Saudis amplify efforts to make vision 2030 a reality

October 15, 2017
Ambitious plans. Delivery Unit Senior Consultant Ghadah Alghunaim. (Courtesy of Ghadah Alghunaim)

London - Change is happen­ing fast in Saudi Arabia and at the centre of this change is the realisation of its Vision 2030 economic and social reform plan. Since its announcement in April 2016, the kingdom has seen many domes­tic policy changes and signifi­cant milestones tied to Vision 2030.

There have been belt-tighten­ing initiatives and economic and cost-cutting measures, such as next January’s introduction of a value-added tax. The govern­ment created the General Entertainment Authority and tasked it with organising cultural events such as music concerts, art festivals and live theatre, a move that would have been unheard of a few years ago.

Saudi Arabia also eased its male guardianship system and announced women will be allowed to drive starting June 2018, bringing many new opportunities for Saudi females.

To realise the reforms, the kingdom set up the National Transformation Programme (NTP), the idea of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, to overhaul the Saudi bureaucracy in ministries and government organs.

NTP’s Delivery Unit has brought in enthusiastic young Saudis willing to work hard. Encapsulating that group is Delivery Unit Senior Consultant Ghadah Alghunaim, a 35-year-old, US-educated woman who is as capable as she is ambitious.

Alghunaim said the NTP is run by teams dealing with an allocated number of minis­tries.

“I jump around delivery teams in my role as a consultant,” Alghunaim said, adding that she has a vision of cross-cutting initiatives between different ministries.

Government ministries have run independent to each other, except for security-related matters, making the introduc­tion of new methods a daunting task.

“The culture itself was hard to deal with in the beginning, in terms of transparency and dealing with matters in a quick, effective manner,” Alghunaim said, “but these ministries are getting used to it and appreciated that. They are reaching their goals because they have no choice but to reach those goals.”

For example, for four months representatives of the ministries within the NTP’s scope met to cut through the bureaucracy. Alghunaim said introducing corporate practices tied to such con­cepts as key performance indicators (KPIs), key performance targets (KPTs) and strategic objectives were fresh ideas to Saudi govern­ment employees.

“It was an entirely new language, so they had to learn these new concepts from scratch to prepare them for the next step. Now you can see the shift in the mindset of the government employee,” she said.

Tapping into the kingdom’s youth market — nearly two-thirds of Saudis are under the age of 30 — is essential to the kingdom’s long-term plans. Compared to older generations, the kingdom’s young people are better educated and have better access to global information.

Alghunaim said boosts to youth and female employment would be accomplished with policies distributed through ministries and would include incentives such as minimum percentage requirements for female employment.

“It’s going to be gradual but it will be guaranteed through policy,” she said, adding that many new commissions are being run by people, both men and women, in their 20s and 30s.

The goal of diversifying the kingdom’s economy by 2030 is a feasible one, Alghunaim said, which began even before the January 2015 death of King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud with a scholarship programme that allowed many Saudis to gain global experience and return home to benefit the country.

“I count myself as a product of that programme and now, in every government body, new or old, you will find a huge num­ber of us on all levels, including the decision-making process,” she said.

Alghunaim said the NTP Delivery Unit’s biggest chal­lenge is the time factor.

“You have so many deliverables to achieve in a short time span and, as Saudis, our only choice is to succeed,” she said.