Posts Tagged ‘Studying abroad’

Two Sides of a Sword



Saudi Arabia is known as the country with the highest oil reserves and as the largest oil producer. The country started exporting oil since 1939 which means it is been more than 72 years since then. The infrastructure of the country was significantly developed and the face of changed as a result of the income of exporting oil for all of these years. However, corruption was there along the way resulting in a lot of waste and improper management of the huge available income.


More people are aware today of the fact that more than 30% of the Saudis are less than 15 years old. In the other hand, King Abdullah is about 90 years old and none of the ministers is less than 50 years old with one single exception. In many countries people talk about Generation Y and how much different they are compared to Generation X and older generations. Saudi Arabia is not an exception here. Younger people in Saudi Arabia have their own needs and expectations. Without meeting those needs and expectations, things in the future might get more difficult in different aspects.


As unemployment is on the rise and more youngsters are graduating from universities not only local ones but also prestigious schools from around the world, the pressures are getting more tense on the government. The fresh graduates who choose to come back home were exposed during their years abroad to new cultures and political systems that are faraway from what they’ll find home. Surely not each one of them will have the guts, time or interest to demand implementing similar changes in their country. However, some might find it the most important thing they could give back to their country and to their future kids. Many of these students are actually females. Given the current situation of females in Saudi Arabia, I don’t expect many of those female graduates to accept the statuesque. Not only the government will struggle with that, but also the more conservative groups of the society as well.


Social Media brought to Saudi Arabia a vibe of change like nothing else in the past ten years. Many people experienced the freedom of saying what they really feel without a lot of concern. Many realized that the country is not what they personally believe in and that others might not share with them the same views. With the impact of the Arab Spring, individuals in Saudi Arabia know that they are part of the equation and ignoring them is not really an option. It is true that Riyadh streets did not experience any protests, but many use Social Media as Saudi Arabia’s Tahrir Square. Almost nothing could stop that. The question is how far and for how long such protests will remain a cyber-phenomenon.

From another angel, such challenges to the future of Saudi Arabia can be considered as strengths and catalysts for change and better future for the country. The financial wealth available is great, however the real assets of any nation is its own people. The country has no choice but to bring more inclusion of its citizens in running things. The Royals cannot run everything and might not have the right people in the near future who have the wisdom to keep things together. Going into the future without a vision will make the country very vulnerable to any internal or external risks. The stability Saudi Arabia experienced for many years might be at risk very soon.


Oil and money can be here today but they are not assured for the future. Educated and dedicated citizens will not ensure the sustainability of any country. Saudi Arabia today is facing the two sides of a sword. Either it will bring prospers future or it might mean the end of any hope in the future.




The Cost of Lifelong Royal Interventions


The media and Saudi Internet websites have been very active over the past few years discussing almost everything and anything. However, I cannot forget a debate that was raged few years ago between a columnist and former Chief Editor of Al-Watan daily newspaper (Qenan Al-Ghamdi) and a religious clerk (Sheikh Saad Al-Buraik) around the type of state that should govern Saudi Arabia. Shaikh Saad called for a religious type of state while Qenan was calling for a civil state governing the country. The discussion really consumed so much time and energy, yet I strongly believe that such discussions are useless. Why?.  Because a simple reality check of life in Saudi Arabia proves that we have a special kind of state: the individual state, where the King rules without any real checks and balance mechanism by anyone. Such total control and excessive involvement in many dimensions of life in the country cannot be missed when you read about royal interventions in cases such as water shortages in Aseer area or the recent direction to three ministries to provide the required maps for Al-Harameen High Speed Rail project which is supposed to be commissioned in a year time!. Such high level involvement gives the impression that things are not running well and no less than the King himself need to be involved and still there is a chance that things might not materialize!.

Relating to business environment and when designing an organization structure, there should be a reasonable number of direct reporting subordinates to a supervisor to make sure that the supervisor has a meaningful job and in the same time is not overwhelmed by huge number of direct reporting employees. Sometimes it feels like the country is actually reporting to one supervisor.

For a country to be so dependent on an individual regardless of all the great intentions and power at hand, it means that many things will not be executed as they should and many other things will suffer noticeable oversight. In a complex world we live at, the permanent dependence on royal interventions means minimal positive change and missed important opportunities.

Maybe today Saudi Arabia and Saudis are not ready yet for direct citizens’ involvement in managing their life, but there should be a plan to institute such involvement within a reasonable time frame. Those who are not in favor of public participation must remember that a total of 70,000 Saudis are studying abroad and many more will be joining them soon. When these boys are girls are back, most probably that many of them will not be welling to live Saudi Arabia as I know it today.

By Ahmed Ba-Aboud