The past few years have heralded an era of unprecedented economic growth and sophistication in the Kingdom. With God’s guidance and under the wise leadership of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Saudi Arabia remains an example of economic and political steadfastness in times of both international and regional uncertainty. Nevertheless, we have a young and growing population with increasing needs and expectations. Empowering these youth is essential in our journey to become a diversified and knowledge-based economy.

In Makkah Province, home to over 6m peoples, we continue to watch major developments across a range of sectors in both nascent and traditional industries. Petrochemicals engineering, mining and information technology are becoming mainstays of new economic growth, while the construction sector is working to fulfil the government’s ambitious plans for housing, health care and education. This activity is an accurate reflection of broader growth across the Kingdom, and is central to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques’ vision for the equitable redistribution of national wealth, infrastructure and enterprise.

Makkah Province stands as the gateway to the Two Holy Mosques. Since the dawn of Islam, the cities of Makkah and Medina have been the focal point of the religion and the recipients of countless pilgrims from across the Islamic world and globe. This has helped to develop the region’s rich ethnic and social fabric.

Guardianship of these holy sites, as well as the millions of pilgrims who visit them each year for Hajj and Umrah, is a fundamental responsibility of the Kingdom. The expansion of the two holy mosques is aimed at improving security and managing this phenomenon. In 2012 we received almost 3m pilgrims during the Hajj. That number will continue to increase each year. Today the Kingdom is investing billions of dollars in the expansion of the mosques and the surrounding infrastructure in Makkah and Medina to ensure the facilities can meet their continually growing demands.

Key to our regional expansion plan is investment in modern transport infrastructure, bringing strong support to religious and conventional tourism and significant economic benefits to the region and nation as a whole. Makkah, Medina and Jeddah will be linked by high-speed rail, providing rapid transport for pilgrims and businessmen alike. Transportation within the cities will also be improved, with major investments set for a metro system in Jeddah and expansion of the monorail system in Makkah. We are also focusing on improving international connectivity through international airport projects in Jeddah. Expansion of Jeddah Islamic Port and the addition of a new port at King Abdullah Economic City will allow for increased trade by sea. Improving transport is also vital for stimulating regional development and parallel growth among different urban centres. We are developing satellite airports, as well as improving and expanding the network of highways linking the region’s 13 provinces.

Saudi Arabia continues to offer enormous potential to foreign companies. In 2013 the World Bank rated the Kingdom the easiest place to do business in the Middle East, and the 22nd easiest in the world. Specifically for Makkah Province, King Abdullah Economic City offers state of the art facilities to international firms looking to participate in Saudi Arabia’s resurgence. We welcome foreign investors, especially those who offer knowledge transfer to the Saudi workforce.

Education lies at the centre of our national development strategy. In Makkah Province we are conducting over 1000 separate educational services projects, and the long-term strategy is to open a university in each province of the region. Through the King Abdullah Scholarships Programme young Saudis can benefit from education at the world’s best universities, but the Kingdom continues to focus on raising standards at home, as shown by the excellence at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology. It is only through education and training that the ambitions of Makkah Province and Saudi Arabia as a whole can be achieved.