Knowledge Kingdom: An optimistic Saudi outlook

As depressed oil prices and budgets continue to mire traders in the doldrums, could the global uncertainty be the impetus Saudi Arabia needs to change?

COMMENT, PMV

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In homage to The Big 5 Saudi exhibition being held in Jeddah this month, this month’s issue of PMV Middle East has a decidedly Kingdom-oriented theme, as if an excuse was needed to focus on the largest country in the GCC and all that entails.

Amid global doom and gloom over the oil prices and the subsequent impact on the fiscal balance in the Gulf, the features in the first half of the magazine reveal a contrasting kaleidoscope of Kingdom-centric optimism.

The Big 5 Saudi show is drawing a record throng of exhibitors, Abdul Latif Jameel is growing its aftersales capacity like never before and the Riyadh Metro proceeds without a hitch.

The two themes that emerge are the thirst within Saudi Arabia for positive growth and for greater knowledge. At The Big 5 Saudi, a significant emphasis is being placed on the educational content that is being provided, on seminars focused on sharing industry insights, and on the opportunity for certification.

Meanwhile, the progressive market pitch of Abdul Latif Jameel Heavy Equipment is to deliver services before sales with its investment in 4S facilities across the breadth of the country.

The Riyadh Metro is, of course, a triumph of careful planning and organisation. Unlike its sibling project in Doha, which has fallen foul of the city’s groundwater problems, the work by the FAST Consortium only seems to accelerate — and if an accelerating project in Saudi Arabia isn’t a totem of good luck, I’m not sure what is.

The endeavour is both a metaphor for, and a tangible step towards, Riyadh’s metamorphosis away from its urban squalor and an indication of Saudi Arabia’s growing maturity as a country.

To date, Saudi Arabia’s most earnest social endeavour has been its construction of vast university campuses as if attempting to will a knowledge economy into existence through the sheer weight of its architectural edifices.

However, there is far more virtue in the country coming to terms with the fact that progress wells from the bottom up, and that adequate public transport infrastructure might just be the medicine that the capital needs.

In the age of the internet, we forget the value of physical connectivity between people, but in reality it remains as valuable as it has ever been.

Hopefully, the Riyadh Metro is just the first step and the beginning of a trend that will see the country continue to break down its barriers.

Next will be the North-South line — renewing a logistic link to the Levant first forged and lost a century ago with the ill-fated Hejaz Railway.

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PMV Middle East - September 2020

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