A Person of Vision and A People of Dreams
Yesterday, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince, Mohammed Bin Salman, inaugurated one of the biggest developmental projects in the world, NEOM. He began his introductory brief by saying: “70% of Saudis are under the age of 30; in all honesty, we will not waste thirty years of our lives being dragged into extreme ideas, we will destroy them, now and here.” That statement sheds lights on a foundational problem which the Saudi society — more than anyone else — was impacted by and suffered from. That is an extreme, narrowed, and isolationist interpretation of Islam that swept into the Saudi society in the 1970s (hence, the thirty years the crown prince mentioned).
As a young Saudi, that meant much: seeing my country undertaking a mission to self-modernize, prosper, and face all challenges with such confidence, ambition, and openness led by a political will, a young population, and, more importantly, a young Saudi-educated crown prince.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has never witnessed such social, economic, and political precedents. Socially, the kingdom’s population is more educated, demanding, and interactive than any prior time. Saudis outrank their Arab peers in traveling, studying abroad, enrolling in universities, and using social media. Their enthusiasm to experience and hunger to accomplish are tremendous. Moreover, having lived under extreme interpretations of Islam, Saudis realize that it is time to declare war on it and never again allow it to hijack their dreams, passions, futures and the centuries-old, civilized Islam. For that, Saudis now — they and only they — are taking the step forward to reintroduce themselves to the global world which has for decades failed to conservatively get to know them.
Economically, Saudi Arabia has launched Vision 2030 whose objectives include diversification of the economy, consumer-based model, and less dependency on oil. With a young population and political stability, that is a recipe for economic growth and an opportunity for foreign investors to enter the Saudi’s multi-industry, growing market model. Politically, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince is as young as 32 years old and as popular as the social and economic reforms he has made. In practice, that translates to political stability, youth leadership, reforming, and long-term clarity.
In sum, Saudi Arabia recognizes where to begin, how to begin, and why to begin and it has all the resources to do so.