What is going on in your country? What are you Saudis doing, and what do you want? The British journalist asked me. He added: Every day we see one summit after another, one conference after another, and one big exhibition after another. Sometimes these events are held simultaneously, in more than one city, or in the same city.
I don’t think this is a coincidence, or an uncoordinated enthusiasm. What is the goal? Is it an international openness strategy? Tourist attractions? Soft diplomacy? Or is it a joint activity of all government and private agencies to change the image of your country and draw the eyes of the world to its new vision?
And most importantly: is it a temporary movement to achieve specific goals, after which it stops or slows down in achieving them? Or a long-term project to achieve a leading international position, and to transform Riyadh in particular, and big cities in general, into open, permanent platforms for conferences, seminars, workshops and scientific research? What is left for other countries in the region, and even for international capitals, in this case? Will they accept this unequal competition, government or state-sponsored, without challenge, objection and intense competition?
Questions that baffle many observers and observers of the Saudi issue. Its reputation came from more than one visitor to the tourism and shopping seasons in the Saudi regions, participants in international exhibitions, attending artistic and cultural concerts and festivals, as well as members of political, economic, health, educational, religious and sports conferences and meetings. The number of consecutive events in Saudi Arabia and the internal and external activities are incredible by all standards. The history of the country and the region has not seen so much movement at all levels and in all fields, to the extent that just to follow it, without participating in it, is an unprecedented effort of the media, diplomatic missions and international organizations require.
Only during this year, I witnessed, wrote and wrote the International Defense Exhibition in Riyadh, in which 600 exhibitors from 42 countries participated, the Riyadh Season 2022, the Jeddah Summit for Security and Development, in the presence of the US President Joe Biden commented. leaders of the Gulf States and a number of Arab leaders, and Ramadan Summit with a number of leaders from the region, the Islamic world and Africa, the G-20 Interfaith Summit, the Forum for Building Bridges between East and West, the Global Supply Chain Initiative, the International Internet Conference and the Cyber Security Summit, the “Davos in the Desert” investment initiative, and the Arab Radio and Television Festival, with the participation of 1,000 media professionals and 200 companies and international organizations.
Then there are the visits of a number of international leaders, including the Prime Minister of Britain, the Prime Minister of France, the German Chancellor, the Prime Minister of Pakistan, and the visits of the Crown Prince to Egypt, Jordan, Turkey, Greece and France. Expected visits to India, the Philippines and Thailand, as well as Indonesia to attend the G20 summit, and ministerial participation in the Abu Dhabi International Petroleum Exhibition and Conference.
Perhaps the most important of these visits and summits is the expected visit of the Chinese president to participate in three Saudi, Gulf and Arab summits. The Arab Summit in Algeria, the Climate Summit, the Saudi Green Initiative Summit, the Green Middle East Initiative in Sharm El Sheikh, and the Arab-African Summit in Riyadh.
In addition, regional media and economic development initiatives were launched, including the establishment of six investment companies worth $24 billion, in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Sudan, Bahrain and Oman. And a project to build an electric network between Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Greece, a Saudi-Greek marine data cable, and Iraq’s participation in the electric network and railway network for the Gulf Cooperation Council countries.
All these sequels, and I consider myself a standard, because my coverage did not include the investment initiative conference “Davos in the desert”, the Riyadh International Book Fair, the Red Sea Film Festival in Jeddah, the “Winter at Tantora”. festival in Al-Ula, and the “Formula One” races at the Jeddah circuit, and” Formula E for electric cars in Diriyah, the Hail Rally around the Kingdom, the Extreme E car race for electric SUVs, as well as the Italian Super and Spanish Super for football champions, golf, boxing and world wrestling championships.
conferences and investments
In the political, oil, scientific and tourism fields, it was my duty to monitor the meetings of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the Muslim World League in Jeddah, Rome and Bali, the OPEC Plus meetings chaired by Saudi Arabia the beginning of each month, and those conferences specialize in traditional and green energy, artificial intelligence, technology, health services and tourism.
There are local companies and funds for the development of areas, such as the Al-Soudah tourism project in Asir, central Jeddah, Al-Faisaliah between Jeddah and Makkah, King Salman Park in Riyadh, and the new Taif, reconstruction and development of 11 cities , the establishment of free logistics zones linked to international ports and airports, and the announcement of the establishment of a regional center for Chinese factories in Saudi Arabia to serve local and international markets.
Saudi Arabia first!
However, like my British colleague, I do not have the capacity and time to follow up on all these events, let alone attend and participate in them. As much as the man was surprised by this large amount of local and international daily activities, in addition to the local, many followers and media were surprised, and it required them to double the effort, workers and space for broadcasting and publication.
However, our presence, as Saudis, at the heart of the event, and our proximity to decision-making centers, puts us in a better position to explain and clarify what is going on. For years, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has been going through a tremendous movement at all levels to renew and modernize everything known, and to develop systems and plans to achieve the goals of a comprehensive vision for the country’s future . This required rethinking the composition of society and governance, the public and private sectors, and the reformulation of local and international public policies. Arrange regional and global partnerships and alliances. The new principle is “Saudi Arabia first, brothers second, and friends third.”
Compensation for delay of four decades
Building a strong state capable of meeting its obligations to its citizens and its obligations to the world around it is essential and necessary and serves everyone’s interests. This requires accelerating the wheel of development, reducing dependence on oil as a major source of income, protecting national and national security, maintaining a balance in the energy market, and contributing with the international community. to the maintenance of global peace and security.
And because we were forty years late to achieve what China, India and Singapore achieved in that period, the young leadership tried to quicken the pace, intensify the effort and all the energy, trained and educated, of the boys and daughters of the nation, to work simultaneously on all fronts.
Thus Saudi Arabia turned into a restless workshop on the clock. There is social openness, educational transformation, digital services and an advanced governance structure. This is accompanied by a complex multi-layered international relations: political, commercial, tourism, research, educational, cultural, sports, etc.
Today we are facing a historic opportunity that may not be repeated. Qualified young human resources and financial resources have become available due to the high oil prices and taxes, the increase in sales of industrial and agricultural products, and the high income of religious, economic, cultural and leisure tourism in response to the strategy of openness and development of services.
Perhaps most importantly, the increase in the performance of sovereign funds for international and domestic investment, and their achievement of record profits amounting to hundreds of billions of dollars during the last few years. The Kingdom no longer invests only in US government bonds, but has expanded its activities to cover all feasible and profitable fields that serve the vision’s goals, such as electric cars, green hydrogen, blue ammonia, marine tourism, resorts, solar energy, infrastructure, and electronics, military and space industries. .
Most important is the will between the leadership and the people, and between the government and the private system. Everyone sees that Saudi Vision 2030 represents a fatal road map, and whatever obstacles it faces, no matter how much effort and money it costs, and no matter what sacrifices, we must continue to move forward until it is achieved . The boats that took us into the twenty-first century are sinking, and we have no choice but to continue without them, a lifestyle and work different from those adopted by previous convoys and not accept half solutions.
We are already in the race, we have no choice but to win. This alone explains all that is going on, and all that will take place, in the first mile, on the road of a thousand miles.
Professor at Al-Faisal University