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Mrs. B was meeting Dudley Seers mission when news of 1971 insurrection broke

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by Leelananda de Silva
(continued from last week)

The Export Promotion Secretariat was brought under the Ministry as it was argued that being a coordinating board, it should not be under a sectoral ministry like trade. Its chairman was Dr. Seevali Ratwatte, the Prime Minister’s brother. In its early stages, it was managed by Victor Santiapillai, a Sri Lankan released from the UN International Trade Centre in Geneva. I had to prepare the cabinet paper for the establishment of the Secretariat. There was some tension with the Ministry of Trade on this subject as they wanted the Board to be located within that ministry. Seevali was adamant that it should be under the Ministry of Planning, as its tasks would range beyond trade and would have to address many issues on the supply side. I had a close working relationship with Seevali and Victor.

One of the things I was involved with was in negotiating a line of technical assistance from the Japanese International Cooperation Agency to consolidate and expand the work of the Secretariat.A delicate administrative task which fell to me in early 1971 was to handle the visit of the ILO- sponsored mission headed by Dudley Seers. The Seers mission was to report on the prospects of economic and social development, specially with a view to creating greater employment opportunities.

It was a large mission consisting of about 20 experts. It was located in the Planning Ministry. One of the first tasks was to select a secretary to the mission, and Devanesan Nesiah, from the administrative service was appointed. He handled the substantive and managerial tasks relating to the mission with great competence. It was a pleasure to have worked with him. I had the task of managing relations between the mission and the Planning Ministry, which did not always go according to plan. The Seers mission had been requested by Gamani Corea, and H.A.de.S was not too happy with it. His view was that local economists and other social scientists knew what should be done and there was no necessity for foreign experts who knew very little of the country to come and advice us.

I clearly remember the evening of April 5, 1971, Dudley Seers and his mission met the Prime Minister and others including planning ministry officials at “Temple Trees”. While the meeting was on, the news of the insurgency came through, and that police stations in the deep South had been attacked. The Prime Minister had to abandon the meeting, and later on that night an emergency and curfew were declared. The Seers mission remained locked up in their hotel rooms for much of their time in Ceylon.

When the Seers mission had completed their report, there was a meeting in Geneva in March 1972 to discuss the report along with reports of other similar ILO sponsored missions to Kenya and Colombia. I attended that meeting in Geneva as the government representative, along with Godfrey Gunatilake, who by that time had left the Planning Ministry. Gamani Corea who was in Brussels as Sri Lankan Ambassador chaired the meeting, at the invitation of ILO. This was the first time that I worked with Gamani Corea, although I had met him before. This was the start of a long friendship.

As for the Seers mission, this was not the end. The Central Bank followed up with a request to the ILO World Employment Programme research group in Geneva, to send a team to develop a new statistical framework which includes employment aspects of development, and Graham Pyatt, Professor of Economics at Warwick led a team which included Professor Alan Brown and Alan Roe, a young lecturer from Warwick, to undertake this task. I had a marginal connection with this mission and this was the first time I met Alan Roe and his wife Susan. Alan went on to achieve higher things including the Professorship of Economics at Warwick and Director of the Warwick Research Institute, and he is now a Fellow of the UN University. Alan and Susan have remained our friends and we saw them regularly when we were in the UK.

Once the decision was made to host the non aligned summit in Colombo in 1973, there were new demands on my time. The diplomatic missions in Colombo, specially the Western ones, constantly called for meetings to brief them on non aligned affairs. When it was economic issues they were interested in, the foreign office passed them on to me. Most of the time, it was routine briefings of what happened on the non aligned circuit.

In this context, there was one relationship which became more personal than others. I got to know Edward (Ed) P. Brynn, who was a junior diplomat at the US mission. He was an accomplished historian, having obtained a PhD from Trintity College, Dublin and his academic interest had been the British empire. Ed and his wife Jane, who was a lovely person, became close friends of our family and this friendship continued after they left Colombo. Ed was later ambassador to Ghana and deputy assistant secretary at the State Department in Washington. He was appointed chief historian of the project to write the history of the State Department in 35 volumes. Ed and Jane visited us in Switzerland and in England, and we visited them at Jane’s parents’ house in Long Island, New York. It was sad that Jane passed away a few years ago of a virulent form of cancer.

