Diagram of Geopolitical Relationships in the Middle East. Image Source: Karl reMarks

The moderated opening of Saudi Arabia’s stock market to foreign investors is a crucial step towards nurturing a diverse and self-sufficient economy.

Edith Wharton’s Age of Innocence tells the tale not just of 1870s New York high society but portrays the extent to which our decision to subscribe to the desires others have for us is, in fact, a choice. No one is free from influence in their search for autonomy. We are the agents of our choices but we are impressed upon by our relationships.

The factors of influence in the Middle East are not known for their clarity. In Saudi Arabia, however, the need for a sustainable, diverse economy that is not solely derived from oil is clear. More than half of its population is under age 20. Job creation will need to match their arrival to the job market. The recent US negotiations with Iran, a major enemy, have most definitely led to a critical re-evaluation of America’s intentions in regards to Saudi Arabia.

The new rules governing foreign investment in the stock market just published by the government are a welcome sign of the country’s economic liberalization. Although restrictive, the rules are similar in intent to those set forth when China first opened its exchange to foreigners (and which have relaxed considerably).

In the light of recent events, Saudi Arabia must be considering the need for ever more economic and political autonomy. With the largest stock market in the region, GDP of $750 billion and a government aware of its future demographic risks, Saudi Arabia is well placed to make the decisions necessary for the cultivation of its wealth and, indeed, influence.