March 20, 2018

Vision 2030: Saudi Arabia Beyond Oil

On April 25, 2016, the Saudi government presented Vision 2030, a sweeping plan for moving the kingdom beyond oil dependence. This plan includes: the privatization of a portion of the Saudi national oil company Aramco; the expansion of the resources and role of the Saudi Public Investment Fund; and the development of the country’s ports, cultural resources, and tourist sites to take advantage of its strategic position at the center of the Arab and Islamic world. Scholars and a cross section of Saudi opinion leaders examine the implications of the reform plan in a series for AGSIW.


Let Me Entertain You: Saudi Arabia’s New Enthusiasm for Fun

By Kristin Smith Diwan
March 9, 2018

When family budgets tighten, dinner out, movies, and other diversions are often the first expenses eliminated. But in Saudi Arabia, austerity is being accompanied by the promotion of activities once forbidden in the conservative kingdom. After an inaugural calendar that included concerts, Comic Con, and monster trucks, the Saudi General Entertainment Authority is doubling its sponsorship to 5,000 events in 2018. Its chief, Ahmad bin Aqeel al-Khatib, has trumpeted plans to invest $64 billion in the entertainment sector over the coming decade, boasting that the sector will trail only oil and defense spending in budgetary priorities.
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Rising Stakes in Saudi Arabia’s Transformation

November 7, 2017

The transformation underway in Saudi Arabia continues to send regular shockwaves through business and diplomatic circles. After whirlwind announcements on women driving and the opening of the kingdom to foreign investors in new megaprojects, a more domestically focused message is emerging. In a series of short reactions, AGSIW Senior Resident Scholars Hussein Ibish, Kristin Smith Diwan, and Karen E. Young, as well as Board Member F. Gregory Gause, III offer their assessments of the multidimensional implications of these developments.
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The Coming Economic Disorder: The Political Perils of Economic Liberalization in the Gulf

By Karen E. Young
September 14, 2017

Economic liberalization tends to bring with it social, if not always political, openings. By definition, liberalization challenges existing orders; more specifically, liberalization tries to deny the state a dominating role in the economy. State-led capitalism, as practiced in the Gulf states over the last 40 years, has invited foreign investment and migrant human capital, but it has always privileged the state and protected opportunity for citizens, most visibly via commercial agency laws and the kafala system.
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Saudi Arabia Transforming

May 10, 2017

Saudi Arabia has embarked on an ambitious program of national transformation aiming to diversify the economy away from oil dependence, expand the private sector, and transform government practice. Yet difficult challenges remain. AGSIW’s conference, “Saudi Arabia Transforming,” focused on the key drivers reshaping Saudi Arabia, a year after the release of Saudi Vision 2030.
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Mideast Saudi Binladin LayoffsSaudis Respond to Vision 2030

May 13, 2016

On April 25, the Saudi government presented to the public Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030, a sweeping plan for moving the kingdom beyond oil dependence. This National Transformation Program involves dramatic changes including the privatization of a small portion of the Saudi national oil company ARAMCO; the expansion of the resources and role of the Saudi Public Investment Fund; and the development of the country’s ports, cultural resources, and tourist sites to take advantage of its strategic position at the center of the Arab and Islamic world. AGSIW spoke with a cross section of Saudi thinkers and opinion leaders to elicit their reaction to Saudi Vision 2030 and its presentation in an Al Arabiya interview with Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS).
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