Another enjoyable task which fell to me in 1975 was to assist in the organization of the celebrations for the 25th anniversary of the Colombo Plan. This was done in association with the ColomboPlan Secretariat located in Colombo. The anniversary celebrations were in the nature of a large meeting held at the BMICH. I organized a special supplement in the Ceylon Daily News and I contributed an article on technical cooperation for it, which obtained a wide circulation as it was republished in their journal by the Society for International Development in Rome.

What I suggested was adding some new dimensions to the type of technical assistance that the UN and other bilateral donors were delivering at the time. I suggested more flexibility and offering technical assistance on a short term basis at times of critical need for individual countries. In other words what I wanted was the injection of technical assistance into sectors and institutions when there was a real demand for it.

There was a problem in organizing the newspaper supplement. J.R. Jayewardene, the leader of the opposition at the time was one of the founding fathers of the Colombo Plan, when he was Minister of Finance in 1950, along with the then Australian Foreign Minister, Percy Spender. We were getting a message from the Prime Minister Mrs. Bandaranaike. It was only right that we obtain one from JRJ. I got a message from JRJ first and then informed the Prime Minister and she had no objection to it. Mrs. Bandaranaike was always very proper on this type of occasion. I remember meeting JRJ, who was with the British High Commissioner, outside the BMICH waiting for their cars, on the day of the commemorative meeting. JRJ said that he had read my article and liked it very much. I had commended his contribution in creating the Colombo Plan.

At the start of this chapter, I bad mentioned that a rag bag of tasks came to me from the now defunct private sector division and from elsewhere. One of the tasks was to serve as secretary of the India-Sri Lanka economic cooperation standing committee which met from time to time in Colombo and Delhi. It was jointly chaired by H.A.de.S and by the Indian Secretary of Commerce, at that time T.K. Sanyal. These were very cordial occasions.

The work entailed among other things, negotiating credit lines for bilateral trade. With the oil crisis and the urgent need to intensify contacts with the Middle East, the Prime Minister established a cabinet committee on Middle East economic cooperation, which met a few times and I was secretary of this committee. Sri Lanka was a member of the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agreement (part of the World Bank) and its administration fell on my division. There was not much work to do here. It was also my responsibility, to manage the overall relations of the Ministry with the private sector. This involved organizing meetings from time to time with private sector bodies like the Chamber of Commerce. Most of the substantive work for these meetings were done by other divisions. Anyway, this responsibility of mine brought me into continuing contacts with Mallory Wijesinghe who was then chairman of the Chamber and other bodies, and N.G.P Panditaratne, of Ford Rhodes.

One interesting task that devolved on me from the former private sector affairs division was to manage the affairs in Sri Lanka relating to the Asian Productivity Organization (APO). The APO is an inter governmental body based in Tokyo and Sri Lanka was a member making an annual contribution to its general fund. The APO was conceived by Japan, and it funded most of the APO technical assistance programmes. The function of the APO was primarily to enable Asian countries to obtain direct knowledge of Japanese techniques in industrial management.

With this aim, the APO offered a number of scholarships to each Asian member country every year for periods lasting a week to three months. In Sri Lanka, these scholarships were reserved for the private sector. It was the task of my division to work with private sector bodies and select eligible persons to be sent on scholarships to Japan. The APO Director for Sri Lanka was Herbert Tennakoon, the Governor of the Central Bank. How this came about was that Mr. Tennakoon had been Sri Lanka’s ambassador in Tokyo and he had been on the governing board of the APO. When he relinquished his job in Tokyo and came to Sri Lanka, he was interested in keeping his APO role and the new ambassador, Arthur Basnayake had no objection.

So, Herbert Tennakoon continued to be the Director, and I was nominated to be the Alternate Director. I worked with Mr. Tennakoon and saw him once a month or so on APO issues. There was a gentleman by the name of Savudranayagam, a Sri Lankan, who was at the APO, and he was in charge of the Sri Lanka desk. We worked closely together. My experience was that APO was a useful organization.

