August 15, 2003 Special Dispatch No. 552

Saudi Columnist: 'Where Do We Start With Reform?'

August 15, 2003
Saudi Arabia | Special Dispatch No. 552

In an article titled "Where Do We Start With Reform?," Rashed Al-Fowzan, columnist for the Saudi newspaper Al Jazirah, calls for a program of economic and social reforms. The following are excerpts from the article: [1]

"There is a desire by the government for economic reform and in truth, some such reform is urgently needed. In talking about economic reform, I am aware that so broad a subject cannot be dealt with in only one article. What I will try to do then is to mention some things that need reform because they cause problems for many of us."

• "Limited resources and our total dependence on oil. Our revenues are 80 percent derived from oil."

• "Hundreds of billions of riyals have been spent on education and yet our students are still not up to international standards. Far too few of our students concentrate on technical or scientific subjects."

• "Unemployment. A problem for both graduates and non-graduates, both of whom suffer from a lack of job opportunities as well as opportunities for training…"

• "There are plenty of local factories but we hear nothing about exporting locally-made goods. We ought to expand local production because it would produce substantial revenues…"

• "Our national debt is estimated at more than SR700 billion and there is no plan in the near future for eliminating it or dealing with even a part of it. Both our population and government spending are on the increase. Our population is growing faster than our economy and it should be the other way round…"

• "Many barriers to foreign investment. Attracting foreign investment is important because it could provide technology, money, jobs and experience. We all know Dubai has attracted enormous foreign investment because of its willingness to scrap meaningless barriers and pointless regulations…"

• "The importance of women in society and the economy. Women have limited job opportunities in the Kingdom. Despite the fact that hundreds of millions of riyals has been spent on women's education, there has been no corresponding economic return. The nursing sector, for example, needs more than 50,000 nurses and there are other specialties where women's participation is needed."

"These are a few of the points that the government is addressing. The solutions may be both unpopular and expensive with many Saudis since increasing the price of some services and imposing higher prices on others are likely to be among them. We need to be clear and honest if we want to come up with solutions."

[1] This article was originally translated into English by Arab News (Saudi Arabia),§ion=0&article=30225&d=13&m=8&y=2003, August 13, 2003.

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