Shrink­ing for­eign aids

The Pak Banker - - OPINION - Ab­dul­teef Al-Mul­him

LIKE rest of the world, Saudi Ara­bia is also pass­ing through an eco­nomic phase, which calls for cut­ting down ex­pen­di­ture for the next few years to weather the storm. There are many ar­eas that need to be iden­ti­fied where we need to cur­tail our ex­penses. One of the most im­por­tant things that we should do is to cur­tail aids to for­eign coun­tries. This is also very im­por­tant at a time when the aid that we of­fer to cer­tain coun­tries end up be­ing used against our na­tional in­ter­ests. Le­banon is a prime ex­am­ple. Saudi Ara­bia gen­er­ously of­fers help to Arab and Mus­lim coun­tries with­out ex­pect­ing any­thing in re­turn but that does not mean that it can tol­er­ate the same funds used against its own peo­ple. Many years ago, I read a book writ­ten by David Gil­mour. The book is about Le­banon's so­cial and political sit­u­a­tion. The ti­tle of the book was "Le­banon: The frac­tured coun­try." The ti­tle spoke vol­umes about Le­banon and the na­ture of the book. It is cor­rect that Le­banon is a frac­tured coun­try and from what I feel it is more than that, it is ac­tu­ally frac­tured and lost.

I have only been to Le­banon once in 2003 and stayed there for about 10 days. It is dif­fi­cult to prop­erly un­der­stand a coun­try or a peo­ple in 10 days. We all know that we prob­a­bly have more Le­banese in Riyadh than in any Le­banese city other than Beirut. I wanted to see Le­banon, its peo­ple, it streets and its lit­tle scat­tered cities and vil­lages. Af­ter a few days, it was ap­par­ent that Le­banon had 90 per­cent of its wealth and in­fra­struc­ture based in Beirut. And af­ter a few nights in the city and some nearby dis­tricts up in the moun­tains, it was clear that yes, you can hear enough mu­sic and eat a lot of food, this all about Le­banon.

I saw many old beau­ti­ful build­ings, old schools and old hospi­tals, but all were built by the French many years ago. And there were no de­cent roads con­nect­ing other cities with the cap­i­tal. In ad­di­tion to that, there was a clear so­cial gap be­tween the haves and have nots. And be­cause I know that the Arab Gulf states and es­pe­cially Saudi Ara­bia had pro­vided Le­banon with tens of bil­lions of dol­lars in di­rect fi­nan­cial aid, so, the ques­tion is, where did all the money go in a coun­try that has only about 6 mil­lion peo­ple and cov­ers an area of about 10,000 square kilo­me­ters. The coun­try has many tourist at­trac­tions and arche­o­log­i­cal sites that seem to be in a state of ne­glect. In other words, Le­banon has the most strate­gic lo­ca­tions. And since the 1960s, Le­banon has been way ahead of most coun­tries not only in the re­gion but also in the world. Beirut had a chance and golden op­por­tu­ni­ties to be­come Dubai, Sin­ga­pore and Hong Kong. The 1970s Gulf states' eco­nomic boom money could have been in Le­banese banks and fi­nan­cial cen­ters.

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