There was at that time a committee set up by the Central Bank on tea factory modernization. A large loan had been obtained from the Asian Development Bank to modernize tea factories which were in the private sector and the committee, which was chaired by P.V.M. Fernando, deputy governor of the Central Bank, had representatives from several other ministries and departments. I was a member of this committee. The work of the committee was actually done by its secretary, V.K. Wickramasinghe who did a fine job in disbursing the funds on the basis of established priorities.

There were many other occasions where I had to sit on various committees, as H.A.de.S normally avoided them. There was always a demand from other ministries to have a Ministry of Planning representative on their working groups and committees, and these I avoided, delegating such tasks to the other members of my staff. One thing I always avoided were requests to sit on tender boards and interview boards.

Most of the Planning Ministry was physically located on the seventh and eighth floors of the Central Bank building. This was an arrangement which was agreed at the time of Dr. Gamani Corea, a Central Bank official himself. These were very comfortable offices. In the 1970s the Central Bank wanted the space back for its own use. H.A.de.S was not anxious to leave his cosy office.

The Central Bank went to the extent of purchasing from Forbes and Walker, the brokering firm, their building on Prince Street, Fort and offered it to the Planning Ministry. I was involved in the negotiations for the purchase of this building, and its internal restructuring to suit our needs. We took the building and some of us moved there, but not H.A.de.S. We did not give up the seventh and eighth floors of the Central Bank building either. So there was tension on this issue. I had very cordial relations with the Governor of the Central Bank, Herbert Tennekoon, and he used to remind me about this matter from time to time.

There was little that was routine in my day to day work at the Planning Ministry. Tasks cropped up at short notice, depending on the demands made on the Prime Minister or the Permanent Secretary. There could be a meeting with some UN delegation, or the Prime Minister might want some matter attended to urgently. I shall give three or four illustrations out of must be hundreds during these seven years.

Sometime in 1971, the Salaries Commission came to meet the Prime Minister. H.A.de.S. and I had to be there. I remember the Prime Minister telling them, on our advice, that they can make any changes within their terms of reference, but that the total salary bill of the government should not increase. Another occasion was when the British Cabinet Minister, Geoffrey Ripon, came to see the Prime Minister, and this must be about 1972. He was a member of the Heath Cabinet.

He was in Sri Lanka to inform Sri Lanka about the implications of Britain joining the European Union. It was a fascinating meeting. (Now over 40 years later, Britain is leaving the European Union) Once I remember that Prime Minister Bhutto from Pakistan was visiting Sri Lanka and the Prime Minister suggested to him that he addresses a small round table gathering of foreign office officials and wa fe others from outside, on Asian foreign policy issues. I attended this meeting and Bhutto gave a brilliant exposition on international affairs.

On another occasion, at very short notice, Gunnar Myrdal, the Nobel Laureate in Economics, visited the Planing Ministry and met with H.A.de.S and a few officials. He gave us 200 copies of the abridged version of his three volume Asian Drama. These illustrations could offer something of the flavour of a working day in the Ministry. Many times, the Prime Minister used to ring from the cabinet room to be advised on something or the other. Most of the time, I could not plan my day.

(Excerpted from the Long Littleness of Life an autobiography. The writer had an 18-year public service career serving as Senior Assistant Secretary and Director of Economic Affairs of the Ministry of Planning and Economic Affair in the 1970s working closely with Prime Minister Sirima Bandaranaike. He thereafter had an international career as Resident Representative of the Third World Forum in Geneva from 1980-2013 and thereafter serving as a senior international consultant for many UN and non-UN agencies.)



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Italy: The Hard Right nears power

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By Gwynne Dyer

There’s an election in Italy next Sunday, almost exactly 100 years after Benito Mussolini’s ‘blackshirts’ marched on Rome and brought the first fascist dictator to power.Giorgia Meloni, the hard-right populist politician who is likely to win that election, rejects any comparison with that ugly past. The party she leads, Brothers of Italy, has some ‘nostalgic’ neo-fascists in its ranks, but she prefers to compare it to Britain’s post-Brexit Conservative Party or the US Republican Party as rebranded by Donald Trump.

She shares her hostility to the European Union with Britain’s Conservatives, her hatred of immigrants, gays and Muslims with the US Republicans, and her truculent nationalism with both those parties. She is also militantly Christian, and she dabbles in ‘Great Replacement’ paranoia. And just like them, she wages a non-stop culture war.

