The start of this new year coincides with the second anniversary of the ascension to the throne of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman. While the joint occasions are coincidental, their timings could not be more crucial. As many countries in the Middle East are literally falling apart at the seams, and as several Western capitals are expecting a year fraught with political and economic uncertainty, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia enjoys a large degree of unparalleled stability and security, due mainly to leadership which recognizes, in this sea of regional and global upheaval, how to realize both in equal measure.
The end of 2016 augured well for the year ahead after Oman’s decision to join the 40-nation Islamic Military Alliance Against Terrorism. The advent in this broad alliance of Oman, a member of the Gulf Cooperation Council and whose leader Sultan Qaboos is the last remaining founder of the GCC, is an important step that will strengthen the potential of the GCC in influencing the world politically and economically. It also reinforces the concept that the GCC stands united in supporting Saudi Arabia in the ongoing fight against terrorism. How to further deal with terrorism was given an added boost in February when the Kingdom launched “North Thunder” which, given the participation of more than 20 countries, was the largest military exercise staged in the world in terms of the number of participating forces as well as the breadth of its maneuvers. As such, North Thunder, which focused on training troops how to deal with terror groups and how to transfer from traditional to low-intensity combat operations, received regional and international attention.
Like any country whose people are at the forefront of its interests, Saudi Arabia puts a premium on its economy. When unveiling the general budget for the fiscal year 2017, King Salman noted that while most countries suffer from extremely volatile economic situations that have led to a slow pace in global economic growth and a drop in oil prices, “the Saudi economy is strong enough and possesses sufficient strength to cope with the current economic and financial challenges”. Thanks to prudent fiscal policies and discipline pursued by the state, the stress has been on strengthening public finances for development projects, boosting the private sector to increase its contribution to GDP, and improving services for citizens who consequently enjoy economic well-being in a model system so many countries seek to emulate. The Kingdom’s domestic, economic and global policies were articulated by King Salman in his highly-anticipated address to the Shoura Council. The roadmap, as drawn up by the King, prioritized security, stability and prosperity. “During the past two years”, King Salman said in his address, “economic measures and reforms redistributed resources fairly by providing an opportunity for economic growth and generating jobs.
“In foreign policy, we believe that the option of a political solution to international crises is the perfect solution to achieve the aspirations of people for peace.” And on terrorism: “We won’t show any leniency in enforcing the rule of law against those who tamper with the Kingdom’s security.”
And as in all nations, Saudi Arabia looks ahead. Thus, the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 is meant to raise the performance of state institutions to achieve a decent living for all citizens. Vision 2030, approved by the Cabinet in April, was adopted as a methodology for economic and developmental action. Its aim, among many ambitious goals, is to raise the percentage of non-oil exports, revenues and direct foreign investment, reduce unemployment, increase the capacity to accommodate more Haj and Umrah pilgrims, raise the percentage of Saudis who own houses, increase the participation of women in the employment market and improve the quality of health services.
Vision 2030 is built around a vibrant society, thriving economy and an ambitious nation. Under King Salman, Saudi Arabia has built the foundations for all three.