Munir Eldesouki, Assistant Minister, Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, tells Oxford Business Group
RIYADH, Kingdom of Saudi ARABIA, 24 August 2020: Vision 2030, Saudi Arabia’s, gave the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia the resilience it needed to navigate through the COVID-19 global pandemic, according to insights given by H.E Dr. Munir Eldesouki, Assistant Minister, and Mrs. Daniah Orkoubi, Chief Economist, at the Kingdom’s Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, in recent interviews with Oxford Business Group’s online broadcasting channel, Global Platform.
Digitally enabled through more than a dozen national transformation programs, Vision 2030 allowed the Kingdom to structure and drive a swift response to the pandemic, aimed at curbing its spread and reducing the impact on the economy. H.E. Dr. Eldesouki noted the knock-on effects of the progress made in the Kingdom’s digital drive, which included increasing network capacity by over 30% well before lockdown.
“This was to ensure that citizens and residents could continue to enjoy their digital tools and services without any interruption,” H.E. Dr. Eldesouki noted. “It also allowed for continuous access to more than 3500 e-government services and 94% of government agencies were working remotely.”
To mitigate the socio-economic pressure of the pandemic on businesses and citizens, Mrs. Orkboubi said the government launched a SAR 220bn stimulus package, which included a special financing scheme, a lending programme and deferred payment programme to financial guarantees for small to medium-sized enterprises and exemption.
More important, Mrs. Orkoubi highlighted, was how the government adapted, redefined, and relaxed some regulations to encourage businesses to adopt virtual workplace practices.
“In fact, the labour market is undergoing a major transformation which is paving the way to the introduction of job globalisation in the global workplace,” she said.
H.E. Dr. Eldesouki and Mrs. Orkoubi underlined the effect of several global trends prompted by the pandemic, ranging from a decline in global trade and greater state intervention as a means of rescuing economies, to the acceleration of technology adoption, especially contactless economic systems.
“The pandemic actually acted as a natural catalyst for digital transformation and turned it into a pressing necessity rather than a long-term aspiration,” H.E. Dr. Eldesouki told OBG.
Mrs. Orkoubi said there were also signs that key adjustments made in Saudi Arabia during the pandemic, such as remote working and online shopping, were expected to become part of the “new norm.”
“Clearly many of the changes developed in response to the pandemic in the areas of work, health, education and entertainment are here to stay,” she said.
Marc-André de Blois, OBG’s Director of PR and Video Content, said reforms and initiatives introduced under Vision 2030 before the arrival of Covid-19 had enabled Saudi Arabia to take quick and effective action to contain the virus and mitigate its impact.
“While the competitive cost of oil production and abundant reserves will undoubtedly help to drive a swift recovery, our interviews show that Saudi Arabia’s efforts to diversify its economy and put digital transformation at the heart of new growth are not only well on track, but will take on added importance as the world emerges from lockdown,” he said.