In 2016 Saudi Arabia’s leadership launched ‘Vision 2030’, outlining the Kingdom’s strategy to reduce its excessive dependence on oil and diversify its economic base. It was introduced against a backdrop of a ‘lower for longer’ oil price environment, rising external and fiscal deficits, and a sharp reduction in the country’s foreign-exchange reserves. Vision 2030 and the associated National Transformation Program accelerated reform in 2016 with the announcement of a prospective IPO of Saudi Aramco, subsidy cuts and public-sector downsizing. These represent important challenges to the traditional social contract against a volatile regional and global geopolitical backdrop.
This speaker event answered the following questions: what has the track record of reform implementation been so far? Will Vision 2030 help to improve economic prospects in the short to medium term? What are the key challenges facing the authorities as they proceed with their plan and what are the key risks ahead?
Tim Callen is Assistant Director in the IMF’s Middle East and Central Asia Department. Since September 2012, he has been the IMF’s Mission Chief for Saudi Arabia and the Chief of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries division. In these roles, he is responsible for the IMF’s published reports on Saudi Arabia and the GCC. He was the IMF Mission Chief to Kazakhstan during 2008–09, led the production of the IMF’s World Economic Outlook from 2004–07, and has worked extensively on Australia, India, Japan and South Korea.
This event was chaired by Alia Moubayed, Director of Geo-economics and Strategy, IISS. It took place in the Lee Kuan Yew Conference Room, Arundel House, 13–15 Arundel Street, Temple Place, London WC2R 3DX*.