WINDS OF CHANGE

Saudi Arabia 2018-19 | DIPLOMACY | REVIEW

Under the de facto leadership of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia has assumed a more outspoken regional and global role. In April 2018, he made an international roadshow across the US, the UK, France, and Spain to spread the word about reforms in the Kingdom and to meet with captains of industry, political leaders, and other influencers to discuss the new path he envisions for his country.

The year before, his father King Salman had headed East for a month-long trip to Malaysia, Indonesia, Japan, and China. While the two tours had similar motives, i.e. luring investors into the Kingdom, they were significantly different in style—Mohammed bin Salman was spotted sipping a coffee in Starbucks in casual business attire with media mogul Michael Bloomberg.

The overarching principles in the government's international dealings remain the same: control growth in the petroleum market, maintain the regional balance of power, and search for new partnerships that help build the skills that are needed for the process of economic diversification and the digital economy that it so desires.
In the region, as the richest and most powerful state on the Arabian Peninsula, Saudi Arabia has certainly made its presence known, and conflict in Yemen and struggles with Qatar have kept the region lively to say the least.
In terms of economic diplomacy, the Public Investment Fund (PIF) has developed to become the international business card for the Kingdom. Directly under supervision of the Crown Prince, it has domestic participation across nearly all sectors, and during international roadshows in 2018, it actively globalized its investment profile, especially in technology. Under Vision 2030, the Crown Prince envisions PIF to grow into one of the largest sovereign wealth funds in the world and to utilize the fund to build and deepen economic partnerships with the rest of the world.

Lastly, as the Land of the Two Holy Mosques, the Kingdom takes its role as the cradle of Islam seriously and aims to increase the number of annual Hajj and year-round Umrah pilgrimages from 8 million in 2016 to 30 million by 2030. Coordinated by a dedicated ministry and continuous investments in infrastructure and safety, the Kingdom strives to be a welcoming and diplomatic host for pilgrims.