Ian Bremmer of the Eurasia Group says “the Emirates is a country that’s actually on a good course”. Delores Johnson / The National
Ian Bremmer of the Eurasia Group says “the Emirates is a country that’s actually on a good course”. Delores Johnson / The National

Saudi’s NTP the right strategy, but may be too late, says Eurasia Group founder

Saudi Arabia’s National Transformation Programme is a well thought-out piece of strategy, but the kingdom may struggle to implement the reforms required to deliver it, according to a leading expert on global political risk.

Ian Bremmer, the founder of New York-based consultancy Eurasia Group, described the National Transformation Programme developed last year as “absolutely right” in terms of its concept and something that he believes is essential for the kingdom to implement.

“The Saudis are vastly overexposed to their petroleum complex and the goods around that. That is a bad place to be for the long term,” said Mr Bremmer.

“They are underinvested in education [and] they face a conservative, religious environment that’s made it very difficult to unlock the natural capabilities of half of their population.”

Mr Bremmer said that the plan, which was unveiled by Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman in June last year, has set the right targets in attempting economic diversification, social reforms and improvements in education.

“If you’d have asked me to write a plan with Eurasia Group I would have been hard-pressed to come up with something more comprehensive or better. But I fear it’s too late.”

He said that the proposed reforms are likely to face “a lot of institutional pushback” – especially unpopular measures such as subsidy cuts.

“We’re already seeing that. It’s not clear that Mohammed Bin Salman has enough power himself at this point to make it happen. And also, they should have started this 20 years ago.

“I obviously want them to succeed. It’s very important for them to succeed — for the region and ultimately globally – but it’s a risky bet.”

Speaking during an exclusive interview in Abu Dhabi, Mr Bremmer said that “every time I go to the Emirates, it changes dramatically”.

“If you want to be a small country that’s open and globalised, the Middle East is a hard place to do it. If you look at Switzerland, that’s a very easy place to be open and globalised because you’re surrounded by a bunch of stable places. If you’re Singapore, it’s not as easy as Switzerland, but it’s still pretty easy.

“If you’re trying to be Singapore or Switzerland, but you’re in the Middle East … you are exposed to enormous amounts of instability.”

He said that there is “a lot of downside risk” with both the UAE’s location and its environment, but added that “the people and the government, both in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, have done a lot of thinking big”.

“If you think about the taxi pod that you guys are planning to launch in the next few months, we should have that in the US and we’re not doing it. Think about the Hyperloop that should be done in the US but it’s being done here. I think about the experiments being done with Cleveland Clinic and with NYU – the Rhodes scholars that you have coming out of the NYU now in the Emirates is extraordinary.”

He said, however, there is still work to be done in the area of migrant labour.

“But overall I would say that this is a country that if you just look at the governance, the transparency, the willingness to live by metrics, the strategic planning … it’s a country that’s actually on a good course.”

Jason Tuvey, a Middle East economist with London-based Capital Economics, said that Saudi Arabia’s government has made good progress to date on its National Transformation Programme – so much so that there is scope to ease off some of the austerity measures introduced.

“Over a longer horizon, though, we still have our doubts that the kingdom will be able to reduce its dependence on oil,” said Mr Tuvey. He said incentive structures in the economy remain skewed towards well-paid government jobs and that productivity within the non-oil private sector remains low.

He also said that the business environment in the kingdom “is among the worst in the Gulf”.

“The government has outlined plans to make it easier for firms to acquire licences and permits. But there needs to be a streamlining of bureaucracy and a radical shift in the conduct of business in the kingdom in order to spur much-needed private ­investment.”