“There is no middle ground possible,” Meloni told a rally last June. “Today, the secular left and radical Islam are menacing our roots…Either say yes, or say no. Yes to the natural family, no to the LGBT lobbies. Yes to the universality of the Cross, no to Islamist violence. Yes to secure borders, no to mass immigration.”

The brutal simplicity of these slogans works just as well with lower-income, poorly educated Italians as it does with the same sort of people in ‘heartland’ America or ‘red wall’ Britain. The goal is to distract them from the fact that their populist heroes really govern in favour of the rich (which explains why those leaders must be shameless liars).

Giorgia Meloni lies, too, but when you compare her to populist peers like Viktor Orbán in Hungary, Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, and Donald Trump in the United States, she actually doesn’t seem that bad.

Like them, she has no permanent political principles, just a bundle of cynical techniques for attracting distressed and desperate voters. But she needed to shift towards the centre ground to build her Brothers of Italy party up from 4% of the vote in the 2018 election to a predicted 25% this time – so that’s what she did.

She now claims to support both the European Union and the NATO alliance. Even before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, she avoided the pro-Putin stance that was common on the radical right in both Europe and the United States. With the fragile Italian economy teetering on the brink of recession, she is promising good behaviour to Brussels.

So not a complete disaster, then. Continued access to the EU’s Covid recovery fund, which has promised Italy 191 billion euros over the next six years, should keep Meloni from straying too far from orthodox economics. If the EU withholds those funds, her prospects of remaining in power would be slim.

Brothers of Italy will probably be the largest Italian party after this election, but with only 25-30% of the vote she will not be able to govern alone. The problem is that the two parties she will need to make a coalition with, Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia! (Go Italy!) and Matteo Salvini’s Lega (The League), are direct rivals of her own party.

Berlusconi at 85 is still a big political player thanks to his huge media empire. Salvini is willing to bring any coalition down if it improves his chances of being prime minister in a different one. Both men will be trying to claw back the popular support that Meloni’s Brothers of Italy has stolen from them, so there will be tears before bedtime.

In normal times, their chosen tactic would be to undermine Meloni’s party by pushing for harsher policies on immigration and bigger conflicts with the EU. With the Russian energy blockade promising a hard time for Europe economically this winter, however, the obvious strategy for far-right parties is to advocate a softer line on Putin’s war in Ukraine.

Both men have been Putin fanboys in the past. Berlusconi sees the Russian dictator as a personal friend, and Salvini called him “the best statesman on Earth” three years ago. Now Salvini soft-pedals his admiration for Putin, but he demands an end to the sanctions against Russia because they are allegedly hurting Italy more than Russia.

Meloni can’t afford to play that game, and the expected post-election coalition of far-right parties is unlikely to last very long. She has sufficiently detoxified herself that she could lead a coalition with other parties instead, and that may well happen.Post-fascist parties in power in Italy are still bad news, but the damage to the European Union and the NATO alliance can probably be contained.

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Why do we go to the IMF?

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By Shahid Mehmood

THE resumption of the IMF package, that was badly needed to avert an external payments crisis, has reignited passions. As most countrymen wrestle with the question of whether or not the Fund is a tool of neocolonialism to keep countries like Pakistan sedated and subservient, what is lost in the debate is why we always wind up at its door. Let’s take a peek.

Energy is the relevant sector to get this conversation going as it constitutes the largest portion of our import bill. Economic growth and economic mobility depend on energy, whose demand rises as economies expand (along with other factors like population growth). A large portion of Pakistan’s entire energy edifice is dependent on imported fuels, given our meagre internal energy sources.

Aside from raw material, the machines and equipment underpinning our power production are also imported — from turbines at hydel power plants to equipment at LNG, coal and furnace oil plants. So, not only are we importing raw materials, we are also importing services to sustain them over the long term. All these have to be paid for in dollars.

