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Five-year plans in Saudi Arabia are only ink on paper

With all the resources put forward by the government, we truly should have first class facilities

Khaled Almaeena

Published: Updated:

A headline in a Saudi newspaper stated “Shoura Council: Five-year plans are ink on paper” and the report said that some ministries do not implement these plans.

The report added that unemployment is on the rise and that the Saudi Ministry of Labor alone cannot contain this phenomenon without the cooperation of others.

The Shoura members also criticized some ministries for negligence and lack of follow up.

Finally, this issue has been officially acknowledged. In my last article, I wrote about the failure of the five-year plans to achieve their goals.

A different story

If you read these plans 30 years ago, you would think that by now all the cities of the kingdom would have paved roads, drainage systems, public transport and world-class educational facilities. However, just look around and you will see a different story.

With all the resources put forward by the government, we truly should have first class facilities

Khaled Almaeena

I write this not to criticize, but rather to confirm the statement of the Shoura members. There is a sense of frustration among citizens who believe that with all the resources put forward by the government, we truly should have first class facilities.

But a drive in Jeddah or Makkah or on the streets of other cities will show you a different reality.

At the start of the new fiscal year, we read about allocations of billions of riyals for various projects.

Are these projects completed? Does anyone follow up on them? Do the media or citizens question the flowery statements of the public relations managers of the ministries?! Their failure to hold officials accountable has cost us a lot.

This is our country and we love it. We need to contribute toward its progress if not for ourselves but for our children.

The Shoura members also mentioned that rising unemployment is now up to 12.4 percent while the objective in the five-year plan was to reduce unemployment to four percent.

Forced Saudization?

The question is how do you get to this figure? Definitely it should not be by means of forced Saudization. What should be implemented is the enhancement of the skills of Saudis and not just replacing a qualified hardworking expatriate with an unproductive Saudi.

We need to help young Saudi men and women exploit their entrepreneurial skills. The archaic rules and regulations of the Ministry of Commerce should be replaced with new ones that can facilitate business and encourage trade investments.

And here I request the Minister of Commerce to sit with groups of aspiring entrepreneurs and listen to their stories. That goes for the Minister of Labor, as well. They should engage young women and men and allow them to contribute to the economic development of their country.

Let those in the ministries of commerce and labor and others ask themselves the question: Are we contributing and enhancing the setting up of small and medium enterprises in the kingdom?

In most countries these businesses constitute 80 to 85 percent of the economy. However, we are unable to achieve such targets due to the bureaucracy, red tape and complacency that are rampant in our ministries.

It is about time we put an end to the obstacles that stand in the way of progress. Financial institutions should also play a role.

We should encourage angel investors and enhance their importance to our economy. Enough time has been wasted; what we need today are innovative ideas and best practices to support business growth and development.

Do we want to remain a country of about five or six companies or do we want thousands of small businesses to light up our skies and spread economic and social well-being?

This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette on Dec. 7, 2014.


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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 kalmaeena@saudigazette.com.sa and followed on Twitter: @KhaledAlmaeena

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