Follow The National's Business section on Twitter

Kill Bill Volume 1

Director: Quentin Tarantino
Stars: Uma Thurman, David Carradine and Michael Madsen
Rating: 4.5/5

Tips to keep your car cool
  • Place a sun reflector in your windshield when not driving
  • Park in shaded or covered areas
  • Add tint to windows
  • Wrap your car to change the exterior colour
  • Pick light interiors - choose colours such as beige and cream for seats and dashboard furniture
  • Avoid leather interiors as these absorb more heat

Long Shot

Director: Jonathan Levine

Starring: Charlize Theron, Seth Rogan

Four stars


Name: Xpanceo

Started: 2018

Founders: Roman Axelrod, Valentyn Volkov

Based: Dubai, UAE

Industry: Smart contact lenses, augmented/virtual reality

Funding: $40 million

Investor: Opportunity Venture (Asia)


Uruguay 3 Russia 0
 Suárez (10'), Cheryshev (23' og), Cavani (90')
Russia: Smolnikov (Red card: 36')

Man of the match: Diego Godin (Uruguay)

Movie: Saheb, Biwi aur Gangster 3

Producer: JAR Films

Director: Tigmanshu Dhulia

Cast: Sanjay Dutt, Jimmy Sheirgill, Mahie Gill, Chitrangda Singh, Kabir Bedi

Rating: 3 star

The specS: 2018 Toyota Camry

Price: base / as tested: Dh91,000 / Dh114,000

Engine: 3.5-litre V6

Gearbox: Eight-speed automatic

Power: 298hp @ 6,600rpm

Torque: 356Nm @ 4,700rpm

Fuel economy, combined: 7.0L / 100km


Edinburgh: November 4 (unchanged)

Bahrain: November 15 (from September 15); second daily service from January 1

Kuwait: November 15 (from September 16)

Mumbai: January 1 (from October 27)

Ahmedabad: January 1 (from October 27)

Colombo: January 2 (from January 1)

Muscat: March 1 (from December 1)

Lyon: March 1 (from December 1)

Bologna: March 1 (from December 1)

Source: Emirates


Company name: Revibe
Started: 2022
Founders: Hamza Iraqui and Abdessamad Ben Zakour
Based: UAE
Industry: Refurbished electronics
Funds raised so far: $10m
Investors: Flat6Labs, Resonance and various others


Name: SmartCrowd
Started: 2018
Founder: Siddiq Farid and Musfique Ahmed
Based: Dubai
Sector: FinTech / PropTech
Initial investment: $650,000
Current number of staff: 35
Investment stage: Series A
Investors: Various institutional investors and notable angel investors (500 MENA, Shurooq, Mada, Seedstar, Tricap)

UAE athletes heading to Paris 2024

Abdullah Humaid Al Muhairi, Abdullah Al Marri, Omar Al Marzooqi, Salem Al Suwaidi, and Ali Al Karbi (four to be selected).
Men: Narmandakh Bayanmunkh (66kg), Nugzari Tatalashvili (81kg), Aram Grigorian (90kg), Dzhafar Kostoev (100kg), Magomedomar Magomedomarov (+100kg); women's Khorloodoi Bishrelt (52kg).

Safia Al Sayegh (women's road race).

Men: Yousef Rashid Al Matroushi (100m freestyle); women: Maha Abdullah Al Shehi (200m freestyle).

Maryam Mohammed Al Farsi (women's 100 metres).


Engine: Two-litre four-cylinder turbo
Power: 235hp
Torque: 350Nm
Transmission: Nine-speed automatic
Price: From Dh167,500 ($45,000)
On sale: Now

Starring: Jamie Foxx, Angela Bassett, Tina Fey

Directed by: Pete Doctor

Rating: 4 stars


Started: November 2017

Founders: Mounir Nakhla, Ahmed Mohsen and Mohamed Aboulnaga

Based: Cairo, Egypt

Sector: transport and logistics

Size: 150+ employees

Investment: approximately $8 million

Investors include: Singapore’s Battery Road Digital Holdings, Egypt’s Algebra Ventures, Uber co-founder and former CTO Oscar Salazar

Company Profile

Name: Ovasave
Started: November 2022
Founders: Majd Abu Zant and Torkia Mahloul
Based: Abu Dhabi
Sector: Healthtech
Number of staff: Three employees
Investment stage: Pre-seed
Investment: $400,000


