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Category Archive: Opinions & Editorials

Saudi Energy Experts, Read My Lips

31 August 2014 | comments (0) | Opinions & Editorials | by

Abdulateef Al‐MulhimAbdulateef Al‐Mulhim, Commodore, Royal Saudi Navy (Retired)

Norway has oil and gas. It is their bread and butter and so is the case with Saudi Arabia. We also have oil and gas but it is not only our bread and butter, it is also our dessert. In other words, in Saudi Arabia we use the huge income from the energy sector to build the country but we simply overspend on our projects and waste lavishly big portion of what we extract from our depleted source of income, or the only source of income. Oil was discovered in Saudi Arabia in 1938 and we are still failing to find ways to diversify the source of income. As a matter of fact, we have even failed in producing oil experts and strategists. We are the most important oil and gas producing country in the world and Saudi analysts get their energy analysis from Western sources. Saudi Arabia is one of the few countries, if not the only, in the world that can produce 12 million barrels every day, 365 days a year without a sweat.

Few days ago, an Offshore Northern Seas Energy Conference was held in Stavanger, Norway. The conference was attended by our top oil expert in the Kingdom, Saudi Aramco CEO, Khalid Al-Falih. The day I read I about the conference in Norway, I recalled two articles that I wrote in this paper. One was titled, “What Norway’s Statoil did that Saudi Aramco could not do?” The other was titled “Kingdom needs oil industry think tank.”

During the conference, Saudi Aramco CEO expressed his concerns about the increasing oil sector costs and global conflicts which could result in a lack of oil supplies in the long-term, if oil firms fail to make “prudent and timely investments.” But may be this is for the rest of the world. So what is it for Saudis and Saudi Arabia and how should we define prudent and timely investments?

During the conference Saudi Aramco CEO announced that there will be tens of billions of dollars in investments but at this time the prudent thing in Saudi Arabia is to simply do what the Norwegians have been doing for a long time. It is to decrease our dependence on oil wealth by finding ways of diversifying our income and establish a transparent sovereign fund for future generations. At this time the only diversification of income that we have in the Kingdom is the petrochemical industry. And it is true that we now have one of the biggest chemical industries in the world but it came at a price. First, the chemical industries are linked with the oil and gas industry and secondly this industry harms environment.

There is another thing that we should learn from the Norwegians just by walking or driving through their streets. You don’t see highly expensive cars driven by teenagers. In other words, we have to teach our young to respect the current wealth. We must teach them not to waste it. Currently, there is no need to increase oil production. Instead, it is vital that we cut down on our expenditures. We seem to exaggerate in our development plans and with mega and unnecessary projects we open the doors for corruption and misuse of the public funds. Oil and gas is very important for Saudi Arabia and now we are simply burning it to cool our homes and buildings and we subsidies many strategic commodities such as electricity, fuel at the pump and the highly expensive desalinated water. In Norway, they pay ten times what we pay at the gas pump. At the end, Saudi energy experts, please read my lips. Look at Norway and do it their way. Oil will not be here forever and we have future generations to look after.

Written by Abdulateef Al‐Mulhim. Saudi Energy Experts, Read My Lips reprinted with permission of Arab News and Abdulateef Al‐Mulhim.

Missouri: Lessons Learned

26 August 2014 | comments (1) | Opinions & Editorials | by

Abdulateef Al‐MulhimAbdulateef Al‐Mulhim, Commodore, Royal Saudi Navy (Retired)

For people outside the US, the State of Missouri is not a place known to many, let alone a small town named Ferguson. It is a small town located in St. Louis County, which has about 20,000 people. The town lives in the shadow of Missouri’s largest city, St. Louis. For the last few weeks, things have changed and Ferguson became the barometer of the fragility of any society, more so that of the American one.

Missouri has been in news since a young African-American, Michael Brown, was shot dead in Ferguson by a cop, Darren Wilson, which led to huge protests. The death of Brown has put the police action in the spotlight.

