Saudi Arabia has set itself the challenging task of reaching a top 15 ranking in the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Global Competitiveness index by 2015.

The 15×15 initiative is achievable, but it will be no easy feat. The kingdom has radically transformed its business environment over the past few years.

The regulatory environment has improved, infrastructure has been given a boost, various projects are under way and there are plans to open up the country’s stock exchange (the Tadawul) to foreign ownership. The kingdom has already managed to reach the top 10 of the World Bank’s Doing Business report in 2011.

But there is still much more to be done. The complex visa process is a major hurdle for those hoping to visit the kingdom on business. Once in the country, passing through the small, crowded and often chaotic airports, and navigating round and between cities can be a frustrating experience.

Saudi Arabia faces stiff competition from Qatar too. The tiny Gulf state is already ahead of the kingdom on the WEF Global Competitiveness index.

Doha’s aggressive strategy in the projects market has helped the state to open up to foreign firms and has forced it to develop a modern regulatory framework that aims to make doing business there even easier.

If Saudi Arabia is to achieve its 2015 targets, it will have to move even faster, open up its economy further and become more welcoming for visitors.