Ad­vanc­ing Saudi Ara­bia’s gov­ern­ment struc­tures

Pakistan Observer - - INTERNATIONAL - AL-RASHED [Ab­dul­rah­man al-Rashed is the for­mer Gen­eral Man­ager of Al Ara­biya News Chan­nel. A vet­eran and in­ter­na­tion­ally ac­claimed jour­nal­ist, he is a for­mer ed­i­tor-in-chief of the Lon­don-based lead­ing Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still reg­u­larly

AB­DUL­RAH­MAN HILE ex­am­in­ing Saudi Ara­bia’s Vi­sion 2030, spear­headed by Deputy Crown Prince Mo­hammed Bin Sal­man, there are sev­eral chal­leng­ing long-term and short-term com­mit­ments that must be as­sessed.

Es­tab­lish­ing a huge lo­gis­tics cen­ter link­ing three con­ti­nents by air, sea and land is a strate­gic and am­bi­tious project that will re­quire a lot of time, ef­fort and money, as well as plans to at­tract 30 mil­lion pil­grims a year by 2030.

When it comes to cut­ting down gov­ern­ment bu­reau­cra­cies, in terms of re­duc­ing big gov­ern­ment and eas­ing the roles in which ad­min­is­tra­tive sys­tems play at, will in­evitably lead to a re­duc­tion in wasted time, helps in mo­bi­liz­ing ef­forts and spare some costs. If done in the right way, it would help wi­den the cir­cle of stake­hold­ers in­volved.

The process of de­vel­op­ing ef­fi­cient work­ing sys­tems should not take much time and costs but rather re­quires good man­age­ment to fol­low through. Re­or­ga­niz­ing will help over­come ob­sta­cles and in­tro­duce the nec­es­sary re­forms to the sys­tems and mod­ern­ize them. I do not imag­ine any of the Vi­sion 2030 ob­jec­tives can be achiev­able with­out firstly re­form­ing struc­tures and do­ing away with lengthy bu­reau­cracy.

Re­ori­ent­ing the struc­tures: The late Saudi politi­cian, Ghazi El Kasaybi, was one of the fore­most crit­ics sti­fling bu­reau­cracy and con­sid­ered it one

Wof the main ob­sta­cles in gov­er­nance. He even wrote a fa­mous book about it ti­tle “Life in man­age­ment” based on his deep ex­pe­ri­ence in fac­ing bu­reau­cracy. I once asked him whether bu­reau­cracy was from the fault of the gov­ern­ment em­ployee or visà-vis the en­vi­ron­ment said gov­ern­ment em­ployee was work­ing un­der. He replied with a smile on his face: “Not ev­ery­one is like Ghazi.” This re­vealed his own unique char­ac­ter in fight­ing im­ped­i­ments, which is some­thing that we don’t al­ways see in oth­ers who sim­ply fol­low the sys­tem and can’t find al­ter­na­tive path­ways to get things done.

Through huge eco­nomic en­ti­ties, Saudi Ara­bia will be able to move to the next stage that will en­able it to re­ha­bil­i­tate the so­ci­ety to a more pro­duc­tive one that can com­pete with to­day’s mod­ern de­mands.

The Saudi gov­ern­ment has been func­tion­ing now for more than half of a cen­tury. Back then, it started op­er­at­ing with sim­ple mea­sures; a small piece of pa­per was enough for past fi­nance min­is­ters to get things through in­stantly. To­day, the same for­mal­ity would take days.

The state’s in­sti­tu­tions are now pre­oc­cu­pied with adopt­ing pro­ce­dures and pro­to­cols in­stead of fo­cus­ing on spe­cific goals and ob­jec­tives they were set out to achieve. So many of these long-drawn ad­min­is­tra­tive struc­tures don’t go hand-in-hand with the mod­ern­iz­ing philoso­phies of the gov­ern­ment.

Con­trary to pop­u­lar be­liefs, of­fi­cials in the pub­lic sec­tor spend time more than their coun­ter­parts in the pri­vate sec­tor just to achieve one task.

