World Economic Forum Studies the Future of Saudi Arabia

The World Economic Forum today launched its latest scenario study, The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the World: Scenarios to 2025, a set of scenarios looking at three possible and plausible futures for Saudi Arabia. These scenarios examine potential shifts across economic, environmental, social, political and technological spheres and offer challenging visions designed to test strategy, open up dialogs, and offer insight into important factors affecting Saudi Arabia and the broader region between today and 2025.

Building on the Forum’s previous regional scenario work, The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Countries and the World: Scenarios to 2025, the Saudi Arabia scenarios look in further depth at the future of the GCC’s largest and most influential country. The scenarios were developed with the help of 300 government officials, senior executives, academics, and community leaders from the Gulf countries and beyond. The research team was led by the World Economic Forum, and hosted in Saudi Arabia by the Olayan Financing Company.
The report presents three possible scenarios for Saudi Arabia over the next 20 years: Oasis, Sandstorm and The Fertile Gulf. Oasis describes a scenario where regional stability continues to be a concern for the Kingdom, but a focus on coordinated institutional reforms and relationship-building within the GCC region enable Saudi Arabia to flourish in a global environment characterized by increased protectionism. Political leadership is focused on more efficient technocratic governance and building a robust domestic and regional market. Sandstorm describes a future where a series of conflating events leads to significant regional instability, including conflict between the US and Iran, thereby creating a turbulent domestic environment and adverse economic conditions for Saudi Arabia. The Fertile Gulf describes a world in which Saudi Arabia takes advantage of a global environment characterized by robust demand for energy and increasing globalization. The Kingdom is able to successfully expand its physical and human capital in productive ways, providing a platform for diversified growth despite grappling with environmental problems.

“As one of the largest economies and a key political player in the region, Saudi Arabia has a critical role in determining the future of the Middle East, if not the world. It is very important that businesses, politicians and community leaders understand the forces at play within the Kingdom and appreciate both the dynamics of the country and the range of possible futures that may evolve,” noted Nicholas Davis, scenario expert at the World Economic Forum and co-author with Chiemi Hayashi of the report.

The scenarios reveal the susceptibility of both Saudi Arabia and the region to dramatic and abrupt discontinuities, including accelerated environmental degradation and armed conflict. In particular, the scenarios examine the possible effects of conflict between the US and Iran on the country’s economic and political environment, utilizing sophisticated economic modelling and expert analysis. In addition, the scenario process underlined the importance of political and corporate transparency, regional relationships and shifting social factors among the forces that will define the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in the year 2025.

The scenarios analyze medium- and long-term risks and development opportunities for Saudi Arabia and emphasize the importance of transparency, regional relationships and shifting social factors among the forces that will impact the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in the year 2025. Participants in the scenario-building process gained a new perspective on both internal and external factors affecting the range of possible future developments in Saudi Arabia and its role in the world, while at the same time contributing to the body of knowledge amassed by the Forum for its Scenarios Series.

To further explore the deeper issues and ramifications of the region’s development, the World Economic Forum will take the results of The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia & the World: Scenarios to 2025 to the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2008 in January, to be held in Davos. The scenarios will be used by the Forum’s Partners and Members to facilitate strategic conversations and explore uncertainties in a creative and forward-looking fashion.

The World Economic Forum is an independent international organization committed to improving the state of the world by engaging leaders in partnerships to shape global, regional and industry agendas.

Incorporated as a foundation in 1971, and based in Geneva, Switzerland, the World Economic Forum is impartial and not-for-profit; it is tied to no political, partisan or national interests.

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