At the World Economic Forum last year India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, made an unprecedented appearance and defining pitch to investors outlining that his government had rolled out the red carpet and was removing the red tape for businesses. An Indian Prime Minister hadn’t been to the conference in over 20 years, and Modi made headlines for using his once in a generation speech to address what had been a sticking point in many regions for a long time. “India is going through a period of radical change, a transformation that will make it easier to import, export, invest and work. Instead of red tape, we are laying the red carpet” Modi claimed.
So just what is red tape? It originates from the literal red tape that tied around long and complicated laws written on a scroll in the 1700s. A few centuries later and it’s the nickname for excessive formality and routine that delays and obstructs action or decision-making, in both the public and private sector.
Prime Minister Modi isn’t the first to recognise that, in the present day, red tape can delay a country flourishing. Key countries and regions that pursue a reduction in red tape have seen a significant rise in trade and investment. The Gulf has been on their own journey with red tape too, most recently The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has made noteworthy merger-and-acquisitions including Saudi Aramco buying a 70% stake in Saudi Basic Industries Corp (SABIC).
This is a triple win as the agreement will help boost Aramco’s downstream growth by allowing new market opportunities, it will inject billions of dollars into the Public Investment Fund (PIF) and will ensure SABIC’s longevity.
It is needed to have solutions such as the above to support programs like Saudi Vision 2030, Saudi’s program to intensely invest in their infrastructure, connectivity, mobility and social development. This allows people to be the main beneficiaries from the loosening in red tape and most importantly - be at the centre of change.
In Riyadh last week Fawaz Alharbi, Director of Masterplanning at PIF, spoke with WSP about Saudi’s “Red Tape to Red Carpet” and how some of these changes are allowing it to sow the seed of homegrown technology by becoming “an innovation-based nation.” Speaking just after the 3rd anniversary of Vision 2030’s announcement, Fawaz highlighted the changes that have already happened, mainly from launching extensive egoverment portals to provide online services, greater transparency from the government and increased public participation in how the country is shaped. They are also expanding their spending policy in 2019, as part of revitalising and diversifying the economy, especially in the education sector, as an investment in human capital. Moving from red tape to red carpet allows the country’s resources of knowledge, skills and responsible social habits to create a more people-focused built environment.
To be Future Ready we need to have humans at the centre of what we do. Humans worldwide, across cultures and history, want the red carpet treatment, and it’s fair to say that worldwide, countries strive to provide that by creating an edge in competitiveness. If we enable businesses, companies and public bodies to create agile social and physical infrastructure, they will become effective contributors to the future, ensuring generations to come are red carpet ready.