RIYADH, 22 August – The more than 300 apartments in Abdulsalam Almajed’s new Riyadh complex sold in just a month for cash, without him even having to advertise.
This is Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest exporter of oil, so it’s no surprise the property market is red-hot as income from a spike in energy prices flows through the economy.
But Almajed says the scramble for the one million-riyal (US$266,400 or RM1.2mil) homes reflects something else, too: the social and economic shift that’s reshaping the kingdom, accelerated by the crown prince’s overhaul programme.
“There’s a change in mindset,” said Almajed, who heads family-owned developer Almajdiah Residence, as some Saudis embrace the more open style of living his firm caters to. “Today there’s beautiful creativity in Saudi designs.”
While de facto ruler Mohammed Salman has centralised power and increased political repression since being elevated by his father, King Salman, in 2015, he’s also ended or relaxed restrictions on entertainment and how men and women can mix, and is trying to curb a reliance on oil.
Ten years ago, many property owners wouldn’t even rent to women, who needed approval of a male guardian for many life decisions.
Today, women are entering the labour market in greater numbers, and 30% of Almajdiah’s buyers are female, acquiring investment properties or a home of their own.
They’re helping lift an economy transformed by energy markets. As much of the world is fretting about spiraling inflation fuelled by Russia’s war in Ukraine and potential recessions, oil averaging more than US$100 (RM445) a barrel this year means Saudi Arabia’s economy is the fastest growing in the Group of 20.
Gross domestic product expanded 11.8% in the second quarter, when the non-oil economy grew 5.4% and is now larger than at the end of 2019, before the pandemic struck.
State energy company Saudi Aramco has reported the biggest quarterly adjusted profit of any listed company globally.
Billions of dollars are flowing into Saudi coffers and raising state investments, boosting sentiment in a private sector reliant on government contracts. — Bloomberg