Kingdom in Context: Saudi Vision 2020
At a historic gathering held nearly 10 years ago, Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2020 was born, offering an exciting roadmap for the Kingdom’s economic future. As we stand today, more than halfway to that 2020 goal, it’s worth reviewing some the Vision’s key objectives.
At its highest level, the Vision sees Saudi Arabia becoming “a diversified and prosperous economy that guarantees the existence of rewarding job opportunities and higher levels of economic welfare for the Saudi citizens, and provision of education and healthcare for the population to equip the labor force with adequate skills, in addition to preserving the religious values and cultural heritage of the Kingdom.”
Fundamental to achieving this Vision is making the shift from a natural resource-based economy to a knowledge-based economy. This economy should be diversified, with high-value-added manufacturing and industrial competitiveness that operates to international standards.
In fact, the Vision identifies manufacturing as “critical to Saudi Arabia’s future progress.”
There are a number of reasons for the focus on manufacturing, including that manufacturing is one of the best ways to deploy new technologies and raise the level of innovation. But above all, the Vision sees manufacturing as key to build the country’s human capital.
The Vision says that manufacturing is “crucial to enhancing exports and moving exports from low-value-added products to higher-value, skill- and technology-intensive products that grow faster in world markets and can sustain faster income growth.”
Manufacturing also has the benefit of exposing Saudi workers to global competition, which research shows is the most effective way to build a powerful, knowledgeable and highly skilled national workforce. That’s because engagement with export markets allows manufacturers to access knowledge, technologies and quality standards from those same markets.
The Vision calls for the establishment of international linkages with foreign firms and international centers of R&D, as a way to speed domestic innovation and technology learning. To drive this even further, the Vision calls for a ‘national innovation system’ to strengthen and expand R&D activity in universities, other public research institutions and industry. As well, it supports the establishment of multiple linkages among all these R&D and technology players.
Complementing its focus on building human capital, the Vision prioritizes the development of the Kingdom’s education and healthcare infrastructure – through schools and universities, clinics and hospitals. A healthy and well-educated workforce will be in the best position to thrive in the global marketplace.
Today, in 2012, it’s clear that enormous strides have been made toward achieving this Vision, and together, government, academia and industry can do what’s needed to take us the rest of the way.