News Correspondent: Saudi Arabia is currently undergoing a series of economic and social changes. But how far can Saudi Arabia go to break the barrier of conservatism?
What will change in Saudi Arabia?
This means clear, the change will take a long time. Maybe it will never come.
In Saudi Arabia, 90 percent of the government’s revenue comes from oil sales
But in today’s Saudi Arabia a little difference is being heard. The Saudis are now talking about change, not as a year, but as a month.
“I bet with one of my male colleagues that the ban will be lifted in the first six months of this year. But my male colleague thinks it will actually happen in the last six months of this year.”
“But now I think it will actually happen next year. And maybe only women over the age of forty will be allowed to drive,” said the woman businessman.
Even in the royal realm of Riyadh, of course, such a possibility is now being heard. Many are saying that young women may also be allowed to drive.
The control of conservative religious leaders in Saudi Arabia is so tight that the pace of change there is very slow.
Many young Saudis have degrees from foreign universities
But the way oil prices have fallen in the international market in recent years is forcing the rulers of the world’s largest oil producer to accelerate change.
Saudi Arabia’s income has halved due to falling oil prices. As a result, they now have to make difficult decisions to adapt to new conditions.
About 90 percent of Saudi Arabia’s income comes from oil sales.
The Saudi government announced a master plan called ‘Vision 2030’ last year. Behind it is 31-year-old Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. This master plan has been prepared by hiring a lot of foreign consultants on a hefty salary.
The Saudi prince and the people around him know full well that one day their oil wells will dry up. And maybe even before that there will be a massive introduction of electric cars. As a result, the demand for oil will decrease.
“That’s why it’s so important to achieve Vision 2030 and its goals,” said Saudi Oil Minister Khalid al-Falih.
“We want to see how much we can achieve with this master plan by 2030.”
In the face of economic pressure, Saudi Arabia is slashing government salaries and generous benefits. The importance of the private sector in the economy is growing and most of the growth is expected to come from there in the future. But there is no movement yet.
There are many restrictions on men and women sitting together in a restaurant
A Saudi statistician says he has doubts about how far Vision 2030 can go.
Saudi Arabia’s 31-year-old Prince Mohammed bin Salman is known as the most beloved child of the current King Salman. Yuvraj knows that the time for change is fast approaching.
Two-thirds of Saudi Arabia’s population is his age or younger. Thousands of Saudi boys and girls have studied at Western universities under government scholarships.
They are looking for work now. He is looking for a place of entertainment in his homeland which is bound by strict religious rules. But even movies are banned there.
Let’s talk about some hard rules.
In any food store in Saudi Arabia, a man can only sit at one table with his female relatives. But compared to a year ago, this time I saw some changes.
In the streets of Saudi Arabia, the notorious religious police, or muta was, whose job it was to stop wickedness and roam the holy ferries, did not catch their eye.
Many Saudis are happy to have new entertainment opportunities
Many of Riyadh’s wealthy people were enthusiastically reporting on the newly opened restaurants, where men and women do not have the same restrictions on sitting together. Where songs are played loudly.
“We need to open a movie here. And we need to allow girls to drive,” said Walid al-Sayan.
The Saudi government has now set up an agency called the General Entertainment Authority. Its job though is to take care of the cultural work-activities, they are allowing some entertainment.
Its head, Ahmed al-Khatib, said: “My job is to make people happy.
They are allowing light shows and even music concerts from art festivals. So far there are 60 such events in their calendar.
Hundreds of people thronged a music concert in January
We are liberal and conservative, we will provide entertainment for all kinds of people, he said.
But the most important issues: political reform, human rights, or women’s emancipation – are not being talked about at all.
The people of Saudi Arabia have always bought cheap petrol. Never paid taxes. Free water and electricity.
Girls are being encouraged to work on the implementation of the government’s new master plan
But the government is now lifting these subsidies. Taxing.
All of this is an attempt to change the Saudi economy and society. But at the speed they are advancing, how far can they go?
“Our situation is like a wheeled tortoise,” said Hassan Yassin, a political observer.
Source: BBC Bangla