thickness from 30 to 40 centimeters. Mixing the mud is a delicate process that requires special skills, and is not as random as it might appear, he added.

“For example, certain parts of the building require a certain amount of mud and clay and a certain quantity of soil,” he explained. “For other parts, mud and soil are mixed and soft hay is added. The mixture is fermented for seven to 14 days before construction starts.”

Al-Khuzam, who is also a well-known fine artist, has taken part in many heritage exhibitions in the Kingdom and other countries.

“My participation in these events aimed to promote our traditional heritage and introduce the next generations to the traditional methods our forefathers used,” he said. The traditional designs and construction methods used in old buildings reflected the values and beliefs of the community, said Al-Khuzam. It was usual, for example, for doors in mud houses to be positioned in such a way that they did not reveal the interior of the house. A wall would block the view. Decorations were also an important part of the design process.

“Our forefathers paid special attention to the sitting room’s construction, which reflected their taste in art and architecture,” he said. “The majority of sitting rooms were decorated with engravings on the walls as well as Qur’anic verses, wise proverbs and drawings of plants.”

The majlis, where guests were hosted, was known as al-qahwa (the coffee area), he explained, and the area overlooking the yard was called liwan (summer majlis).

One feature that sets houses in Hail apart from those in other areas, according to Al-Khuzam, is the yard. Typically, it is a large space with an orange tree in the center. Orange trees live a long time and are a signature feature of yards in Hail. Some also have palm trees.

Another prominent feature of architecture in the region is something called a “dome,” which is located in front of the building. It is where the residents of the house traditionally spend most of their time during the summer. It also helps to shield the rest of the house from the sun and rain.

The previously mentioned majlis or sitting room in the heart of the house is where family members gather during the cold days of winter and light a fire to keep warm. The heads of the family occupy the main bedroom, while the children share rooms that are divided between boys and girls.

One of the nicest parts of a traditional Hail house is called “al-qubaiba.” Located off a corridor or a corner, it is a small space usually used by women, especially the elderly, to pray. A clay pot filled with water is stored there to keep it cool.

Al-Khuzam’s enduring passion for Hail’s old buildings is clear.

“I have been ready to do anything for the sake of this precious heritage and legacy,” he said. “I was glad when I heard that the Ministry of Culture had decided to restore the heritage sitting rooms in the city of Hail. These public places represent an important aspect of the traditions and values of the people of Hail, reflecting their generosity to visitors and passers-by. Some of them are open from after Asr prayers until midnight.

“I was a member of the team that restored these sitting rooms. I am grateful for the authorities’ support and for giving us the opportunity to put our touches on the historic buildings in the area.”

Mohammed Al-Halfi, a historian and doctorate student at King Saud University, said a house represents a part of a family’s identity and offers an insight into their history. Houses built close together are indicative of the close relationships between the people that lived in them, he explained.

They reveal how these people planned their lives together and built houses that reflected their environments and surroundings, he added. In the rural desert environment, known for its harshness and extreme summer heat, mud houses helped to manage the temperature.

“Using mud in architecture became an art hundreds of years ago, and still is,” said Al-Halfi. “Guest and living rooms in today’s houses have the same style as the old ones, and this reflects our pride in this identity and our heritage.”

He added that a study of the materials, design and construction techniques that were used to make the mud houses reveals the expertise of the builders. They took into account all factors to ensure the structures were perfectly suited to the local conditions, including the terrain and climate, and even the rising and setting of the sun.

“We must view mud houses as a historical source when studying any society,” said Al-Halfi. “These houses deserve to be studied, economically and socially, to get more information about the community at the time.

“That is why we find mud houses differ from one region to another, according to the cultures of their inhabitants and the building requirements available in their environments.”

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ThePlace: Tayeb Al-Ism, one of Saudi Arabia’s most stunning natural attractions

Updated 15 May 2021

ThePlace: Tayeb Al-Ism, one of Saudi Arabia’s most stunning natural attractions

  • Small streams run through the stones and groves of palm trees dot the inside of the valley

Tayeb Al-Ism is one of Saudi Arabia’s most stunning natural attractions. Visitors to the valley enjoy one surprise after another. The valley is located on the Gulf of Aqaba, 15 kilometers north of the coastal town of Maqna.

Palm groves and granite massifs surround the valley’s entrance, which is located between two massifs that appear to be split in half.

After leaving their cars, visitors follow a pedestrian bridge that gives hikers the impression that they are about to embark on a magical journey. Small streams run through the stones and groves of palm trees dot the inside of the valley.

