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Category Archive: Opinions & Editorials

A New Era of Development in KSA

16 December 2014 | comments (0) | Opinions & Editorials | by

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

Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah appointed nine new ministers as part of the Kingdom’s broadest Cabinet reshuffle in years.

Saudis in general have welcomed this move, as they are looking for improved performances of various ministries. The new appointments have been made on very strategic position.

The new assignment comes amid many plans to push social reforms in the Kingdom and to raise the standard of living of Saudis. But it is very important to note that many young Saudis expect more efforts from the new ministers. It is a known fact that the any minister in the Kingdom enjoys unlimited authority from the government with almost unlimited resources. Saudi ministers are probably the only ones in the world who ask for a billion-dollar budget and receive twice the required amount. And Saudi citizens know it. It is announced very transparently on the Saudi National TV. The budget plans are available to all Saudis. So Saudis on many occasions would compare the performance of each ministry with the assets allocated for each ministry. And few years ago after the announcement of the Saudi largest-ever annual national budget’s announcement, King Abdullah spoke live in front of the cameras of the Saudi National TV with words directed to the ministers with clear and detailed instructions that the well-being and of the Saudi citizens is the ministers’ main task. In other words, Saudi citizens should be the top priority of every ministry.

It is true that Saudi Arabia is a very huge country with a population of about 30 million people and there is very great need for new infrastructure and many of the old projects are in need of major overhaul but the country possesses the assets and the necessary financial resources. In other words, we were able to do it in the past so it can be done now. The new ministers are coming to their new posts with great enthusiasm but they have many challenges. The health care system has to be improved, higher education need more reforms, Saudi media has to approach many issues more openly, Saudi youth has to be encouraged to be more aware of their general behavior and it is very important to eradicate corruption. Due to corruption progress on many development projects has been hampered. The new and old ministers should assign the right people for the right posts in their respective ministries according to what they know and not whom they know. Saudi Arabia is facing many domestic challenges and foreign threats, which emphasize the great need to speed up various social and political reforms and to give great attention to the need of the Saudis. The ministers are assigned to their posts for one reason i.e. to serve the country and its people.

Written by Abdulateef Al‐Mulhim. A New Era of Development in KSA reprinted with permission of Arab News and Abdulateef Al‐Mulhim.

Where There’s a Will, There’s a Way

9 December 2014 | comments (0) | Opinions & Editorials | by

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

Before the mushrooming of satellite dishes on our rooftops, the Arab world heavily relied on the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) for reports from across the world. The BBC was founded decades ago and with the passage of time, it initiated its services in various world languages. The BBC Arabic Service, established in 1938, gained immense popularity and emerged as one of the most trusted news sources in this part of the world mainly due to the absence of a proper local media network. At that time, many countries did not even have their state-run radio or television stations or if they did have, their coverage was very limited.

The number of listeners in the region hiked and the BBC gained more popularity after the 1967 war when it revealed to the joyful Arab masses the sad but true outcome of the war between the Arabs and Israelis. Since then the BBC became the most reliable source to verify any report about any event taking place in the Arab world or the Middle East to be more precise. What the BBC reported was accepted without any doubt among the Arab masses.

During those days, there were limited opportunities for women in the Arab world and especially Saudi Arabia in the media world. So, international media outlets were out of the question and out of reach but not for a very young Saudi woman with the name Huda Al-Rasheed. Many years before the communication revolution and the age of the Internet, Huda Al-Rasheed undertook the biggest challenge of her career by joining the most famous broadcasting company. She also became the first Saudi anchorwoman to work for the BBC Arabic in the British capital. Her voice became the most distinguished on the radio waves all over the Arab world and the Middle East and her news broadcasting opening words, Huna London (This is London) became as famous in the area as the words of America’s CBS anchorman Walter Cronkite. Ironically, many years ago I met Cronkite but never got the opportunity to meet Huda Al-Rasheed.

As for Al-Rasheed, the road had not been very smooth. In an interview, she shed light on her journey to fame with Nadin Albdearto at the Etijahat program on Rotana Khalijiah TV. She met many challenges. She was very young and she wanted to go abroad to study English at first. But, her mind was set for a bigger role. Her ambition was so high it was touching the rainbow of an English rainy day. She applied for a job there at the BBC and took an exam and headed back to Saudi Arabia. Few months passed and the news came from London that she passed all the requirements and there was a job opening for her and she was welcome if she were still interested. This time her father gave the green light and she headed to London. As time passed her voice became the most recognized voice in the Arab world and her distinguished style of news reading and her achievements became a source of inspiration for many women in Saudi Arabia. It is true that where there is a will, there is a way.

After leaving her job, she chose to stay low-key but people still remember her voice. People in the Arab world still listen to the BBC for extensive coverage of world events and analysis but for many years, the BBC was known by a young Saudi young woman who said the famous words of Huna London. Al-Rasheed should be given more recognition. Many say that she is the biggest achiever among Saudi women.

Written by Abdulateef Al‐Mulhim. Where There’s a Will, There’s a Way reprinted with permission of Arab News and Abdulateef Al‐Mulhim.

