One of the biggest changes in the history of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) is under way. Within the next 5 to 6 years, these changes will result in improving every aspect of life, creating a better understanding of the vast nation and bridging popular perception gaps.
When I came to this country a decade ago, I came with what I had seen in David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia: sand dunes, camels, Bedouins, inscrutable faces, tents…that kind of thing. But when I arrived, I found a land of friendly and generous people, sharp blue skies and a hint of perfume everywhere. But yes, admittedly, the country lagged in terms of development and acquired its muscle to dictate economic realities across the world via its legendary oil reserves.
Today, there is transformation everywhere. In the next two years, the KSA will have 11 new stadiums, 18 airports are being modernized, 3 new public universities have been planned bringing the total to an impressive 28, and investments have been made in 350 new hospitals that will be operational in the next 10 years.
The futuristic Riyadh Metro provides a glimpse of the shape of things to come: the mega metro with 85 stations and 176 km of tracks will use renewable energy, have driverless trains and boast of Wi-Fi connectivity for passengers. In many ways, the metro will redefine transportation.
The KSA's massive capital projects programs are aimed at major sectors and industries with top investments going to transportation, construction and power. The Council of Saudi Chambers has forecasted that the construction and contracting market alone is expected to hit US$300bn this year. The King Khalid International Airport that is undergoing a massive renewal is going beyond mere expansion of passenger capacity. It will use the latest in security, sustainability and smart technologies, upping the benchmark for future airports across the world. The nation is investing billions of dollars in four new Smart Cities (part of its Economic Cities Project) in a bid to move away from an economy that has so far been reliant on oil and instead build future GDP based on a more diversified approach.
This is doubtless the right time to be in the KSA. It is not often that you get to be part of such unique and path breaking mega projects that challenge the imagination and stretch capabilities. There is a great need to deploy the latest technologies with appropriate localization. The number of jobs in KSA is growing exponentially. And there is urgency to build a skilled local workforce that can manage and support what is, practically, going to be a renewed nation in every way.`