Saudi Arabia has been at the forefront of headlines with its grandiose proposal for a Transcontinental Economic Corridor. This initiative is endorsed by major global powers, with the lofty aim of connecting regions as diverse as India, the Middle East, and Europe. But is the excitement and enthusiasm well-founded? This article aims to shed light on some of the more understated complexities and potential pitfalls of the venture, in the context of Saudi Arabia’s economic and political landscape.

Economic Dependence on Oil

Saudi Arabia’s economy has historically relied on oil exports. Although Vision 2030 seeks diversification, the economy remains vulnerable to global oil price volatility. Massive infrastructure projects like the Transcontinental Economic Corridor could expose the country to substantial financial risk, given the inherently cyclical nature of commodity markets.

Political Culture and Governance

Saudi Arabia operates under an absolute monarchy intertwined with Wahhabi Islam. This political and religious structure heavily influences decision-making processes, which often lack the transparency and checks and balances found in democracies. While the ruling family may have national interests at heart, their execution methods can be unscrutinized, raising questions about the project’s long-term viability.

Lack of Transparency

Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index consistently ranks Saudi Arabia poorly, an alarming sign for potential international investors. Ambiguities in legal frameworks and judicial processes further exacerbate these concerns. Such an environment could deter foreign investment or increase the costs associated with risk mitigation.

The Promise of Vision 2030

Vision 2030 appears promising, but the practicality of its large-scale projects, like NEOM and the Transcontinental Economic Corridor, is debatable. They may overshadow other economic necessities such as small business development and environmental sustainability, both of which are crucial for a diversified and resilient economy.

Geopolitical Instabilities: Hostility Towards Israel and Iran

Saudi Arabia has a complex geopolitical landscape, notably its unestablished but highly speculated relations with Israel and overt tensions with Iran. This could impact the project in two ways:

  1. Israel: While Saudi Arabia and Israel do not have official diplomatic relations, there are reports of covert talks. Any formalization of ties could both complicate relationships with other Arab states and potentially open new avenues for economic collaboration.
  2. Iran: Hostilities with Iran could not only lead to military conflicts but also disrupt any corridor passing close to Iranian influence, making the project more geopolitically sensitive.

Job Market and Social Aspects

Saudi Arabia’s youthful population poses both an opportunity and a challenge. While a young workforce can be an asset, the state must create new job opportunities to prevent social unrest. Megaprojects like the Transcontinental Economic Corridor promise employment but often require specialized skills that the local population may not possess, necessitating external labor and negating some of the domestic employment benefits.


Saudi Arabia’s Transcontinental Economic Corridor is indeed a compelling initiative with high-profile endorsements. However, its success hinges on various factors, including economic diversification, transparent governance, and geopolitical stability. Investors and policymakers must assess these complex dimensions comprehensively before leaping into what appears to be a groundbreaking yet risky venture.


While the country may show promise in various indices and sectors, it’s crucial to delve into the complexities and potential risks:

  1. Economic Growth Reliance: Despite the 7.7% expected growth, Saudi Arabia’s economy is still heavily reliant on oil. This dependency makes it vulnerable to market fluctuations.
  2. Global Competitiveness Metrics: Advancing in rankings doesn’t necessarily mean that systemic issues like corruption, human rights abuses, or lack of political freedom have been addressed.
  3. Work Productivity: High productivity is commendable, but questions remain about the work environment, including migrant labor conditions and employment rights.
  4. BRICS Inclusion: Being invited to BRICS is not a guarantee of stable, sustained economic growth. Other BRICS countries like Brazil and South Africa have faced significant economic challenges.
  5. Water Management: Establishing an international water organization does not solve domestic water scarcity issues and desalination’s environmental impact.
  6. Oil Market: With a global shift toward renewable energy, oil reserves could become stranded assets.
  7. Economic Transformation: Vision 2030 is an ambitious plan, but its success is still speculative and primarily focuses on megaprojects, often at the expense of small businesses and local communities.
  8. Regulatory Environment: While improving, the legal system still poses significant risks due to lack of transparency and potential for arbitrary decisions.
  9. Infrastructure: Large-scale infrastructure projects have their own sets of challenges, including environmental impact and feasibility.
  10. Technological Advancement: Investing in technology is promising but begs the question of how it integrates with the broader society and whether it exacerbates inequality.
  11. Domestic Market: A young population can be a double-edged sword, demanding job creation and social stability, which are not guaranteed.
  12. Economic Cities: Projects like NEOM have faced criticisms for their social and environmental impacts, including forced evictions and environmental degradation.
  13. Government Support: State support for startups can lead to market distortions and perpetuate a culture of dependency on government backing.
  14. International Alliances: Geopolitical risks remain, especially with Saudi Arabia’s involvement in regional conflicts.
  15. Digital Transformation: Cybersecurity risks and ethical considerations around AI remain concerns.
  16. Saudi Vision 2030: There’s a high level of political risk tied to the Vision 2030’s success, as it is closely linked to the current leadership.
  17. Efficient Government: Definitions of ‘efficiency’ may differ, especially when it comes to social welfare and democratic representation.
  18. Governmental Support Funds: The availability of funds does not necessarily translate into sustainable, long-term development.
  19. Financial Initiatives: These often cater to large corporations and international entities rather than local businesses, possibly creating a divide.
  20. AI Implementation: Technological leadership in government AI usage does not account for ethical governance of technology.

While Saudi Arabia may have merits for investment, these points underscore that potential investors should approach with a nuanced understanding of both the opportunities and challenges.