A noteworthy moment in the history of any country is, without a doubt, the transformation of a sleepy town into one of the fastest-growing economies in the world in less than ten years. And it is even more amazing that Saudi Arabia accomplished that.
The Kingdom has advanced significantly over the past ten years, particularly in terms of overall GDP growth and pro-business reforms, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
With an overall growth rate of 8.7% in 2022 and a GDP growth of 4.8% outside the oil sector, Saudi Arabia has emerged as the fastest-growing economy among the G20 members. The nation has also made significant strides toward gender equality since 2020. Additionally, foreign direct investment reached a decade-high USD 19.3 billion in 2021.
A few years ago, though, there was a contentious dispute in this country about whether or not women should be allowed to drive. The dreaded Commission for the Promotion of Good and the Prevention of Evil, or the Haia, as they were more widely known, rigidly forbade cinemas and enforced laws with fanatical rigour.
A Progressive Leadership
If a couple was seen together while out and about, the Hai’a would approach them and demand evidence of their relationship.
Less than ten years ago, Hai’a made contact with a British citizen and his Saudi wife outside one of Riyadh’s most prestigious malls; the story received extensive media coverage.
Eyewitnesses said that the victim was shopping with his wife at one of the malls when several members of the Hai’a began chasing after him until they caught up with him at the cashier’s booth. They questioned him about his decision because that particular counter was reserved for female consumers.
“I have my wife with me,” he retorted.
After paying for his item, he started to leave the shopping centre when he fought with some Hai’a members. They were unconvinced that the woman was the fair-haired British man’s wife because she had an Arab complexion and spoke Arabic with a good accent.
The Hai’a members then captured images of the British man and his vehicle. He followed suit and snapped photos of them and their car. They then asked that he turn over his camera, but he resisted. They pushed him. His wife entered the conflict and made an effort to defend him.
He allegedly ran into their car with his wife and locked all the doors, according to witnesses. However, the commissioners surrounded him. He reported that after calling the police, a few officers showed up within a short period but left without taking action when they noticed the intimidating presence of the Hai’a members.
Eventually, a British Embassy security crew showed up and led the couple home.
“Alhamdulillah, we were only injured and surprised. We are certain that the highest authorities will take all necessary steps to keep us secure and preserve our rights and the rights of all residents and visitors to this country because we do not believe that the actions of these three men represent Saudi society and culture,” the wife informed the media back then.
All that changed under King Salman and his charismatic son, Crown Prince Mohammed, also known as MBS. The Hai’a were abruptly disregarded, and MBS immediately began implementing his lofty ambitions from his ‘Vision 2030’ plan.
The plan included as one of its main objectives raising the private sector’s share of the economy from 40% to 65% by the year 2030.
The nation is also making significant investments in its infrastructure, with numerous mega-projects like the Red Sea Project and the futuristic city of NEOM currently under construction.
Additionally, the country is making significant efforts to raise the quality of life for its citizens through programs like the ‘National Transformation Programme’ and the ‘Quality-of-Life Programme’.
Yes, as Saudi Arabia develops into a major global economy and a centre for innovation and investment, the past is rapidly fading into history.