Read: Wanted — a non-partisan economic plan

Here, let me address a misconception, that ‘indigenous’ sources of power will take care of the matter. Think again. These can’t be utilised without outside help. Decades after the construction of the Mangla and Tarbela dams, we still need foreign experts to solve critical issues related to them. Consider the Neelum-Jhelum run-of-the-river hydel power project, which has extracted gazillions from Pakistanis under the label of ‘surcharge’. Meant to utilise an ‘indigenous’ source of energy, hardly a year later it is down due to a ‘fault’ that required the services of foreign experts because our own ‘experts’ could not identify it. (It meant inflicting losses in the billions on consumers due to power production from expensive, imported fuel).

We are importing not only raw materials, but also the services to sustain them over the long term.The case of other indigenous sources is somewhat similar: we cannot build nuclear power plants without foreign help; we had to hire foreign experts to determine whether our coal plants could use Thar’s indigenous coal, etc.

This is not a revelation: there has been recognition for long that Pakistan creates problems for itself that, in turn, generate a demand for dollars, which we are usually short of. The Economic Survey of 1980-81, for example, recognised that long-gestation projects under the public investment garb was the main reason for saddling Pakistan with an external debt of $9bn. Yet, PSDPs refuse to budge! It’s still about grand projects like roads that incentivise an increase in vehicular traffic, in turn creating more demand for dollar imports, as the main components of the products of our highly protected car manufacturers are imported.

Let’s move to the role of public regulations. A few of endless examples will suffice. We have this infinite fascination with horizontal sprawls, complemented by ‘housing societies’ in the public and private sector. Aside from cities becoming administratively difficult to govern, a result of these endless sprawls is the need for more vehicles, leading to greater demand for energy products such as oil and diesel. There has, arguably, never been an estimate of the increase in energy imports that accrued to the country due to this endless expansion. But if ever such an exercise is carried out, the results will make other import-related issues — like IPPs — look puny.

These endless sprawls have resulted in millions of acres of fertile agricultural land being gobbled up over time. Given that more than 100 agricultural ‘research’ institutes are producing little or nothing in terms of higher land and crop productivity, complemented by a rapidly expanding population, there is little choice but to import food staples to meet our food requirements — so much for being an ‘agricultural country’.

Another good example: the illogical fascination with uniform pricing. In terms of the ultimately imported energy products, it leads to waste. Pakistan’s fast-depleting natural gas reserves are an apt illustration of this phenomenon. First, it was Balochistan, and now it is Sindh whose natural gas reserves are dwindling fast. There has, historically speaking, always been an incentive to consume it inefficiently because they have been under-priced, primarily due to uniform prices that are way below the market prices. Had the pricing been market-based from the start, there might not have arisen the need for importing expensive LNG or coal, which severely taxes our dollar earnings.

Moving away from big-ticket items, even the micro level does not inspire much confidence. Consider the common office chair. Some time back, they were in short supply, carrying a premium. That’s because they are merely ‘assembled’ here from imported parts. Most other products fare little better.

To summarise, Pakistan’s economic edifice is built in a manner that, unless we import, our economic activity will come to a standstill. And as GDP inches up, we end up importing more — to the extent that our dollar earnings will never be enough to pay for our imports. So whether it’s the IMF or anyone else, Pakistan will sooner or later knock at their door for dollars.

How to change all this? Before someone presents ‘import substitution’ as the Holy Grail, God save us from that predicament. Our earlier experiments only ended up producing rent-seeking seths and the likes of the car industry that sells low-quality tin for millions — the promised ‘localisation’ never happened. For a start, enough of brick-and-mortar ‘plans’ that create more liabilities than assets, besides raising pampered generations of subsidy-sucking businessmen under the banner of ‘infant industry’ and ‘qaumi mufaad’ (national interest). Neither do we need NOCs or hundreds of regulatory agencies to scare away foreign and domestic investors.

The way out of our dollar cash-flow troubles lies in greater global integration and trade, promoting competition and developing our human capital base. For a change, take the government out of business and let Schumpeterian creative destruction prevail on a level playing field. (The Dawn/ANN)

The writer is an economist and research fellow at PIDE.

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National Day of Saudi Arabia – 23rd September 2022

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Crown Prince Message- Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud

It is my pleasure to present Saudi Arabia’s Vision for the future. It is an ambitious yet achievable blueprint, which expresses our long-term goals and expectations and reflects our country’s strengths and capabilities. All success stories start with a vision, and successful visions are based on strong pillars.The first pillar of our vision is our status as the heart of the Arab and Islamic worlds. We recognise 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.