Engine: 2.0-litre 4-cylinder turbo

Power: 275hp at 6,600rpm

Torque: 353Nm from 1,450-4,700rpm

Transmission: 8-speed dual-clutch auto

Top speed: 250kph

Fuel consumption: 6.8L/100km

On sale: Now

Price: Dh146,999

The specs

Engine: 2.0-litre 4-cyl turbo
Power: 190hp at 5,600rpm
Torque: 320Nm at 1,500-4,000rpm
Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch auto
Fuel consumption: 10.9L/100km
Price: From Dh119,900
On sale: Now


Liverpool 4 Brighton and Hove Albion 0
Salah (26'), Lovren (40'), Solanke (53'), Robertson (85')    



Stuck in a job without a pay rise? Here's what to do

Chris Greaves, the managing director of Hays Gulf Region, says those without a pay rise for an extended period must start asking questions – both of themselves and their employer.

“First, are they happy with that or do they want more?” he says. “Job-seeking is a time-consuming, frustrating and long-winded affair so are they prepared to put themselves through that rigmarole? Before they consider that, they must ask their employer what is happening.”

Most employees bring up pay rise queries at their annual performance appraisal and find out what the company has in store for them from a career perspective.

Those with no formal appraisal system, Mr Greaves says, should ask HR or their line manager for an assessment.

“You want to find out how they value your contribution and where your job could go,” he says. “You’ve got to be brave enough to ask some questions and if you don’t like the answers then you have to develop a strategy or change jobs if you are prepared to go through the job-seeking process.”

For those that do reach the salary negotiation with their current employer, Mr Greaves says there is no point in asking for less than 5 per cent.

“However, this can only really have any chance of success if you can identify where you add value to the business (preferably you can put a monetary value on it), or you can point to a sustained contribution above the call of duty or to other achievements you think your employer will value.”


The biog

First Job: Abu Dhabi Department of Petroleum in 1974  
Current role: Chairperson of Al Maskari Holding since 2008
Career high: Regularly cited on Forbes list of 100 most powerful Arab Businesswomen
Achievement: Helped establish Al Maskari Medical Centre in 1969 in Abu Dhabi’s Western Region
Future plan: Will now concentrate on her charitable work

Company Profile

Company name: Hoopla
Date started: March 2023
Founder: Jacqueline Perrottet
Based: Dubai
Number of staff: 10
Investment stage: Pre-seed
Investment required: $500,000


Round 1: Beat Leolia Jeanjean 6-1, 6-2
Round 2: Beat Naomi Osaka 7-6, 1-6, 7-5
Round 3: Beat Marie Bouzkova 6-4, 6-2
Round 4: Beat Anastasia Potapova 6-0, 6-0
Quarter-final: Beat Marketa Vondrousova 6-0, 6-2
Semi-final: Beat Coco Gauff 6-2, 6-4
Final: Beat Jasmine Paolini 6-2, 6-2

Company Profile

Company name: Namara
Started: June 2022
Founder: Mohammed Alnamara
Based: Dubai
Sector: Microfinance
Current number of staff: 16
Investment stage: Series A
Investors: Family offices


Director: Nikhil Nagesh Bhat

Starring: Lakshya, Tanya Maniktala, Ashish Vidyarthi, Harsh Chhaya, Raghav Juyal

Rating: 4.5/5

Company profile

Name: Yodawy
Based: Egypt
Founders: Karim Khashaba, Sherief El-Feky and Yasser AbdelGawad
Total funding: $24.5 million
Investors: Algebra Ventures, Global Ventures, MEVP and Delivery Hero Ventures, among others
Number of employees:

Confirmed bouts (more to be added)

Cory Sandhagen v Umar Nurmagomedov
Nick Diaz v Vicente Luque
Michael Chiesa v Tony Ferguson
Deiveson Figueiredo v Marlon Vera
Mackenzie Dern v Loopy Godinez

Tickets for the August 3 Fight Night, held in partnership with the Department of Culture and Tourism Abu Dhabi, went on sale earlier this month, through www.etihadarena.ae and www.ticketmaster.ae.

Most Read
Top Videos