“The Kingdom cannot remain frozen while the world is changing around us,” said King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz in his address to the Majlis Al Shura earlier this week, as he reviewed the country’s foreign and internal policies. This is the essence of the truth and the key to the country’s future.
Saudi Arabia deserves to move forward in all aspects. With its human capabilities and natural resources, it has every opportunity for success. The King is eager to bring about positive change. When I met King Abdullah in Hong Kong, as part of the accompanying delegation on his Asian tour, he apologized at length for being five minutes late and asked to hear the opinions and comments of the audience.
He listened to some replies but asked to hear something different: Inform me of the views of those you have met. I want to listen to what I have not heard and what has not reached me. He repeated this to every member of the attendance. The King heard what had been honestly and boldly stated. He commented and smiled as the discussion became more candid. Why am I telling you this now?
I am writing to stress the presence of a desire for change and development, as well as a will to move forward in Saudi Arabia. All the country needs is to set its priorities. It is sad to see effort and capacities spent on marginal battles and to witness the country losing crucial time in order to justify one matter or another. The country should not waste its abilities in a fight over whether a book should be banned not. We are in the age of open space and the internet. Saudi Arabia needs concrete actions not justifications.
Saudi Arabia needs a giant effort to develop its scientific capabilities and the ability of its teachers and scientific infrastructure, starting with bottles in the laboratory to the students’ dressing gowns, instead of arguing about the legitimacy of teaching English or developing school curricula. The country also needs to increase the numbers of foreign exchange students. It needs to widen its economic horizons and diversify the sources of income for individuals, instead of settling minor scores as it exploits the rise or fall in the stock market and the intervention of non-specialists in economic affairs. Saudi Arabia needs a clear vision instead of preoccupying itself with quarrels over Saudization.
Our country needs an internal effort that is spent on improving the Kingdom’s infrastructure, instead of priding ourselves with what we currently have, forgetting that we have one of the highest birth rates in the world. The road networks, buildings, universities and hospitals currently built will not hold all those born in fifteen years.
Saudi Arabia needs a comprehensive plan to empower its capabilities, both men and women. We all noticed King Abdullah clearly referred to both Saudi men and women in his address: “I say to all male and female citizens that I have known you as you have known me throughout the years of being faithful to the oath.” The country requires every effort instead of limiting the disagreement to whether women should drive or not? If she did get behind the wheel, where will she go to given the dearth of chances?
Today, all the circumstances are propitious for a Saudi drive to build the next generation. I will go as far as to say that this is a golden opportunity. King Abdullah promised his citizens in his address, “We hope to provide housing and working opportunities as well as providing education, medical treatment and other services,” he said. “We are keen to combat poverty and provide public services to areas that have not received them, according to calculated development plans.” We have to help ourselves as Saudis by sorting out our priorities and refraining from engaging in minor rows. As the King said, we cannot remain frozen while the world is changing around us.