Saudi Vision 2030: A dream come true

Saudi Vision 2030: A dream come true

/ News & Interviews / Wednesday, 29 January 2020 08:30

“My primary goal is to be an exemplary and leading nation in all aspects, and I will work with you in achieving this endeavor.” That’s what the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud promised to the people of Saudi Arabia. Alongside this statement, a message was also addressed by His Royal Highness Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, Crown Prince, Vice President of the Council of Ministers, Chairman of the Council of Economic and Development Affairs to the people highlighting the importance of such vision “to create a vibrant society in which all citizens can fulfill their dreams, hopes and ambitions to succeed in a thriving economy.”

“All success stories start with a vision, and successful visions are based on strong pillars,” Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz said. “The first pillar of our vision is our status as the heart of the Arab and Islamic worlds. We recognize that Allah the Almighty has bestowed on our lands a gift more precious than oil. Our Kingdom is the Land of the Two Holy Mosques, the most sacred sites on earth, and the direction of the Kaaba (Qibla) to which more than a billion Muslims turn at prayer.

“The second pillar of our vision is our determination to become a global investment powerhouse. Our nation holds strong investment capabilities, which we will harness to stimulate our economy and diversify our revenues.

“The third pillar is transforming our unique strategic location into a global hub connecting three continents, Asia, Europe and Africa. Our geographic position between key global waterways makes the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia an epicenter of trade and the gateway to the world.”

In this vision, Saudi Arabia acknowledges the role of oil in the economy, but gives a boost to other valuable minerals as well that are found beneath its land such as gold, phosphate, and uranium to build a stronger economy.

Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz continued, “We are determined to reinforce and diversify the capabilities of our economy, turning our key strengths into enabling tools for a fully diversified future. As such, we will transform Aramco from an oil producing company into a global industrial conglomerate. We will transform the Public Investment Fund into the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund. We will encourage our major corporations to expand across borders and take their rightful place in global markets. As we continue to give our army the best possible machinery and equipment, we plan to manufacture half of our military needs within the Kingdom to create more job opportunities for citizens and keep more resources in our country.

“We will expand the variety of digital services to reduce delays and cut tedious bureaucracy. We will immediately adopt wide-ranging transparency and accountability reforms and, through the body set up to measure the performance of government agencies, hold them accountable for any shortcomings. We will be transparent and open about our failures as well as our successes, and will welcome ideas on how to improve.”

The Vision’s themes, strategic objectives, and realization programs

As above-mentioned by His Royal Highness Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz in his message, the three pillars underpin the three themes that embody the Vision’s groundbreaking agenda: A vibrant society, a thriving economy, an ambitious nation.

  • A vibrant society is vital to achieving the Vision and establishing a strong foundation for economic prosperity. The goal is to create a society in which every citizen enjoys a happy and fulfilling lifestyle complemented by adequate living standards which provides a safe and secure environment for families, and guarantees access to world class healthcare and education. At the same time, the goal is that people cherish their national identity and their ancient cultural heritage, and live by the Islamic principle of moderation;
  • A thriving economy provides opportunities for all by building an education system aligned with market needs to give youth the skills for the jobs of the future, and creating economic opportunities for entrepreneurs, small enterprises and large corporations alike;
  • An ambitious nation applies efficiency and responsibility at all levels in order to deliver the Vision, including building an effective, transparent, accountable, enabling and high-performing government.

The Vision sets out 96 strategic objectives that cascade from each of the three pillars, moving from level 1 to reach level 3.

The plan is built on a five-year strategic planning cycle with annual and quarterly adjustments. 2016 was when the foundation was set, key reforms were launched, and programs with tangible impact on citizens were developed. 2020 is the year when the Vision will drive outcome and should maintain momentum to continue reforms. In 2025-2030, it is expected to deepen the impact and assess the strategy for the country after 2030.

To achieve the Vision’s objectives, the Council of Economic and Development Affairs (CEDA) has created 13 Vision Realization Programs (VRPs) mandated to translate the Vision into measurable delivery plans led by robust governance, diligent planning, focused execution, and a powerful delivery culture – All VRP delivery plans are required to adhere to rigorous standards of accountability and transparency defined by the Vision's governance framework –: Quality of life program, financial sector development program, housing program, fiscal balance program, national transformation program, public investment fund program, privatization program, national companies promotion program, national industrial development and logistics program, strategic partnership program, Hajj and Omrah program, human and capital development program, and national character enrichment program.

Structural reforms outlined in Vision 2030 are much needed to shift the economy to a more sustainable path and even if only a small part of Vision 2030 is being implemented, the Saudi economy will look very different in 2030 than it does now.

