Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to the United States Princess Reema Bint Bandar said the “Vision 2030” has empowered Saudi women and enabled them to benefit from all vital fields. She also noted that Saudi Arabia is emerging as a global leader in clean energy.
In her keynote address at the virtual session of the US-Saudi Business forum, she shed light on a number of issues such as the path forward in the US-Saudi business and diplomatic relations, women empowerment, and rebounding from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on the global and local economy. The virtual session was organized jointly by the Saudi Ministry of Investment and the US Chamber of Commerce.
Saudi Arabia is focusing on women empowerment and achieving equality among all as part of the Vision 2030 Realization Programs, Princess Reema said while noting Saudi Arabia is celebrating next month the 5th anniversary of the launch of Vision 2030 under the leadership of Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman. It is a bold plan to restructure the Saudi economy and its diversification instead of relying on oil, as well as embracing technology and sustainable development, she said.
“Little did we know then, but Vision 2030 would be instrumental in enabling Saudi Arabia to withstand this crisis. It would become the platform toward our quick and healthy recovery. And in many ways Vision 2030 prepared Saudi Arabia for this past year and enabled us to become resilient and resistant because Vision 2030 was our reset, and it enabled us to not shut down over the past year.”
Commenting on the US-Saudi relations, the ambassador emphasized that the two allies will remain as such and that the path forward is not as much of a reset but a “restart.”
“Our mutual efforts have now put us on a path to recovery. There’s talk about a reset” between the United States. and Saudi Arabia, but I’m not sure it is much of a reset, but a restart,” she said and added: “Now, while we look to restart, building on Vision 2030’s plans for economic diversification and development, you know, Vision 2030 was mostly unaffected by COVID-19’s’ long reach. But not completely as no one will ever escape coronavirus un-impacted. Yes, we’ll escape the pandemic, yes, we’ll build and recover, but we need to learn from this experience, and we need to better prepare.”
Princess Reema stressed the importance of ensuring the pandemic did not expand gender inequalities. “To emerge stronger, we need to acknowledge that COVID’s impact has not been gender-neutral. The Kingdom is ready to make sure our recovery is shared by everyone.”
Referring to the great benefits brought about by Vision 2030 for women empowerment Princess Reema said: “Women in the Kingdom today earn some wages as compared to their male counterparts unlike the Western world, which does not have pay parity. If the world wants to emerge stronger and better from the coronavirus pandemic, it must treat everyone equally, and there should be a common commitment to all to achieve a bright future.”
The envoy noted that the reforms, initiated by the Saudi government, are more comprehensive and impactful, as they not only changed the lives of women but also changed the lives of families across the Kingdom. “The number of women attending universities in Saudi Arabia is greater than the number of men, and more women are being granted advanced degrees. This is the story of the new Saudi Arabia, a story of reform and gender equality, and this is why our Vision will enable us to respond to the needs of women and ensure that the disproportionate impact of the coronavirus pandemic on women will not become a permanent disability,” she said.
Princess Reema said that one of the main considerations of the Vision programs focuses mainly on preserving the environment and contributing to a clean and strong economy with alternative energy.
“Climate change is real, and the Saudi leadership has dealt with it seriously, as Saudi Arabia reduces its dependence on oil production and it will become a world leader in producing clean and green energy, and positively contributing to the global fight against climate change,” she said.
Princess Reema believed that “Vision 2030” was able to add flexibility in dealing with changes in Saudi Arabia and keep society on the right track, and for this reason, the Vision and its programs were not significantly affected by the pandemic. “It is true that no one will escape from the impact of COVID-19 but we are recovering, and while we do so, we want to make sure that the recovery includes everyone, especially those most affected by the epidemic, and women should come out stronger as they have suffered more than men after being pushed into poverty and losing jobs,” she said while drawing attention to the fact that an estimated 11 million more young women have been forced out of school than men.
The ambassador said that Saudi Arabia aims to produce 50 percent of electricity from renewable sources by 2030. “The Kingdom has plans to create more than 750,000 jobs in the clean energy sector. By the end of the present decade, Saudi Arabia plans to add 60 gigawatts of clean energy, which is a combination of wind energy, solar photovoltaic, and concentrated solar energy,” she said noting that the Kingdom has plans to build a $5 billion green hydrogen plant. Green hydrogen can operate clean buses and fleets of trucks around the world, this facility will produce enough green hydrogen per day to power 20,000 buses running on hydrogen fuel.
Princess Reema noted that “tourism programs take a great deal of attention in Vision 2030 as Saudi Arabia plans to invest more than $800 billion in tourism-related projects over the next ten years, as well as to attract more than 100 million tourists annually, saying that tourism is expected to represent 10 percent of GDP by 2030.
“This is how we will emerge stronger, and better, by using the moment to improve and address issues and concerns that will define the future, shape the world we pass on to our children and their children, and focus on equality and diversity, sustainability, climate awareness and inclusiveness in the economy,” she added.