Inspiring U.S. models for Saudi mayors

Samar Fatany

Published: Updated:

An official delegation of the United States Conference of Mayors (USCM) recently visited the Kingdom to discuss business opportunities and promote positive dialogue between Saudi Arabia and the U.S.

The mayors met with board members of the International Relations Committee of the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JCCI) to encourage Saudi investment in the U.S. and to discuss the business environment in different American cities. The members of the delegation were interested in facilitating business partnerships between Saudi and American companies.

The Saudi business group discussed the role of the Jeddah Chamber in addressing the challenges of the diversification of the economy and reducing reliance on state-run industries. They highlighted the initiatives employed by JCCI to promote private-sector growth, entrepreneurship and small business enterprises.

One interesting discussion focused on encouraging opportunities for Saudi interns in the U.S. Saudi businessmen stressed the importance of providing such an experience for students to help them start their own businesses when they come home. The businessmen pointed out that Saudi students needed the American experience and that they could also be facilitators for Saudi investments in the U.S.

The creation of economic opportunities

Saudi businessman Ali Alireza stressed that gaining experience from American businesses could create economic opportunities, encourage small businesses and help in the transfer of technology to boost the Saudi economy. He said that these are the basic requirements to meet the needs of the Kingdom’s fast-growing population. American technical knowhow, he said, could further promote our industries and help us in the process of manufacturing our own industrial components.

The inspiring role of American mayors is something that our Saudi mayors need to understand

Samar Fatany

The delegation included mayors and their representatives who were interested in promoting small businesses. Members of the delegation of the United States Conference of Mayors, which is the official non-partisan organization of US cities, explained that there are 1,398 cities in the U.S. today with populations of 30,000 or more. Each city is represented in the Conference by its chief elected official, the mayor. Members of the Conference influence organizational policies and goals. Mayors in the U.S. contribute to the development of national urban policies and programs. They recommend policy positions during the Conference’s annual meetings and are given the opportunity to vote on each policy resolution.

‘Unites us all, for a better quality of life’

Members of the delegation gave an inspiring presentation on the role of the Conference of Mayors which includes promoting the development of effective national urban/suburban policy; strengthening federal-city relationships; ensuring that federal policy meets urban needs; providing mayors with leadership and management tools; and creating a forum in which mayors can share ideas and information. What gives the mayors more importance is the fact that the policy positions adopted at the meeting are later forwarded to the U.S. president and Congress.

In addition to the ongoing work of the Conference’s standing committees, mayors are organized into task forces to examine and act on issues that demand special attention, such as civic innovation, exports, hunger and homelessness.

The credentials of the delegation of mayors were very impressive. They all have wide experience and have contributed to the welfare of their cities. Among the most interesting resumes presented was that of Mayor Lori C. Moseley. In a letter to the residents of Miramar, Florida she wrote:

“We, like many other cities, will continually face new rules, new economic circumstances, and a world that is ever changing. In essence we all now are working in a ‘new normal’ environment, one where we must constantly adapt. But unlike other cities, our great diversity is the strength that allows us to adapt.

“It unites us all, for a better quality of life, and a better tomorrow. Our diversity has made our City a shining example of how people can come together, work toward a common goal, and provide a variety of perspectives for dealing with issues. It is this team effort that has brought us to where we are today.”

This inspiring role of American mayors is something that our Saudi mayors need to understand. Saudi cities in the past were in a shabby condition with residents utterly frustrated because of inefficient services. However today, there are genuine initiatives underway to give a lift to our cities and to upgrade municipal services. Saudi mayors should learn from the experience of more advanced countries and listen to the voices of responsible mayors who have contributed with care, dedication, and a sense of responsibility to the development of their cities.

Meanwhile, the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry includes equally experienced businessmen and businesswomen who have contributed greatly to the economic advancement of our city. Hopefully, the exchange of views between the American mayors and the JCCI officials will help both sides in their endeavor to energize business opportunities, benefit from intellectual challenges, and most importantly provide Saudi interns with a rich and varied experience during their stay in the United States.

This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette on Dec. 21, 2013.

Samar Fatany is a Chief Broadcaster in the English section at Jeddah Broadcasting Station. Over the past 28 years, she has introduced many news, cultural, and religious programs and has conducted several interviews with official delegations and prominent political personalities visiting the kingdom. Fatany has made significant contributions in the fields of public relations and social awareness in Saudi Arabia and has been involved in activities aiming at fighting extremism and enhancing women’s role in serving society. She has published three books: “Saudi Perceptions & Western Misconceptions,” “Saudi Women towards a new era” and “Saudi Challenges & Reforms.”

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