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The winter adventure In 16 countries – Part A

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CONFESSIONS OF A GLOBAL GYPSY

By Dr. Chandana (Chandi) Jayawardena DPhil
President – Chandi J. Associates Inc. Consulting, Canada
Founder & Administrator – Global Hospitality Forum
chandij@sympatico.ca

ADVENTURE

My wife and I ushered in 1985 at a New Year’s Eve dinner dance held at the Hammersmith Hall in London. We were in high spirits because a couple of days later we planned to commence our longest international trip. Our ambitious plan was to visit 16 countries in the European Union, Eastern Europe with a quick visit to the African continent. Coach, train and ship tickets, as well as visas for all of the countries we planned to visit were in place.

Some of our friends who were at the dance, were amazed, as well as, confused by our travel plans and had a few comments. “Covering 16 countries in six weeks is an impossible undertaking!” “You guys are planning to visit too many places in the middle of a bad winter!” “Ideally, you need a week to cover one country. Why don’t you visit only six countries but cover those well?” they asked us. Our plan was different. We wanted to get a quick experience of many cities of importance and interest, within a vast area by travelling overland and when necessary, on a few ferries. We also planned to do a three-hour coach tour of each city, have at least one traditional meal in each country, meet local people and get a general feel of each destination in an economical, simple way.

Although my initial budget for the trip was £1,000, after more calculation we realised that we would need around £1,300 for the trip, without the cost of our meals. I was yet to find a full-time job after completing my master’s degree in England, in which I had invested all of my savings. My wife took six weeks unpaid leave from her job in London. I placed job interviews on a back burner until March 1985. The uncertainty of what the future held for us added to the sense of adventure on which we embarked in the middle of a brutal winter, armed with heavy, winter coats, lightly-packed backpacks and lots of optimism.

WALES

We started off on an early morning coach from Victoria Station in London and after three hours travel though the beautiful countryside, we reached Cardiff, the capital city of Wales. In 1985, the population of Wales was only 2.8 million or 5% of the population of the United Kingdom.

From the post-Roman period, a number of Welsh kingdoms were formed within present-day Wales. The Welsh launched several revolts against English rule in the early 15th century. In the 16th century, Henry VIII, himself of Welsh extraction, passed the Laws in Wales Acts aiming to fully incorporate Wales into the Kingdom of England in 1535. Under England’s authority, Wales became a part of the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707 and then the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland in 1801. The Welsh retained their language and culture despite heavy English dominance.

Cardiff

With 350,000 residents in 1985, Cardiff was relatively a small capital city. We were disappointed that no city bus tours were available in mid-winter. Once we reached the historic, Cardiff Castle, which boasted an impressive near 2,000-year history, we joined a conducted walking tour with a friendly Welsh tour guide. The Normans had expanded the original fort built by the Romans. During the English Civil Wars in the mid-17th century which led to the execution of King Charles I, the Cardiff Castle was held for some time by the Royalists (Cavaliers). After that it was taken over by the Parliamentarians (Roundheads) led by Oliver Cromwell, the only non-royal to rule the country.

Cardiff is a city of contrasts. A rich history, modern shopping centres, busy commercial centres and a variety of sports facilities made Cardiff interesting. We also visited St. David’s Cathedral and the City Hall of Cardiff which has been acclaimed as one of the finest, civic centres in Europe. I was a fan of Richard Burton, the world-famous Welsh actor who had passed away exactly five months prior to our visit to Wales. I was keen to visit his birthplace, Pontrhydyfen, which was about an hour from Cardiff by train, but our tight schedule did not permit that additional stop. “We need to stick to our plan”, my wife gently reminded me.

Swansea, Carmarthen and Fishguard Harbour

After an hour-long coach ride, we arrived at the second-largest city in Wales, Swansea, as the sun was setting. The city was quiet as the temperature was getting closer to zero. After dinner in Swansea, we took a late train to a small city, Carmarthen, where we spent a short time looking at the River Tywi (sometimes called the River Towy), the longest river in Wales. Although it was dark, some street lights and the sound of the running water helped us to get a slight feel of a great river.