As mentioned before, the Kingdom is committed to reducing its dependence on oil for a greener future.

The oil reserves in the KSA account for approximately 25% of the world's total oil reserves. The KSA is the world's leading oil exporter and plays a pivotal role in OPEC. The contribution of the oil sector in the Kingdom constitutes 45% of the annual budget revenues and GDP and 90% of the export revenues. However, Saudi officials and economists acknowledged the need to diversify the economy away from dependence on oil revenues and government spending. Therefore, the Saudi Vision 2030 was presented by its godfather Prince Mohammed bin Salman in response to the urgent need to chart the way to the future of the KSA.

Despite expectations of a diminished role, the Saudi energy sector (and particularly the oil and gas sector) remains key to a smooth transition to the vibrant economy envisioned and will continue to play a vital role in the country’s future especially having secured the largest-ever IPO capital raise for Saudi Aramco in history on the domestic Tadawul stock exchange, exceeding the debut listing of Chinese e-commerce behemoth Alibaba in 2014 on the New York Stock Exchange, which banked $25bn.

Furthermore, the overall direction of Saudi oil policy in terms of its production and investment policy, maintaining spare capacity, integrating down the value chain through investing in refining and petrochemicals, increasing the role of gas in the energy mix, introducing efficiency measures and deploying renewables in the power mix to free crude oil for exports are not likely to change in the next few years as has been confirmed by the National Transformation Program.

In the non-oil sector, the Kingdom has marked improvement in gross domestic product. “The economic and structural reforms that have been implemented in the past three years have started to bear fruit,” stated Crown Prince Mohammed.

In 2019, the execution of mega projects had a positive impact on all the sectors — including the construction sector that outperformed the other sectors and witnessed growth for the first time in three years which led to an increase of the real non-oil GDP by 2.5% in 1H19 compared to 1H18, according to GASTAT. Additionally, the actual real non-oil GDP annual growth for 2Q19 was 2.9 percent, accounting for 58 percent of the total GDP. On the back of the strong performance of both private and government non-oil sectors, which grew 3.4 percent and 1.8 percent, respectively in 2Q19, the growth of non-oil sector in 2Q19 was the highest in the previous 15 quarters.

Major projects in the renewable energy sector of Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia’s energy demand has been rising steadily, with consumption increasing by 60 percent in the past 10 years, according to data provided by market researchers Frost & Sullivan. Demand for electricity in 2019 reached 62.7 GW and is forecast to rise by up to 120 GW by 2030.

Today, Saudi Arabia has become one of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region’s leaders in the race to use renewable energy, according to a new study by Middle East Solar Industry Association (MESIA), next to the UAE, Morocco, Egypt and Oman. “Saudi Arabia is now in the third year of implementation of its massive target of 60 gigawatts (GW) of renewable energy generation by 2030,” the study outlined. This comes in line with the Kingdom’s objective of diversification and Vision 2030 which aims to reduce the dependency on oil revenues, diversify the energy mix, and tap renewable energy potential.


Upcoming solar projects in the Kingdom include Madinah, Rafh, Qurayyat, Al-Faisaliah, Rabigh as well as Jeddah, Mahd Al-Dahab, Al-Rass, SAAD and Wadi Ad-Dawasir, along with Layla and PIF.

After the renewable energy project development office (REPDO) was set up within the ministry of energy, the goals for the Kingdom’s national renewable energy program (NREP) were revised upwards in 2018, resulting in a five-year target of 27.3 GW and a 12-year target of 58.7 GW. The Saudi government plans to invest up to $50 billion in renewable energy projects by 2023.

REPDO has opened in January the request-for-qualification process related to a tender for 1.2 GW of solar generation capacity. REPDO will use the third round of the Kingdom’s national renewable energy program to select developers to construct four solar power projects, with generation capacities of 80, 120, 300 and a mammoth 700 MW. To this end, the Saudi government stated that the selected projects must contain at least 17% local content. The deadline to pre-qualify for the tender is February 6.

Separately, another solar move took place in Saudi when solar photovoltaic panels were installed on the roof of a mosque in Riyadh. Seeing its positive impact, the King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center recommended a similar move at other mosques. For good measure, a regulatory framework to allow exchanges with the power grid is being studied by the Electricity Co-generation Regulatory Authority. Flexible storage solutions, such as hydrogen, will give intermittent renewable energy a greater share in the energy system, Martine Mamlouk, secretary-general of MESIA said. “It may enable present-day oil and gas exporters to become key renewable energy exporters tomorrow. The solar industry is thrilled and proud to participate in this profound transformation of Saudi Arabia’s energy system.”