Our country is rich in its natural resources. We are not dependent solely on oil for our energy needs. Gold, phosphate, uranium, and many other valuable minerals are found beneath our lands. But our real wealth lies in the ambition of our people and the potential of our younger generation. They are our nation’s pride and the architects of our future. We will never forget how, under tougher circumstances than today, our nation was forged by collective determination when the late King Abdulaziz Al-Saud – may Allah bless his soul – united the Kingdom. Our people will amaze the world again.

We are confident about the Kingdom’s future. With all the blessings Allah has bestowed on our nation, we cannot help but be optimistic about the decades ahead. We ponder what lies over the horizon rather than worrying about what could be lost.

The future of the Kingdom, my dear brothers and sisters, is one of huge promise and great potential, God willing. Our precious country deserves the best. Therefore, we will expand and further develop our talents and capacity. We will do our utmost to ensure that Muslims from around the world can visit the Holy Sites.

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.

All this comes from the directive of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, may Allah protect him, who ordered us to plan for a future that fulfills your ambitions and your aspirations.In line with his instructions, we will work tirelessly from today to build a better tomorrow for you, your children, and your children’s children.

Our ambition is for the long term. It goes beyond replenishing sources of income that have weakened or preserving what we have already achieved. We are determined to build a thriving country in which all citizens can fulfill their dreams, hopes and ambitions. Therefore, we will not rest until our nation is a leader in providing opportunities for all through education and training, and high quality services such as employment initiatives, health, housing, and entertainment.

We commit ourselves to providing world class government services which effectively and efficiently meet the needs of our citizens. Together we will continue building a better country, fulfilling our dream of prosperity and unlocking the talent, potential, and dedication of our young men and women. We will not allow our country ever to be at the mercy of a commodity price volatility or external markets.

We have all the means to achieve our dreams and ambitions. There are no excuses for us to stand still or move backwards.Our Vision is a strong, thriving, and stable Saudi Arabia that provides opportunity for all. Our Vision is a tolerant country with Islam as its constitution and moderation as its method. We will welcome qualified individuals from all over the world and will respect those who have come to join our journey and our success.

We intend to provide better opportunities for partnerships with the private sector through the three pillars: our position as the heart of the Arab and Islamic worlds, our leading investment capabilities, and our strategic geographical position. We will improve the business environment, so that our economy grows and flourishes, driving healthier employment opportunities for citizens and long-term prosperity for all. This promise is built on cooperation and on mutual responsibility.

This is our “Saudi Arabia’s Vision for 2030.” We will begin immediately delivering the overarching plans and programmes we have set out. Together, with the help of Allah, we can strengthen the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s position as a great nation about which we should all feel an immense pride.

His Royal Highness Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Crown Prince, Deputy Prime Minister, and Chairman of the Council of Economic and Development Affairs.

History & Heritage

Saudi Arabia has long occupied an important role at the center of the Islamic and Arab worlds. Located at the heart of three continents, the Kingdom has served as an important ancient trade route and a vital link connecting East and West.

It also has a unique heritage landscape that has developed over the centuries, including 6 UNESCO World Heritage sites.

People & Culture

Saudi Arabia has a rich culture shaped by the diversity of its people, which has formed the basis of its cultural identity. The Kingdom has 13 regions across which 34 million people live who are united by the Arabic language, but each region has a unique dialect, traditions, heritage, and culinary identity.

The Kingdom has four official yearly celebrations; two Islamic celebrations, Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha, Founding Day (February 22) and Saudi National Day (September 23).

The people of Saudi Arabia embrace many social values influenced by their Islamic values which preserve the Kingdom’s ancient customs and traditions, including generosity, courage, hospitality, and maintaining strong family relationships.

Economy & Business

Saudi Arabia has implemented structural economic and financial reforms since the launch of Vision 2030, which established a new economic system that prompts the creation of a diversified and robust economy that achieves sustainable growth for the Kingdom.

Investing in previously untapped sectors has supported the Kingdom’s economic diversification efforts and led to an improved business environment. Thus, strengthening the role of the private sector in the economy and creating the necessary environment for sustainable growth.

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