Saudi Arabian Prince Muhammad Bin Salman who people can also refer as the ‘Modern King’ has presented some significant reform ideologies and has passed some revolutionary verdicts in past three years after his father Abdulaziz became King and he became the prince of the country officially. In order to ensure that Saudi Arabia keeps up with the pace of modern advancing nations around the world and doesn’t lags behind despite being resourceful, the new prince is leaving no stone unturned to take Arab at a whole another level of dominion as a prominent economic and investment powerhouse.
However, what remains to be seen is how successfully are these reforms being implemented and how receptive does the Arab society responds to them. On it’s way towards modernisation, the most significant step that the country has taken is in regard with the liberty to women civilians over there. Liberty allows expression and expression allows intellectual inflow in the nation. Women play a crucial role in the society. Dr. B.R. Ambedkar was right to say, “ I measure the progress of a community by the degree of progress which women have achieved”.
Especially as a mother, they have an enormous responsibility on their shoulders to raise good and responsible citizens of next generation. Not just as a mother, they contribute to the productivity of nation in many other ways; be it as scientists, teachers, sportsperson, astronauts, pilots or as businesswomen, political leaders or any such other professionals. Here are few of the recent reforms introduced under the reign of Prince Salman:-
Voting Rights to Women: Voting is a significant civil right because it lets you choose your National leader. Irrespective of their gender, all the citizens of a nation should have the right to vote. Hence, women of Arab were recently granted the same for equal representation of their choice in the law making bodies of the nation.
Driving Rights: Earlier, the women of Saudi Arabia were barred from driving any vehicles. However, in June 2018, driving for women has been made legal in the country.
Reforms in the Field of Recreation and Entertainment: Imagine that even in this technical world of 21st century, Arab people did not know how is it like to watch cinema over big screens due to the stringent laws of their country till 2016. But the new monarchs understand the importance of cinema as a shaper of youth’s ideologies and aspirations and has decided to lift the ban from cinema to be utilised for influencing the same in the right direction. A total investment of $2.7 billion is to be made in entertainment industry. Also, efforts are being made to improve the condition of sports in the country in accordance with the International Standards and girls are now allowed to participate in sports and receive physical education which was not imparted before.
Job Creation: The new regime is very much inclined towards creation of new jobs and businesses within the nation to make Arab self -sustainable and to provide ample job opportunities to all the citizens alike.
Investment and Economic Reforms: One of the major goals under this reformation era in Saudi Arabia would be revival of the economy. The Prince wants Arab to search and develop new prospects of income generation and be less dependent on revenue from oil as the market for oil is volatile in nature and a reforming nation couldn’t take the risk of being economically weak in anyway. Other reforms aim to lure investors and tourists to the place. An investment of $500 billion is proposed for extending industries such as biotechnology, energy, food and entertainment to countries of Jordan and Egypt.
Counter Terrorism: The new Arab is determined to counter terrorism and all such extreme forces that tarnish the image of Islam. Under the new reforms, provisions like establishment of a committee named Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition has been made to enforce strict legislation with regard to it.
Education: Many reforms are proposed to be made in education sector too such as any extremist ideology presented in school textbook has to be erased out of the curriculum since Prince Muhammad-Bin-Salman is determined to make the country and the culture over there shift from Extremism to Moderate Islam that promotes peaceful existence of all beings. These are some of the major reformations that are supposed to act as stepping stones to attainment of ‘Modernised Arab’.
In light of the currently introduced reforms in Saudi Arabia, let’s analyse the prospective reasons behind them and the contribution they might make in modernising the nation. ‘Change is the only constant’ and either it be an individual, a society or a Nation, competency can only be achieved by constantly changing for the better. Seeing the technological, economical, educational and social advancements that other nations have made and have been benefited by, the new leaders of Arab were encouraged to take some much needed initiatives with respect to these aspects.
Establishing a vibrant, urbanised society which knows how to preserve cultural values and modernise at the same time is the skeletal ideology all these reforms are based upon. By taking revolutionary decisions about cinema, sports, women, economy, education, industry, investments, tourism and counter- terrorism, Saudi Arabia thrives to make an all -round development and emerge as a major leader among Gulf countries.
Plan Structure and Objectives
National Transformation Plan 2020: The NTP 2020 is a part of the long term vision 2030. Some of the objectives are:-
- Training of government employees in using online platforms for efficient delivery of public services.
- Increasing percentage of women workforce to 24% in lieu of current 16.8%.
- Improving health services and quality of life.
- Generating new revenue sources and reducing dependency on revenue from oil.
- Increasing private sector engagement and it’s contribution to GDP from current 40% to 65%.
- Creating job opportunities and reducing unemployment.
2030 Saudi Vision
2030 Saudi Vision dreams to make the country modernised in all terms and self -sufficient as well. It aims to:-
- Make Saudi Arab a non-oil based economy by reducing it’s economic dependency on revenues from oil market.
- Diversify economy by opening various other investment prospects and devising new revenue generation sources.
- Ensure growth of public sector services like healthcare, education, infrastructure, tourism etc.
- Increase expenditure on military, science and technology.
- Some of the projects under above plans include protection of women rights, opening up of entertainment sector and other projects such Qiddiya, New Taif, establishment of energy parks etc. which will be administered by Economy & Development Ministry, Commerce& Investment Ministry and General authority.
Criticism: While United Nations, USA, Russia and China have appreciated the right efforts being made by the prince toward modernization, few conservatives have opposed them for being impractical and over ambitious. They have also labelled some reform measures as a threat to Islamic religion and culture.
How would these reforms be influential in modernising Arab?
The reforming measures are definitely revolutionary for a primitive nation like Saudi Arabia. There are many ways in which they would contribute to modernization of the nation. For example:- Increased job prospects, allowance for driving and voting rights for women will encourage them to take up to economic activities and contribute to the GDP of the nation as well as voice their preference for elected leaders. Participation in sports will ensure their good health along with an opportunity to play, win and earn recognition for their country at global level.
Counter terrorism objectives will help to deal with anti –development forces while reforms related to entertainment and cinema are necessary for right influence on youth. Economic reforms like industrial development, revival of tourism industry, encouragement of entrepreneurship and generation of new revenue sources will help in stabilising government earnings and reduce it’s dependency on oil market which currently attributes to 30-40% of Arab’s GDP.
Reforms in education and health sector will ensure competent human resource. A proper analysis of the recent developments in Saudi Arabia reveal that it has taken a very smart approach towards development and modernization by focusing on all the crucial and inter related aspects.
Though some efforts remain to be made in the fields of infrastructure, social development, science &technology, political process and legal network, if effectively implemented, the current reforming measures will too give enormous returns to the nation and it will be at par with other developing nations. However, we all know that when it comes to implementation, even best of the government plans fail to achieve desired results. So, in case of Arab too, the world is eager to know whether the prince is just making people of his country dream along with him or is capable enough to fulfil them too.
Anyways, the sanguine part is that there is someone who, at least dares to dream. A question we need to be more concerned about is how can India take an advantage of such developments and harness the potentials of a gradually advancing nation. An answer to this could be that Indian businessmen can make investments and bring returns, Indian Cinema can take advantage of a new market and Government can lend help in infrastructural projects that would help in development of good strategic relationship between the countries and two can then take collective efforts against terrorism.
In light of the above arguments, we can safely conclude that the current reforms are in line with the future goals of Saudi Arabia and that it has taken it’s first few steps towards modernization. Finally, with proper implementation and public support, it can achieve the desired destiny too. If you want to know more about investments, maybe study Valley Forge Capital Management and see how they are handling the stocks and investments.