The 2016 announcement of Saudi Vision 2030 heralded a new age for the kingdom. Saudi citizens embraced change, while sweeping reforms changed both society and business.
Since then, following the Vision 2030 strategic framework to diversify from an oil-centric economy, the kingdom has taken steps to unlock and develop specific sectors and industries, including education, healthcare, housing, transportation and tourism.
The changes are visible and the world is taking note. Saudi Arabia jumped 30 spots to 62 in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business 2020 index on the back of implementing eight reforms.1
According to the World Bank, reforms under Vision 2030 have led to improved access to credit, strengthened minority investor protections and facilitated the resolution of insolvency in the kingdom.
As the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)’s largest economy, Saudi Arabia is a key player. It has the biggest population in the region — 35 million, three times bigger than the UAE’s.
The ongoing coronavirus (Covid 19) contagion has put a severe pressure on global oil demand and prices thereby weakening the world’s biggest crude exporter’s balance sheet. Nevertheless, its oil-funded coffers allow it to spend hugely; the kingdom has a budget of $272 billion for 2020.
What are the implications for other GCC economies of a stronger, more internationally connected Saudi Arabia? Will changes in the kingdom impact regional banking centres and tourist destinations?