Is Vision 2030 the end for expat professionals in Saudi

Published:  9 Oct at 6 PM
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Is Vision 2030 the death knell for expatriate professionals in Saudi Arabia?

Launched in 2016 by Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince, Vision 2030 is intended to diversify the Kingdom’s economy away from its traditional dependency on oil revenues. For decades, the Gulf State has been a haven for expat professionals earning salaries and living luxury lifestyles unimaginable in their home countries. Nowadays, the introduction of Saudization is gradually decreasing opportunities and discouraging top talent from risking their careers in what could be seen as a possibly unstable destination. Vision 2030 is, in fact, a statement of intent rather than a carefully considered, detailed plan for the future, its several planks include cutting bureaucracy, reducing staffing in the civil service and removing the present obstacles faced by the private sector.

Supporting SMEs is included, as are legal and regulatory reforms, and the commitment to balancing Saudi’s budget by the end of next year and generating a surplus by 2020. The longer-term aim is to create a tourism hub as well as attracting service industries in a similar manner to Dubai’s strategy. However, Dubai has succeeded in its goal without making life extremely difficult for its majority expat population, presumably as it recognises the value of getting the foreign community on board. Saudi society is far more restrictive, and with Qatar now going down the ‘services’ pathway, there’s possibly no room at the particular in for yet another service-based economy, no matter whether it’s staffed by expats or citizens.

The major cultural elephant in Saudi’s room is its Saudi national population, the vast majority of whom don’t seem to want a private sector job with all its disciplines and insecurities when there are rock solid government jobs on offer. Add to this dilemma the fact that many Saudis simply don’t want to work and a good number of those who might don’t have the education, training or qualifications to make a contribution. Taking the above into consideration, it’s quite possible Saudi Arabia will remain an expat professional destination for a good while yet in spite of Vision 2030.
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