A message from a Saudi citizen

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VOICES MUG AHMED ALBELALE

I REALIZE that it might sound arrogant to say this, but as a young Saudi man, I am the future of my country.

Let me explain. I am part of a younger generation of Saudis under the age of 30 who make up 58.5 percent of the Kingdom’s population. We are young men and women who are very comfortable in the digital world, who enjoy traveling in and experiencing different cultures, who are open-minded about embracing dramatic change.

When Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman announced Vision 2030, which will reduce Saudi Arabia’s dependence on oil, diversify its economy, and promote a new modern and moderate image of Saudi Arabia, nobody cheered louder than my generation. These are things we have been waiting for. We knew the plan was ambitious and that it would be difficult to implement, but we are eager to do our part to make it come to life.

I’m not going to waste time talking about boring information and statistics. I’m going to talk about real life changes that are taking place in Saudi Arabia.

Vision 2030 has been there since the foundation of the Kingdom. From the earliest days, King Abdulaziz aspired to take the Kingdom to a better place. He wanted to guide his country toward a brighter economic future. My father has told me how far the Kingdom has come since the days of his youth, and now that Vision 2030 is being implemented, I am witnessing the speed of that change increasing. As a society, we are setting aside inherited habits and adopting the changes that are happening around the world.

We can thank the leader of Vision 2030, Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman, for that accelerated change. All of us know how the Kingdom has inherited its wealth of natural resources, specifically the oil that gave us the nickname of the “black gold Kingdom.” But now Vision 2030 is forcing Saudis to see themselves as more than just an oil Kingdom. The Crown Prince’s ambitious plan aims at reducing Saudi Arabia’s dependence on oil as the primary driver of the economy, and to diversify into other areas such as services and manufacturing that will create jobs and keep the Kingdom prosperous for years to come.

Change is difficult, of course. If an old habit has brought benefits for a lifetime, one could be forgiven for thinking, “if it’s not broken, why fix it?” As one of the world’s largest suppliers of oil, Saudi Arabia has risen to become a major player on the global economic stage. But there are many young Saudis who have yet to experience the job opportunities that a fast-growing diverse economy can provide. That is why Crown Prince Muhammad is so eager to speed up the rate of change.

Oil has brought us great wealth, but focusing on oil and gas has allowed us to overlook many other assets that we have barely invested in, such as minerals development, our geographical location as a potential trading hub and our rich cultural, societal, demographic and economic advantages that could empower us to take a leading role in the world. Perhaps our greatest asset is our people themselves. With a young ambitious population, there are very few problems that we cannot overcome.

We can already see some of the good things that have happened in the Kingdom since Vision 2030 was announced in 2016. In the northwest, plans are underway to build an entirely new city based on new technologies, a city called Neom. The world’s largest solar power plant is also under construction, taking advantage of Saudi Arabia’s richest resource: sunshine. A new Ministry of Culture has been created to open the door for more art and entertainment. Economic growth has increased, and the unemployment rate has dropped. And women are driving after almost 40 years of a non-official ban. As Crown Prince Muhammad explained, “I support Saudi Arabia, and half of Saudi Arabia is women. So I support women.”

All of these things have happened in just the first two years since Vision 2030 was announced. There are so many positive things that have already happened and will happen in the future. These dreams are achievable because I and other Saudis believe in Vision 2030 and are willing to put in our own efforts to make them come true.

Every country on earth wants to have the best life possible for its people. Everybody wants to be the best country in the world. We all know that our best chance of improvement comes with Vision 2030.

Change requires hard work. I remember watching an interview with the Crown Prince on TV. I listened to his words carefully, but I also paid special attention to the office where he spent his time working on Vision 2030 with his team. The interviewer asked him: “Is this where you spend all night?” He replied: “Yes, mostly and all of the workaholic ministers spend most of their nights in these offices as well.” As a Saudi citizen I feel really proud of the dedication of our leadership to create the changes that are taking place in the Kingdom.

When I see that the Crown Prince and his team are working day and night every day just to accomplish Vision 2030 to raise the Kingdom up, that really reflects on me. I ask myself, what is my role here and what do I need to do to help make Vision 2030 a reality? Not just me, but all young Saudis, need to do our best and give all the energy and creative thought that we have got. To accomplish our dream, we will need to work really hard and join hands with our government to make it work. If we do that, the sky is the limit.

Ahmed Adel Albelale

The author can be contacted at: aalbelale@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @ahmedalbelale


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