Playing the blame game over corruption in Saudi Arabia

We should strive to emulate the Asian tigers and follow the examples of the rising economies of central Europe

Khaled Almaeena
Khaled Almaeena
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While going through the Saudi daily papers, I came across several headlines that continue to signify the inability of government departments to address outstanding shortcomings that are responsible for the delay of progress in our country. Foremost among them was a formal admission by the Ministry of Health that Hail region has been without any projects for a quarter of a century. There was also a small news item about the plight of Hail’s school children who are left without any prescribed textbooks. In another paper, two headlines included the fining of 11 Saudi nurses for negligence and the discovery of forged labor visas by certain officials in the Ministry of Labor. A third paper highlighted 2,500 documented cases of corruption in the National Anti-Corruption Commission “Nazaha.”

The list of cases of corruption and negligence is very long. However, in this article I will focus on the first headline: “No health projects in Hail for around a quarter of a century”. To begin with we need to ask the question: Who is responsible? Is it the Ministry of Health or the directors general of relevant departments in the Hail region or other government officials? Could it be the media that has failed to highlight the shortcomings of health services in the region, or is it the people of Hail themselves who for 25 years have not made any complaints or demands for better services? Whatever the case, it is a very sad situation. Sad because every year we hear of billions of riyals allocated to the Ministry of Health. We see pictures of smiling officials giving interviews promising details of grandiose projects to serve the needs of the public. The money allocated and the amounts mentioned are more than the budgets of some countries.

In this age of social media, people have found the means to question and demand. Nothing can be hidden from the public. Officials are exposed and mistakes can never be concealed for long. Any official who tries to pull the wool over the eyes of the public or deceive his supervisors is bound to fail.

We should strive to emulate the Asian tigers and follow the examples of the rising economies of central Europe

Khaled Almaeena

It is time we adopt a policy of transparency and admit our mistakes. Government officials should not rely on public relations departments to project a rosy picture while they continue to neglect their responsibilities to serve the public.

The media should also assume a more responsible role as a partner of the state. Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty; therefore, we should all work together to address our shortcomings be it in public services, the courts or government institutions.

Today, it has become apparent to all that a lack of transparency and accountability in addition to an archaic bureaucratic system, nepotism and a lack of vision are the key elements that are the cause of slow development.

Let us not be complacent and be satisfied with comparing ourselves to those countries which are less developed. We should strive to emulate the Asian tigers and follow the examples of the rising economies of central Europe. In order to succeed, let us begin by taking officials to task and identifying irresponsible and corrupt behavior.

This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette on Nov. 2, 2014.

Khaled Almaeena is a veteran Saudi journalist, commentator, businessman and the editor-at-large of the Saudi Gazette. Almaeena has held a broad range of positions in Saudi media for over thirty years, including CEO of a PR firm, Saudi Television news anchor, talk show host, radio announcer, lecturer and journalist. As a journalist, Almaeena has represented Saudi media at Arab summits in Baghdad, Morocco and elsewhere. In 1990, he was one of four journalists to cover the historic resumption of diplomatic ties between Saudi Arabia and Russia. He also traveled to China as part of this diplomatic mission. Almaeena's political and social columns appear regularly in Gulf News, Asharq al-Aswat, al-Eqtisadiah, Arab News, Times of Oman, Asian Age and The China Post. He can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter: @KhaledAlmaeena

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