The Quality of Life (QoL) - one of the programs of Saudi Vision 2030 - aims to shape the future of the wellbeing sectors in Saudi Arabia, by making the Kingdom’s cities more attractive, and its cultural offerings richer and more diverse, according to the program’s CEO, Khalid Al-Baker.
In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, Al-Baker said that in order to achieve the goal of including at least three Saudi cities among the top 100 cities in the world by 2030, the program attracted investments in the sectors of sports, culture, entertainment, tourism, and other, and launched specialized training programs for Saudi citizens.
Al-Baker spoke eagerly about the program’s impact, as its mission also extends to preserving Saudi Arabia’s rich cultural heritage and promoting arts, music and traditional cuisine.
He said: “Over the past five years, our initiatives have increased access to cultural events and venues, and contributed 20.4 billion riyals ($5.4 billion) to the national GDP.”
He added: “We played a pivotal role in promoting a vibrant cultural scene. The participation rate of talent and local companies reached 33 percent of the total content, and our efforts ignited the cultural energy of Saudi cities by transforming them into international cultural and artistic hubs.”
Regarding the program’s positive impact on the well-being and quality of life of Saudis, Al-Baker said: “We have witnessed a significant improvement in the fields of culture, entertainment, sports and tourism... Today, 41 percent of the Kingdom’s population practices physical activity, and in 2022, more than 940 cultural events were held across the country. This was part of a major step that comes in line with the goals of Vision 2030 to provide sports and entertainment opportunities.”
Al-Baker stressed that the program’s efforts “contribute to transforming the Kingdom into a world-class center for arts, culture, entertainment and sports.”
He noted that this transformation was translated in the establishment of organizations such as the Royal Institute of Traditional Arts and the Red Sea International Film Festival, to encourage citizens and tourists to interact with cultural content, discover the rich heritage in Saudi Arabia, and share it with the world.”
Al-Baker touched on the international significance of the program and its impact on the world’s view of Saudi Arabia.
“Our mission has an important international dimension. We are changing the global perception of the Kingdom by continuously improving the living standards of Saudis and expatriates, and demonstrating the remarkable progress it has made in the past few years,” he told Asharq Al-Awsat.
The CEO of the QoL program emphasized that work was focused on creating opportunities and change across the country, by meeting local needs and getting rid of inaccurate and outdated preconceptions about life in the Kingdom.
“Our vision for Saudi Arabia is not only to provide the same opportunities as anywhere else, but also to raise international standards for quality of life and place Saudi cities in the top 100 cities for livability in the world,” he stated.
He continued: “Our program seeks to create a thriving cultural and entertainment scene, with 5,000 different events and 20 major sports tournaments, which has boosted tourism and attracted visitors from around the world. We are directly challenging preconceptions about our nation, and everyone is beginning to recognize us as a dynamic society that specializes in technology and looks toward the future.”
The program particularities
Regarding the particularities of the Saudi Quality of Life program compared to other programs in the world, Al-Baker explained that what makes the QoL unique is the commitment to achieving balance between modernization and the preservation of cultural heritage.
“As we evolve by adopting international trends and innovations, we do so with deep respect for our roots and cultural heritage. Our approach is entrenched in our community’s values and traditions, and allows us to maintain our distinct identity, as we seek to build and modernize our global standing. The focus on cultural continuity and development distinguishes our program from programs adopted in other countries,” he remarked.
Al-Baker went on to say that Saudi Arabia focuses on the wellbeing of the people. “What’s beautiful is the Kingdom’s emphasis, through the QoL program, on the necessity of enhancing the human dimension and its importance, through art, culture, sports and entertainment. Not only are we making cities more livable, we are also humanizing them, ensuring they enhance the vitality of our citizens,” he told Asharq Al-Awsat.
Al-Baker continued by touching on the cultural aspects of the program. He pointed to three important goals, namely preserving the Kingdom’s cultural heritage, enhancing the country’s contributions to arts and culture, and developing the necessary cultural infrastructure to support these endeavors.
He stated that the increase of cultural production has confirmed the success of the Saudi endeavor to promote the culture scene. Last year, 6,875 local books were published, and 38 new cultural facilities were established, he underlined.
Al-Baker added: “Important steps have also been taken to preserve our heritage. Today, there are 7 World Heritage sites in Saudi Arabia that have been recognized by UNESCO, and 11 qualified archaeological sites. These developments demonstrate the cultural transformation of our urban cities, characterized by improved living standards and enriched experiences for our citizens.”
Al-Baker stressed that the Quality of Life program encourages cultural diversity in Saudi Arabia by facilitating the launch and operation of educational and recreational areas.
“These spaces, which allow people of all ages and community members to come together to participate in cultural activities and projects, are at the forefront of our efforts to increase the Saudi contribution to arts and culture, and promote the comprehensive development of our societies. Our goal is to see three of our cities be ranked among the top 100 cities in the world in terms of livability, and to attract talent and expertise from various countries to live, work, and enjoy life inside the Kingdom.”