But, should the police bear the whole burden? The American police is the world’s best and the most well-equipped. Their military arsenal and equipment are stronger than many armies in the world. They are professional and highly respected and most important very polite and courteous in dealing with the public. They are at the same time very disciplined and strict and one is supposed to cooperate with them if ever required. The police force in any case work at times in a very hostile situation and hence will not hesitate to use force when needed.

In this recent incident of protests against police action, tear gas was fired at the crowd, bullets were fired, people were arrested and Missouri State National Guard was deployed.

The lesson that we learned from the riots in Ferguson is that disturbing peace is a red line that should not be crossed.

In other words, the human rights activists in the US would take a break and media such as CNN would not report everything they see. This is the reason many people around the world saw protesters at the door steps of the CNN Hqs. in Atlanta, Georgia.

The other lesson we learned is no society is immune from national disorder even in such democratic country like the US. And the people outside are asking if there is a real social divide and the protests could have spread to other places and other cities in the US. But, the final and most important lesson that we can learn is that the US media and US decision makers should not jump to conclusion when even a similar or even a smaller event happens outside their borders. Each and every country should protect its national interests. It is true that we still don’t know the final details of the investigations in regard to what happened in Ferguson, Missouri, but, events showed if law and order is not restored quickly, things can get out of hand. The beautiful American State of Missouri with its breathtaking plains and Gateway Arch had changed the course of history of the US since its admission to the union, but, a small town like Ferguson can also change the image of the US.

The State of Missouri is seen through many historical events, which not only shaped the course of the American history but the history of th world.. The state was under Spanish rule when Napoleon Bonaparte took over the Louisiana ownership in 1800. Three years later Louisiana became part of the Louisiana Purchase by the US. In 1803, the US paid 4 cents per acre to the French and acquired an area of more than two million sq km, thus making Missouri gateway to the west of the American continent.

Missouri’s other notable information include President Harry Truman who was a senator from here, and the Empire of Japan signed the surrender agreement aboard USS Missouri to end WWII. Missouri has had its impact on world science, agricultural and aviation industry.

Written by Abdulateef Al‐Mulhim. Missouri: Lessons Learned reprinted with permission of Arab News and Abdulateef Al‐Mulhim.

Ensuring Ebola-Free Haj

24 August 2014 | comments (0) | Opinions & Editorials | by

Abdulateef Al‐MulhimAbdulateef Al‐Mulhim, Commodore, Royal Saudi Navy (Retired)

Haj season started just recently. Haj or pilgrimage to Makkah is the fifth pillar of Islam. It is required to be performed by a Muslim once in a lifetime if he/she is adult and can afford it financially, without any difficulty or obstacles (Liman Ista’a Elayhi sabila). In other words, a Muslim who does not meet the above conditions has no religious obligation to perform Haj.

Even though the Haj season starts a short time after Ramadan, the actual Haj rituals start about two months after the end of the holy month. This year, the days of Haj will be falling around the beginning of October. Eid Al-Adha, which is celebrated on the 10th of Dhul Hijjah, is likely to be on Oct. 4 subject to the sighting of the new moon. During the Haj season, the Saudi government mobilizes all resources to look after around 3 million pilgrims. Preparations start very early long before the Haj season. It starts with visa issuance and the arrival of pilgrims via land, air and sea. They are taken care of from the time of their arrival till their departure. Before the beginning of the Haj season, various government agencies are pressed into service to ensure all facilities for pilgrims. Hospitals, field hospitals, thousands of ambulances, civil defense personnel, passport control, helicopters, boy scouts, tens of thousands of policemen and many other agencies take part in ensuring the safety and comfort of the millions of pilgrims who arrive in the Kingdom.

