Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud, popularly known by his initials MBS, has brought in the reforms, that are uplifting of ban on cinema , women being allowed into sports stadiums, entertainment activities being openly promoted, and avenues for tourism being assiduously sought out and tapped.
At the stroke of midnight on June 23, women were allowed to drive and Saudi Arabia was no longer the only country in the world where only men could drive.
Today there is a new-found enthusiasm in Saudi Arabia. Young people, who are the majority of the population, are very happy about the changes that have taken place. Those who once went abroad for education are coming back because they feel there is an atmosphere conducive to innovation.
The crown prince is passionate about the private sector taking the lead. He has often spoken of how the most successful companies, like Apple and Google, began with only two or three people and went on to become international conglomerates, creating thousands of jobs. That is part of his Vision 2030 for innovative young Saudi entrepreneurs and for making Saudi Arabia investor friendly so that corporations can come in and have a real stake in the country.
Changes have been very slow, indeed admittedly almost glacial, in Saudi Arabia. In the past year, however, we have seen that the crown prince’s new young leadership has moved quickly to introduce changes and reforms. And not only to introduce them but to see that they were implemented within a specified timeline.
For decades, there was talk of weaning the Saudi economy from its dependence on oil. Things would move slowly in that direction but every time, they seemed unable to change and the country went back to square one. Changes and reforms were talked about but were somehow never transformed into practice.
On the other hand, this time the reforms were deep-rooted and, most importantly, there was a schedule for their implementation. For example, about nine months ago, it was decided that women would be allowed to drive. It was more than a mere announcement and so a proper infrastructure was created. Driving schools were set up; universities were asked to run training courses so that women could be taught how to drive. Female driving inspectors were appointed and trained. In other words, the introduction and implementation of these reforms included precise methodologies.
The crown prince is known for his own brand of meticulous management. He believes in key performance indicators (KPIs). This is a totally new kind of management that the traditional hidebound Saudi bureaucracy was unaware of. In the past, people would wait and wait for a decision to be made, a step to be taken, or a change to be implemented. Time passed and nothing happened, so people would say that nothing would happen and that the ideas and innovations had suffered and died on the altar of bureaucracy.
You will now see that young people are excited about the changes that are happening. By itself, the matter of women driving may not be the most important thing from the Saudi point of view, but it is surely the most symbolic for the simple reason that it is the one which can be most easily seen.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is surely set to win.