We then took a midnight train to our last stop in Wales, Fishguard Harbour. There was not much to see at that time of the night. We were also feeling tired and cold. After a long wait we boarded a small ship and left the harbour around 3:00 am. After resting for four hours in the ship, we reached Ireland’s Rosslare Harbour.

IRELAND

Living in London since late 1983, I was exposed to the frequent, bomb attacks in England by the Irish Republican Army (IRA). That experience, and watching movies such as David Lean’s ‘Ryan’s Daughter’ instilled an interest in my mind about the history of Ireland.

Greek and Roman writers give some information about Ireland during the Classical period whe the island may be termed ‘Gaelic Ireland’. By the late 4th century AD Christianity had begun to gradually subsume or replace the earlier Celtic polytheism. Viking raids and settlement from the late eighth century AD resulted in an extensive cultural interchange, as well as innovations in military and transport. Many of Ireland’s towns were founded at this time as Viking trading posts.

The Norman invasion in the 12th century resulted in a partial conquest of the island and marked the beginning of more than 800 years of English political and military involvement in Ireland. Initially successful, Norman gains were rolled back over succeeding centuries as a Gaelic resurgence re-established Gaelic cultural pre-eminence over most of the country, apart from the walled towns and the area around Dublin.

Reduced to the control of small pockets of land, the English Crown did not make another attempt to conquer the island until the mid-15th century. This released resources and manpower for overseas expansion, beginning in the early 16th century. However, the nature of Ireland’s decentralized political organization into small territories, martial traditions, difficult terrain and climate and lack of urban infrastructure, meant that attempts to assert Crown authority were slow and expensive. The new Protestant faith was also successfully resisted by both the Gaelic and Norman-Irish. Henry VIII proclaimed himself King of Ireland in 1541 to facilitate the conquest.

During the 17th century, the division between a Protestant, landholding minority and a dispossessed, Catholic majority was intensified and conflict between them was to become a recurrent theme in Irish history. In the early 19th century, in the wake of the republican United Irishmen Rebellion, the Irish Parliament was abolished and Ireland became part of a new United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, formed by the Acts of Union 1800.

Irish attempts to break away continued and eventually in 1922, after the Irish War of Independence, most of Ireland seceded from the United Kingdom. It became the independent, Irish Free State under the Anglo-Irish Treaty. The six, north-eastern counties known as Northern Ireland, remained within the United Kingdom, creating the partition of Ireland. Since 1949, the Republic of Ireland is the official description for the state. However, Ireland remains the constitutional name of the state.

Ireland also experienced other major challenges. The catastrophe of the Great Famine struck Ireland in the mid-19th century resulting in over a million deaths from starvation and disease. This caused a million refugees to flee the country, mainly to USA.

Rosslare Harbour

The first thing we did in Ireland was to have a full Irish breakfast. After consuming generous amounts of bacon, sausages, baked beans, eggs, mushrooms, grilled tomatoes, hash, toast, butter, marmalade and lots of tea, we decided to skip lunch and dinner on January 5, 1985. Our first impressions of Ireland were all pleasant. After leaving Rosslare Harbour, we chatted with a few friendly Irish in the train. They told us that both of us looked very different from their usual tourists. We enjoyed the scenic beauty of the route during our three-hour train ride from Rosslare Harbour to Dublin. Most parts were lush and green, in spite of the winter weather.

Belfast, 19 years Later

Our 1985 visit to Ireland was limited mainly to the South-East coast and Dublin. When I asked my wife, “Shall we do a quick visit to Northern Ireland, as well?”, she resisted citing IRA violence in Belfast. I had to wait for 19 more years, before I eventually, travelled to Northern Ireland. It was an unplanned trip, motivated by a last-minute invitation.

In 2004, after I was elected as the President of the largest, professional body for hospitality managers of the United Kingdom – Hotel & Catering International Management Association (HCIMA, now Institute of Hospitality), I was invited by various HCIMA chapters around the world to attend their events and deliver keynote addresses. I travelled to 17 countries in 2004 and 2005, as part of my duties as the President. The first invitation I accepted was from the HCIMA – Northern Ireland Branch.

