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Saudi Vision Disrupted by COVID-19 but Goals Remain the Same

Saudi Arabia is without question, the most important market in the Middle East. As the region’s biggest economy and home of Islam’s most important sites, the Kingdom dominates the regional landscape.

The events in March provide a reminder, if one was needed, that Riyadh is also a key actor on the global stage, and that it is no longer content to operate quietly in the backroom of global politics, said GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.

Richard Thompson, editorial director, GlobalData. Commented, “Despite decades of diversification initiatives, the Saudi economy remains dependent on government spending and on oil. That is changing. The launch in April 2016 of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 reform agenda set a new path for a more diversified, private sector-led economy.”

In October 2017, Riyadh unveiled a series of gigaprojects, including the USD500 billion Neom future city, to drive investment and business opportunities. In late 2019, a new round of reforms opened up the tourism market. Critical to the vision are the country’s USD1,4 trillion of major projects planned or under construction. Saudi Arabia is by far the biggest projects market in the region, nearly double the size of the next largest market, the UAE.

Thompson continued by saying, “The Kingdom is home to almost half of all projects planned in the GCC. But the collapse in global economic activity caused by the COVID-19 crisis, and the subsequent crash in oil prices, has raised questions about the prospects for Vison 2030 and the Saudi projects sector. In the short-to-medium term, Riyadh’s diversification drive will be severely disrupted. The crisis has introduced urgent economic and health challenges at home and abroad that must take priority.”