Nevertheless challenges remain when it comes to implementing projects in rural and isolated areas, according to Mustapha Taoumi, a technology expert at the EU-GCC Clean Energy Technology Network. “With regard to issues of power grid and access to the people, we have to prepare for everything and be ready to receive new technology because there are communities with little income and education,” he said.

“Then there is the challenge of implementation on the part of different actors and sectors. Social acceptance is also important as we come with new technologies and (information on) how to use them. “Technologies are evolving quickly, so decision-making must keep pace,” he said. “We could end up having smart meters in rural and isolated areas in two to three years.”


Saudi’s Aramco recently celebrated the delivery of the first wind turbine in Saudi Arabia, supplied by GE. It is a 2.75-120 wind turbine that will provide power to Saudi Aramco’s Bulk Plant located in Turaif, in northwest Saudi Arabia. Since the inception of its Renewable Energy team in 2010, Saudi Aramco has been actively pursuing opportunities in support of the Kingdom’s goal for the integration of renewable energy in the energy mix. Wind energy will become a key source of power under the national renewables program, which will deliver a combined 9,500 MW to the Kingdom from wind and solar energy by 2023.

Abdulkarim Al Ghamdi, Saudi Aramco’s executive head for power systems said, “Saudi Aramco is actively promoting the reduction of energy intensity across the Kingdom by advocating responsible policies, awareness, and energy innovation. This milestone has been made possible with the skills and knowledge Saudi Aramco has attained over decades as the Kingdom’s reliable supplier of energy and those of our partner, GE, as a wind industry leader.”

In another project, the consortium comprising EDF Renewables and Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company PJSC, better known as Masdar, has reached financial closure for the 400-MW Dumat Al Jandal wind project in Saudi Arabia. The USD-500-million (EUR 446.06m) project, the country’s first utility-scale wind farm and the largest one of its kind in the Middle East, was backed by Saudi and international lenders, according to the announcement. Scheduled to break ground shortly and commence commercial operations in the first quarter of 2022, Dumat Al Jandal has a 20-year power purchase agreement (PPA) with the Saudi Power Procurement Company. It has Denmark’s Vestas Wind Systems A/S acting as turbine supplier and in charge of engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) works.

The Dumat Al Jandal power plant represents one of the steps taken by the Kingdom to increase the contribution of renewables in its mix to 27.3 GW by 2024.


Saudi Arabian utility developer ACWA Power is planning to invest about $10 billion in 2020 as it eyes new projects in some 10 countries, the company’s chief executive said. The company builds power and desalinated water plants and has 50% of its portfolio in Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund (PIF), holds a 25% stake in ACWA and is planning to increase that to 40%.

In addition, the Saudi government has commissioned new projects to meet rising industrial demand for water. The government-owned Saline Water Conversion Company (SWCC) is investing billions of dollars in desalination facilities, transmission systems and power plants. SWCC aims to boost its current desalination capacity from 5.1 million cm/d to 7.3 million cm/d by 2020. Among those projects is a desalinization plant in Rabigh, in the western coast of Saudi Arabia, which supplies 600,000 cubic meters of water per day.

In summary, the future of desalination in Saudi Arabia is bright with additional investments being made to ensure the region will continue to be a worldwide leader.

Reforms and improved confidence in the country enhanced Saudi Arabia’s position in the World Bank’s ease of doing business rankings. The country jumped 30 places to rank 62 with an overall score of 71.6 out of 100. The government’s ongoing efforts indicate that the country is moving forward in the implementation of the VRPs to achieve vision 2030’s main objective of diversifying the economy and decreasing its reliance on oil.

Recently, Saudi Arabia has finished preparing the budget for 2020 while maintaining the aim of transitioning the economy away from its dependency on the oil sector. The Saudi Arabian expenditure budget for fiscal year 2020 is estimated at SAR 1,020 billion, with a continued focus on maintaining fiscal stability and sustainability, improving the diversification of revenue sources, and taking measures to advance the economic and social development of the country. According to the ministry of finance, real GDP growth is expected to reach 2.3 percent in 2020, a downward revision to last year’s estimate of 2.7 percent. The reduction in the GDP growth estimate is due to the decline in oil prices amid the trade war between China and the US, and the decrease in oil production as a result of the OPEC+ agreement.

The focus of spending in 2020 remains on building the non-oil sectors with high economic and social return, and creating more jobs. Additionally, the government will continue to spend on education and healthcare to raise the standard of living and improve the quality of life for its citizens.

Crown Prince Mohammed stresses always that the government is constantly reviewing policies and procedures to ensure their effectiveness and rectify courses whenever the need arises.

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