From London, I flew to Belfast to deliver the keynote address at the 2004 Northern Ireland annual hotelier’s award gala and present the main awards to winning hoteliers. I found that people in both parts of Ireland to be equally hospitable, friendly and helpful. Unfortunately, the colonial acts by their neighbouring, larger island and the history have not been too kind to them.

Dublin

The capital and largest city of Ireland, Dublin’s population in 1985, was around 900,000 or 25% of the total population of Ireland. Dublin is a beautiful city situated on a bay on the east coast, at the mouth of the River Liffey. It is bordered on the south by the Dublin Mountains, a part of the Wicklow Mountains range. There was an archaeological debate regarding precisely when Dublin originated, first with a settlement established by the Gaels during or before the 7th century CE, and second, a Viking settlement.

As the small Kingdom of Dublin, the city grew, and it became Ireland’s principal settlement after the 12th century Anglo-Norman invasion of Ireland. The city expanded rapidly from the 17th century and briefly became the second largest city in the British Empire and the sixth largest in Western Europe after the Acts of Union in 1800. Following independence in 1922, Dublin became the capital of the Irish Free State.

We managed to get an affordable room for £16 at Liffey House, a small guest house near the Dublin railway station. We were disappointed that the tourist information centre was closed and city coach tour were not operating till mid-January. Therefore, we explored the city without guided tours. Dublin was much larger than we expected and is a capital full of history and surprises.

We liked walking around Trinity College at the University of Dublin. It had been established in 1592 modelled after the collegiate universities of Oxford and Cambridge, and it was considered one of Europe’s elite institutions. We also walked around the city centre and along the famous O’Connell Street. Later we visited Christ Church Cathedral and the imposing St Patrick’s Cathedral, founded in 1191. The tour of Dublin was completed when we went to the Guinness Brewery.

After a couple of days in Dublin, we took a train back to Rosslare Harbour to board our ship to France. The ship had 300 cabins, but due to our strict budget, we settled for two reclining chairs to rest overnight. We sailed around 6:00 pm from a calm Irish Sea to a rough Atlantic Ocean on a gloomy and cold evening. We went to sleep early with the hope of a relaxing voyage of 415 miles.

We were rudely awoken around midnight due to jerks created by massive waves and freezing, Atlantic winter winds. With the waves becoming rougher, my wife became sea sick and was feeling very poorly. What crossed my mind while looking after her was whether we had made a bad decision in doing a long trip in the middle a brutal winter. Adding to our challenges, the captain of the ship announced that there would be a three-hour delay in reaching our first port in France, Le Havre. He blamed the bad weather and the storm for this long delay. We finally reached France after a rough 24 hours at sea.

FRANCE

It was our fourth visit to France, but first visit to Le Havre. Owing to the inclement weather, we felt like we were entering a strangely different country. The port was covered with layers of snow turned to black ice. This caused another two-hour delay before the disembarkation.

Le Havre

This port, in terms of total traffic, is the second largest in France after Marseille, the largest, French container port. The city and port had been founded in the 16th century. In the 18th century it was notorious as a busy hub for the slave trade. On a positive note, Le Havre has multiple historic sites, which in later years, prompted the UNESCO to inscribe the central city of Le Havre as a World Heritage Site. We did not see any of these attractions as we arrived there late in the evening when the city was blanketed with a heavy snow fall.

Rouen

After a 50-minute train ride we arrived at our destination for the night, Rouen. It was our second visit to this small, historic city. We were warmly welcomed by our hosts, an uncle of mine, Tilak and his French wife and son. After a warm shower and a nice ‘home-cooked’ Sri Lankan dinner, we slept like tired babies for nearly 12 hours. Next morning, we drove around Rouen.

Paris

Due to the bad weather, all the trains were late, which is uncommon in Western Europe, where train services were usually efficient and punctual. The next day, we were happy to arrive in one of our favourite cities, Paris. With nearly nine million residents in 1985, Paris was a large capital city, yet maintained the charm of a smaller city in different parts of this well-planned metropolis. It was our fourth visit to Paris, but we felt that it was even prettier than before during a snow-covered evening. Paris looked like the winter wonderland.

Will continue in next week’s article: THE WINTER ADVENTURE IN 16 COUNTRIES – Part “B”,

with adventures in France, Portugal, Spain and Morocco…



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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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