During the Haj season, the Kingdom is faced with many challenges. These challenges can range from threats of terrorism to deadly accidental fires and from massive road accidents to deaths due to stampede. Now, the threat is in the form of diseases, such as Ebola. During the past month, Ebola broke out in many western African countries. The way its symptoms start is in itself misleading for doctors. It starts like flu with fever, headache and joint pains. But, a few days later the symptoms change dramatically to vomiting, diarrhea and bleeding from the gum, nose and gastrointestinal tract. After that, the patient would experience low blood pressure and drastic loss of fluid. Health experts say it is not transmitted through the air we breathe, rather it is transmitted through a patient’s fluids. During Haj we have around three million people in very limited space living side by side with each other for days. So, what can happen and what can be done?

The health and well-being of Hajis is very important and it is our duty to ensure their full protection from diseases. It is true that Ebola broke out in places in which health care is not advanced, but, there will be many Hajis coming from west and central African countries that are hit with the virus, which is not treatable. The presence of this virus in congested place can create chaos. There would be strict quarantine procedures if any Ebola case is found and it takes days and may be weeks before doctors can determine if a patient has contracted Ebola.

Saudi Arabia at this stage must take every necessary step to protect the millions of Hajis coming to the Kingdom. Although GCC countries have pledged to take a unified stance to combat the deadly Ebola virus by training health officials and making use of regional facilities to diagnose and treat such diseases, it is also important for the Kingdom to make sure that Hajis do not come from Ebola-stricken countries. Taking care of Ebola patients during Haj can be stressful and it is better to be on the safer side. Haj can be performed in later years by anyone who can’t perform it this year. Haj is a religious duty that can be performed whenever the situation permits. It can be delayed but the disease will not wait if it strikes.

Written by Abdulateef Al‐Mulhim. Ensuring Ebola-Free Haj reprinted with permission of Arab News and Abdulateef Al‐Mulhim.

Actions, Not Words, Needed to Counter Terror

20 August 2014 | comments (1) | Opinions & Editorials | by

Khaled AlmaeenaKhaled Almaeena

There are reports in the Saudi media about directives issued to mosque imams to pray against the Islamic State (IS), also called “Daish”, and other extremist organizations and portray them as “deviant groups”.

More needs to be done to counter such groups, who with a slew of tricks and misrepresentations have managed to draw a number of youth to their fold.

These groups by their acts of terror and bloodshed have nothing to do with Islam. The Sharoura incident in which several security personnel were killed this Ramadan by these “deviants” without any consideration for the inviolability of the Muslim blood and the sanctity of Ramadan was another eye-opener into the ideology and purpose of these organizations whose only aim is to cause bloodshed.

These groups have no intention of reform or creating an Islamic society as they profess. On the contrary they do a lot of disservice and damage to the Muslim community all over the world with their gross and bloody actions.

They have made clever use of the social media by focusing on many negative aspects of governance in the Muslim world, injustices and oppression, foreign interference and a host of other problems to reach the youth, ignorant and the uninitiated.

They exploit all and profess to come with solutions. They have thus attracted a substantial group of disaffected and disgruntled youth who have no knowledge of the real meaning of their religion.
We have come to a stage where all good men have to join forces to combat this evil.

  • Yes, we have to fight this cancerous ideology of hate and bloodshed.
  • Yes, we have to expose them in every forum.
  • Yes, we have to act now before it is too late as we see many ignorant people in the Muslim world beginning to follow them blindly.

But just using words against them is not enough. Strong actions are needed.

We should engage our youth with versatility and verve. For a long time we have neglected them, and this has enabled the extremists to hijack them with lies and false ideologies. The only language they heard was from these preachers of hate.

And when writers and media people pointed out the dangers of allowing space to these insidious players they were quickly labeled as “liberals” “anti-Islamists” and called horrible names.

The authorities did not help. Rather some of these voices were snuffed. Frankenstein was the doctor not the monster. Daish has been created by Arab societies who were totally oblivious to its dangers.

Teachers, preachers and imams were working for the past 30 years under the cloak of religion to nurture this evil philosophy. Intolerance and non-acceptance not only of non-Muslims but other sects within our own faith was encouraged and today we are reaping what was sowed.

