SAUDI ARABIA KEEN TO DIVERSIFY ITS ECONOMY AWAY FROM OIL EXPORTS
For nearly 100 years, the Middle East has been one of the hottest areas in the world in terms of political conflicts, prospects of economic growth and social stability. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is one of the most important countries in the region that has the potential to create and sustain impactful changes due to its respectable status as the land that is home to the two holiest places for Muslims all over the world. It was established by Abdulaziz Al Saud in 1930 after uniting the two kingdoms of Hejaz and Najd. Until his death in 1953, Abdulaziz ruled Saudi Arabia as an absolute monarchy
As the country that has the second-largest proven petroleum reserves, and is the largest exporter of petroleum in the world, Saudi Arabia gained special economic importance regionally and internationally. This importance has given the kingdom a chance to enhance its political presence in various international platforms. However, the views and actions of the ruling king and his government have always been balanced between presenting Islamic moderation in dealing with the West and preserving the authentic culture and traditions in the region.
"Since the time of Prophet Muhammed [peace be upon him] the Arab peninsula, which is mainly represented by Saudi Arabia today, has been the the source of inspiration in the Muslim world."
While Saudi Arabia is one of the strongest allies for the US, the kingdom has boosted their relationships with several other countries in Europe and other parts of the world. Furthermore, Saudi Arabia continues to support the freedom struggle of Islamic nations including Palestine, Afghanistan, Syria and Yemen. It is also concerned about the conditions of Muslims in other countries such as Kashmir in India and the Uyghurs in China. The support provided by Saudi Arabia is not confined to financial assistance; rather it extends as advocacy of their rights on international platforms.OIC Establishment
Even though the actual establishment of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in 1969 was after the fire of Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, the idea of forming a body that represents Muslims around the world was proposed earlier, since the fall of the Ottoman empire. Because of the leading role Saudi Arabia played in the founding and funding the OIC, its permanent headquarters is located in Jeddah. Today, the OIC has a number of subsidiary organs and affiliated bodies that help to fulfill the organisation’s vision and mission in different parts of the world, with Saudi as the main contributor to these activities.
"Headquartered in Saudi Arabia, the OIC is the collective voice of the Muslim world and it works to safeguard and protect the interests of the Muslim world in the spirit of promoting international peace and harmony."
One of the most important organisations established by the OIC has been the Islamic Development Bank, which works to improve the lives of those it serves by promoting social and economic development in the 57 OIC member countries and Muslim communities worldwide, delivering impact at scale. The Islamic Centre for Development of Trade is another organisation which the OIC built to enhance cooperation between the member countries in order to increase intra-OIC trade activities, which directly contributes to the growth of the global Islamic economy.Latest Reforms
Since Crown Prince Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud became the new King of Saudi Arabia in 2015, radical changes have been implemented as part of transformative reforms that promise a bright future for the kingdom’s economy. However, it is believed that the man behind these changes is the current Crown Prince, who is also the son of King, Muhammed Bin Salman. The young man has been involved in almost every aspect of the government and for some time he was referred to as the minister of everything. His views were more explicit in the Vision 2030, announced in 2016.
“will remain committed to the principles of Islam, the religion of tolerance and moderation. We are returning to what we were before, a country of moderate Islam that is open to all religions and to the world.” Prince Mohammad Bin Salman
The most significant of the reforms being implemented have been those related to women, starting from giving them the authority to drive cars until the relaxation of the guardianship system, allowing women to get their passports and travel without the need for the guardian’s approval. Also, several other activities and facilities have been licensed in the kingdom such as concerts by international singers, hosting WWE wrestling matches and opening so-called Halal night clubs! While some of these reforms are applauded internationally, they are widely criticised regionally.