The just concluded year of 2022 has been fairly good to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia by all standards. The GCC country which boasts the largest population and economy has been making imprints on a number of international issues of the day.
In the areas of the economy and the social and cultural scene, there is much to be thankful for. When speaking of culture, some events that were not so long ago considered taboo are now commonplace events.
The motor engine that started all the recent changes was none other than the national transformation plans dubbed Vision 2030 that was spelt out back in 2016 by the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman or MBS as he is generally referred to.
The plan brought with it new realities, one of them being that the old ways of doing business are simply not applicable.
With the dramatic fall in oil prices and a supply glut at the time, Saudi Arabia can no longer be wholly dependent on oil to generate its policy. It needed to re-strategise and reform existing plans and work ethics.
To make it work, the kingdom needed ambitious plans and to generate a thriving economy, it needed to include half the country’s workforce.
Shackles preventing women from the workforce were quickly removed and their numbers rose across the board in all professional fields. Areas previously considered taboo were no longer the case and the horrors of ‘mingling among the genders’ quickly became ancient memory.
This fresh impetus has given rise to a confident young country guided by a wise king and the young crown prince, who has at various times told his constituents that he feels for them as he is one of them. This aligned identity is music to their ears.
A year of transformation
Women driving, cinemas, the opening of sports for all became the new reality. Things like extended closure of shops and utilities during prayer times — that often extended way past a half-hour break — have slipped away into the horizon.
The year 2022 saw the Red Sea Film Festival in all its glory with movie stars and film personalities coming from all corners of the world. From Sharon Stone to Priyanka Chopra, all had good words to express what they witnessed during their stay, adding that it was unlike what they had heard or read.
2022 was also the year that the first Saudi Games took place, an event powered by the principal vision to provide a platform for Saudi athletes to excel to their best potential, and inspire Saudi youth through sports and demonstrate the Kingdom’s capabilities globally in hosting the largest events.
More than 6000 athletes and 2000 support staff representing more than 200 clubs across the Kingdom competed in 45 sports categories both as individuals and teams. The Games became the largest national sports event in the history of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and attracted a large following across the land either on TV or social media.
First among nations
Lest we forget, Saudi Arabia opened its school doors early in the year for all primary and kindergarten students following the extended Covid-19 lockdown.
Added to that were the multi-mind-boggling projects such as the Line and the Red Sea project and the kingdom was well on its way to stamping its brand as a first among nations in many fields. These included a commitment to a green economy through diversification of energy on environmentally friendly sources.
The US-based electric car maker Lucid Motors, which is partially owned by the Public Investment Fund, signed an agreement to establish a factory in King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC).
A new airline is in the making. Complementing that would be the addition of a new airport in the capital city of Riyadh. The kingdom’s coastlines have seen a rapid transformation in recent months and more is to follow.
In spite of the Russia-Ukraine conflict and its global effects, the kingdom has been largely shielded from any financial headwinds, thanks to prudent financial measures and a budget that for 2023 actually spells out a surplus. All in all, it had been a good twelve months, and more is expected for the new year.
Tariq A. Al Maeena is a Saudi sociopolitical commentator. He lives in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Twitter: @talmaeena