Shade and the large number of streams help to regulate the temperature, ensuring conditions in the heart of Tayeb Al-Ism are always pleasant.

Moses is believed to have spent his voluntary exile in Madyan, the ancient name of the Gulf of Aqaba, and reached Tayeb Al-Ism, hence the name “Valley of Moses.”


Eligibility rules, amount of aid revealed for job seekers in Saudi Arabia

Updated 15 May 2021

Eligibility rules, amount of aid revealed for job seekers in Saudi Arabia

  • Under a new system, citizens and residents between ages of 20 and 40 can receive payments for up to 15 months

JEDDAH: The details of a financial aid system for job seekers, which was recently approved by Saudi Arabia’s Council of Ministers, have been revealed.

Payments will be made to eligible claimants for up to 15 months. They will receive SR2,000 ($530) a month for the first four months after a successful claim, SR1,500 a month for the following four months, SR1,000 a month for four months after that, and SR750 a month for the final three months.

To be eligible for the aid, applicants will have to meet a number of conditions. They must be Saudi nationals or permanent residents of the Kingdom, between the ages of 20 and 40, able to work, and seriously and actively looking for a job.

They must not already be employed in the public or private sectors, or receiving a retirement pension, income from social security, or any other allowance. The owners of commercial enterprises are not eligible for the aid, nor are students or trainees at any stage of their education or training.

FASTFACT

Payments will be made to eligible claimants for up to 15 months. They will receive SR2,000 ($530) a month for the first four months after a successful claim, SR1,500 a month for the following four months, SR1,000 a month for four months after that, and SR750 a month for the final three months.

In addition, an applicant will not qualify for aid if his or her wealth exceeds a certain amount, but the exact figure for this was not specified. Applicants must not previously have benefited from the job-search aid system or any other financial allowances paid to job seekers.

The authorities said the new system aims to regulate the system of financial aid for people looking for work and clearly define the rules for eligibility. In addition it is designed to support job seekers, motivate them to enter the labor market, and set out the rights, responsibilities and obligations of the Human Resources Development Fund and those who are looking for work.

Applications to the fund can be submitted online or through authorized representatives. Individuals whose applications are rejected have the right to file an appeal with the relevant authorities.

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Who’s Who: Sultan Al-Qahtani, spokesperson of KSA’s Citizen Account Program

Updated 14 May 2021

Who’s Who: Sultan Al-Qahtani, spokesperson of KSA’s Citizen Account Program

Sultan Al-Qahtani has been the spokesman and communication general manager of the Citizen Account Program since 2018.

Al-Qahtani, who received a bachelor’s degree in English translation from King Khalid University (KKU) in 2007, is an ambassador of the Charity Orphans Care Foundation (Ekhaa).

His KSA Awla initiative, which he started in 2010, has succeeded in helping thousands of young men and young women find suitable jobs. Moreover, he is a member of the Saudi Media National Association since 2020. 

After graduation from KKU, Al-Qahtani joined King Abdul Aziz and His Companions Foundation for Giftedness and Creativity (Mawhiba), where he worked as a creativity prize administrator for nearly 16 months.

During the same period, he served at the leading mobile service provider, Zain KSA, as a marketing administrator for 10 months and as an application supervisor for five months. He also led Zain’s public relations team for more than a year.

For four months, Al-Qahtani worked for the Saudi Stock Exchange (Tadawul) as a media and public relations officer.

In October 2012, he started a new job with the Saudi mining firm Maaden, where he provided protocol support to the company’s president in regard to his visits, conferences, tours, and social functions. In December 2013 he moved to SAP, a producer of software for the management of business processes, where he managed marketing events and social media activities in Saudi Arabia.

In April 2017, Al-Qahtani joined the General Entertainment Authority, where he was the media relations manager for nearly a year before moving to the Small and Medium Enterprises General Authority (Monsha’at), where he administered its communication department for six months.


Worshippers at Two Holy Mosques thoroughly screened from coronavirus disease

Updated 15 May 2021

Worshippers at Two Holy Mosques thoroughly screened from coronavirus disease

MAKKAH: Worshippers deemed resistant to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) attended the Grand Mosque in Makkah and the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah to perform Friday prayers.

All those taking part in worship were required to show Tawakkalna app proof of immunity to the virus and follow strict health and safety protocols.

Entry was allowed for people who had received two doses of COVID-19 vaccine, those where 14 days had passed since their first jab, and individuals who had recovered after contracting the virus.

The General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques has stepped up cleaning operations to 10 sessions a day at the Grand Mosque.