The Grand Mosque Imam Sheikh Abdulrahman Al-Sudais has at least begun the battle in the right direction. He has called for a global code of conduct for leaders, scholars and young people to halt a further slide into violence and “terror” in his Friday sermon in Makkah.

He said, “There was an urgent need to prepare a global code of conduct in which the leaders and scholars would deliver their messages and in which the youths would set their thoughts right and the path of the new media is set right.”

Daish, however, has become a small tsunami and to stop it from drowning humanity we need a total re-evaluation of our thought process, weed out teachers and imams and false preachers.

We should teach our young philosophy, arts and foreign literature while inculcating in them a tolerance for others. For is not Islam a religion of tolerance and mercy?

We should encourage sports, arts, music, films and a love of life. God has put us on this earth to enjoy its beauty, work upon it and make it a better place. Not to kill, plunder or destroy.

This is what these people are doing. And we have to stop them. Why would a doctor blow up himself as Dr. Faisal Al-Anzi did?

And why did so many commend him on Twitter? There is a sickness and malaise in our society. I am glad the government is taking action — but I do hope it will be more than just praying against Daish in mosque. It should be fighting for the minds of our young by using modern methods and instilling in them humane values and a love of life.

The writer is Editor-at-Large. He can be reached at kalmaeena@saudigazette.com.sa and followed on Twitter: @KhaledAlmaeena

Growing Road Deaths, A Cause of Concern

13 August 2014 | comments (2) | Opinions & Editorials | by

Abdulateef Al‐MulhimAbdulateef Al‐Mulhim, Commodore, Royal Saudi Navy (Retired)

During the past few years, Saudi Arabia has lost tens of thousands of lives. Most of the dead were so young they did not even reach their 20th birthday. Nowadays, road accidents claim hundreds of lives of Saudis and non-Saudis every month and that is a commonplace.

Roads, streets and highways in Saudi Arabia are generally built to be of very high standard. But, building good roads is not enough to prevent road accidents. Now, Saudi Arabia has the highest number of highway fatalities in the world. Thousands of lives are lost every year and billions of Saudi riyals are spent to treat the injured and additional billions are wasted because of discarded automobiles wrecked in accidents. It is true that we have tried to implement new rules and new methods in order to reduce highway fatalities, but it seems nothing is working to prevent road accidents. We have introduced the so-called Saher system to monitor speeding and traffic violations but still these are merely cameras catching speeding motorists and traffic violators. Most accidents occur because of negligence by the drivers, especially the young ones.

During the past few years, most of the fatal accidents occurred due to lack of concentration by drivers. Many try to make calls, read and send text messages while driving. And all it takes is just two seconds for an accident to happen. In other words, two seconds are long enough to change your life and the lives of others forever.

Saudi Arabia’s road accidents and the growing number of fatalities is becoming a national issue and there must be a total evaluation of the existing traffic rules in addition to introducing new ways of watching the roads. The traffic police should not only rely on Saher cameras and neglect the direct supervision and monitoring of the traffic. Many youngsters in Saudi Arabia have very bad driving habits with no respect for traffic rules or rights of other drivers. Bad driving for a short while is more dangerous than driving 10 kilometers within the speed limit. Also, the traffic police must be involved in preparing the traffic structure within the city to make the streets safe for driving. They should be trained how to deal with speeding cars and errant drivers. The traffic police should be educated and given orientation about new and tougher laws to check violations.

Nowadays, with the increase in road accidents because of the modern day gadgets such as mobile phones, new laws must be implemented to check careless driving. Young drivers must be told about the dangers of driving and texting. Both can’t be done at the same time. In other words we need more traffic police on the roads and not cameras next to traffic lights.

Many tougher traffic laws need to be introduced and implemented because only two seconds of callousness can cause a fatal accident.

We have lost thousands of lives and billions of riyals in accidents. What is worse is that many parents’ lives have been devastated and ruined because they have lost their loved ones in accidents.

Written by Abdulateef Al‐Mulhim. Growing Road Deaths, A Cause of Concern reprinted with permission of Arab News and Abdulateef Al‐Mulhim.

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