There­fore, it is quite nec­es­sary that the mind­set has to change as the role of the state evolves. This has to be done as the state now plays a role in the daily life of the Saudi cit­i­zen – from birth to re­tire­ment, from home per­mits to his child’s ed­u­ca­tion. Half a cen­tury later, mod­ern-day life has placed more bur­dens on the cit­i­zen’s shoul­ders and hence, lead­ing to higher ex­pec­ta­tions de­manded of the gov­ern­ment to per­form.

Be­fore, the pop­u­la­tion could be counted in mil­lions. Now, the pop­u­la­tion ac­counts for more than 24 mil­lion in­hab­i­tants. Be­cause of all this, the old ways don’t cut it any­more.

En­abling the pri­vate sec­tor: The gov­ern­ment has ini­ti­ated ways in which the pri­vate sec­tor plays its part by em­ploy­ing cit­i­zens and pro­vid­ing them with the ba­sic ser­vices. The Vi­sion 2030 is set to cre­ate new op­por­tu­ni­ties for the pri­vate sec­tor to in­vest in more vi­tal ar­eas like ed­u­ca­tion and health and prom­ises to re­form the sys­tem and leg­is­la­tion.

But I don’t en­vi­sion the gov­ern­ment solely re­ly­ing on the ca­pac­i­ties of the pri­vate sec­tor, which might not be ready to take on the bur­den. I think it will slowly move to es­tab­lish­ing huge eco­nomic en­ti­ties to plug the holes and bridge the gaps and even­tu­ally, limit the eco­nomic slow­down.

This would be a great op­por­tu­nity for Saudi Ara­bia be­cause re­ori­ent­ing its econ­omy to big in­sti­tu­tions, as op­posed to heav­ily pop­u­lated coun­tries like Egypt, will need to fur­ther break down its sec­tors on a wider scale.

Through huge eco­nomic en­ti­ties, the coun­try will be able to move to the next stage that will en­able it to re­ha­bil­i­tate the so­ci­ety to a more pro­duc­tive one that can com­pete in to­day’s mod­ern de­mands.

In Saudi Ara­bia, some sec­tors have been able to break away from big gov­er­nance like the petro­chem­i­cal and com­mu­ni­ca­tion min­istries, bank­ing com­pa­nies and busi­nesses like dairy gi­ant ‘Al Maraai. So no doubt that small busi­nesses have stayed vul­ner­a­ble and suf­fered with the fail­ure to pro­vide ad­e­quate train­ing and na­tion­al­iza­tion ef­forts to see it suc­ceed.

The gov­ern­ment will lead the change in the mar­kets dur­ing the first phase, by the pri­va­ti­za­tion of some of its ser­vices like the health min­istry.

The path to pri­va­ti­za­tion will in­evitably face doubters to its path to po­ten­tial suc­cess. I can re­call a sim­i­lar case in the 1990’s when there were de­mands for full pri­va­ti­za­tion of the telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions sec­tor by the state.

The min­istry of com­mu­ni­ca­tion op­posed the idea cit­ing two rea­sons: the high in­comes of the phone sec­tor that rep­re­sented a sec­ond source of in­come for the coun­try af­ter oil, and se­condly, the ques­tion of se­cu­rity. But af­ter the telecom­mu­ni­ca­tion in­dus­try was pri­va­tized, the gov­ern­ment’s in­come dou­bled three­fold and did not pose threat the coun­try’s na­tional se­cu­rity.

Saudi Ara­bia needs to move from the Ren­tier state men­tal­ity to one em­brac­ing the free econ­omy mar­ket. This is where re-struc­tur­ing the sys­tems to do away with bu­reau­cracy will help jump­start the ex­pan­sion ef­forts to­ward de­vel­op­ing a freer and big­ger econ­omy. —Courtesy: AA.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Pakistan

© PressReader. All rights reserved.