Friday 25 September 2020

Covid impact could be reform positive, say Saudi experts

MANAMA, August 10, 2020

Most thought leaders and decision makers in Saudi Arabia anticipate that Covid-19 will be a positive accelerant of the transformation already underway in the Kingdom, according to a new report.

The survey commissioned by independent Saudi think tank Al Aghar Group in partnership with global management consultancy Kearney focused specifically on the social impact of the Covid-19 crisis on the Kingdom through 2025.

Respondents believe that Covid-19 is accelerating the advent of the ‘future of work’ in the Kingdom and more than 65% see this as fundamentally positive. Sixty-six per cent see the anticipated increased participation in the platform-enabled gig economy as positive.

Sixty-nine per cent see the growing need for the retraining of employees as positive, spurring national adaption to the new normal. However, the survey also revealed some concerns regarding the security of formal employment and self-employment, with 37% seeing the effect of the crisis as negative.

Most survey respondents (70%) expect education in the Kingdom to undergo a positive transformation with the adoption of new, innovative, and inclusive modes of learning.74% of respondents expect the Kingdom’s education sector to have an improved and more inclusive educational landscape with a significant increase in the use of technologies and digital resources with a strong prevalence of online education. Sixty-four per cent of respondents even anticipate a change in the type of skills that are prioritized in schools and universities to match the emerging market demands.


Seventy-eight per cent of the respondents believe that the impact of the pandemic on the healthcare in the Kingdom through 2025 will be highly beneficial. In particular, the respondents anticipate positive shifts in both national consciousness regarding the importance of health and wellbeing (86%) and increasing investment in preventative public health (81%).

About 58% of respondents believe there will be a wide adoption of telemedicine services in the Kingdom in the near future, as patients gain greater comfort and confidence in this method of consultation with their health providers.

Most respondents believe the health crisis has accelerated the process of digital transformation in the country, particularly in the finance and retail sectors. Also, 75% of respondents see the anticipated wider prevalence of e-commerce as positive, and 89% see as positive increasing use of cashless payments for face to face transactions by 2025.

Seven out of ten respondents expect an increase in consumption of online entertainment (streaming services, online gaming). 60% of respondents expect reduced citizen spending. Interestingly, sentiment regarding this change is balanced reflecting the tradeoffs between the virtues of increased discipline in personal finance and the painful consequences for firms as a result of reduced demand.    


By 2025, 78% of respondents expect that Covid-19 will lead to a significant and welcome (83%) step change in government preparedness for future crises. 68% of respondents anticipate a significant impact on government information-sharing and 75% look forward to this increased transparency. 65% anticipate a moderate, but positive change in the willingness of citizens to contribute towards government efforts.

Prince Faisal bin Abdullah bin Mohammed Al Saud, Chairman of the Board, Al-Aghar Group said: “Saudi Arabia has a proud history of resilience and has thrived even in the most challenging situations. While this pandemic has severely affected us all, the survey results confirm the depth of our intention to use this current situation to accelerate our national progress.”

Rudolph Lohmeyer, Partner and Head of National Transformations Institute at Kearney Middle East said: “The survey results clearly reveal the deep, optimistic resilience of the Saudi people and their implicit commitment to the Kingdom’s national transformation. Despite the near-term hardships caused by the crisis, respondents anticipate that the most significant medium-term impacts will be positive.” – TradeArabia News Service


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