The Success Story of UAE

9 December 2014 | comments (0) | Opinions & Editorials | by

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

A few years ago, many frequent flyers traveling on westbound flights from Australian airports noticed that whenever they would log on to Australia’s travel websites, they would see advertisements of a newly-established foreign airline offering cheaper fares and claiming to offer better service.

So most travelers using Australian websites would book the flights of an airline based in the United Arab Emirates i.e. Emirates. However, that problem has been solved with Australian national carrier Qantas joining hands with Emirates in forming an alliance. It’s true: If you can’t beat them, join them.

That was perhaps not enough for the new airline. Observers may also recall reports about the fierce competition between Canadian aviation establishments and Emirates over landing rights on Canadian airports. Had it been provided with more landing routes, it would have conveniently beaten Canadian airlines in their own airspace. The UAE has another thriving airline, Etihad Airways, which does not only fly to various global destinations but has recently acquired 49 percent of the total shares of Italy’s national airline, Alitalia. In other words, the UAE is open to the world and is currently dominating the skies. When you dominate the skies, you are seen all over the world. You must be wondering as to why I started this article by highlighting the success of the UAE’s aviation industry. The main reason is the short span within which the UAE has achieved this marvel. What was the United Arab Emirates around 43 years ago?

Despite its strategic location, the UAE back in 1971 was almost isolated from the rest of the world. With its shoreline stretching hundreds of miles, it had very primitive ports and virtually no roads connecting it to the neighboring countries. Just a few decades ago, going to or leaving the UAE was one of the most difficult things for any traveler. They had a dusty runway for the whole country that handled an average of one flight per week. But now they have the most modern and busiest airports in the world and seaports and ports facilities so huge and modern it almost won the contract for handling the operations of one of the busiest American ports. The most unique thing about the UAE is that it transformed itself from the most isolated country in the world to one of the most developed countries in the world. Hundreds of events are held every week and Formula One is held once a year. The UAE has become a melting pot of different cultures. Mind you, majority of the people are not Emiratis. And just a week ago, the United Arab Emirates celebrated its 43rd National Day. Being founded only four decades ago, it is one of the youngest countries in the world. In other words, when the Americans sent a man on the moon in 1969, the UAE was two years away from coming into being. And in 1971 any small town in the US had more banks, schools, students’ enrollment, doctors, engineers, water resources, gas pumps and roads than the entire United Arab Emirates. The total area of the UAE is equivalent to the size of South Carolina (a little over 32,000 square miles) with a population of about 9 million people.

It was formed in 1971 when it gained full independence from the British rule. Interestingly, the British initiated the talk of its independence in the mid 1960s when it had become clear that the British government was not interested to bear the burden of being in the area and administer what is now the UAE. The then UK Secretary of State for Defense, Denis Winston Healey, reported that the British Navy was overstretched. The report was supported by then British Prime Minister Harold Wilson and later on reaffirmed by British Minister Edward Heath to end the protection treaty. It was followed by the creation of a union between seven emirates. The ruler of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al-Nahyan, became the president of the union, which consists of Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Ajman, Fujairah, Sharjah, Umm Al-Quwain and Ras Al-Khaimah. And the current president is Sheikh Khalifah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan. The UAE is a modern-wday miracle. In just 43 years, the UAE has the highest per capita income. Its people enjoy free education at all levels, free health care and no income tax.

Written by Abdulateef Al‐Mulhim. The Success Story of UAE reprinted with permission of Arab News and Abdulateef Al‐Mulhim.

Does Tehran Really Need a Nuclear Bomb?

2 December 2014 | comments (0) | Opinions & Editorials | by

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

The Iranian nuclear program was planned and initiated during the Cold War era. It matured as a program during the 1960s through European companies with the help of the United States, in the name of the idea called “Atoms for peace.” To this day, I still wonder how could one achieve peace by using nuclear weapons.

The nuclear program in Iran went as planned. It is true that Iran is a huge country with a fast-growing population and has all the right to plan for its future particularly when it comes to addressing its growing energy needs. But why does it need a nuclear bomb?

What if Iran acquires nuclear bomb(s)? Will it use it or simply keep it as a trophy at a time when most, if not all, nuclear powers are working meticulously to find solutions to do away with their nuclear arsenals.

The erstwhile Iranian Empire and later on the Islamic Republic of Iran has the most controversial nuclear program in the world. Since its inception, the Iranian nuclear program has experienced many ups and downs.

Observers may recall that when Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant was almost nearing completion, the 1979 revolution erupted and reports emerged claiming that Ayatollah Khomeini deemed making destructive weapons un-Islamic. Besides, it is not cheap to build nuclear reactors. Then the Iraq-Iran war broke out and the Iraqis attacked the main nuclear facilities in Bushehr.

Iran was forced to use paint sealant to cover the main dome and things came to a standstill. The most notable thing about the Bushehr plant is that it has been built using western technologies, which is far more complicated and advanced than the Soviet-era facilities. After the Iraq-Iran war, which ended in August 1988, Iran was left with no friends in the West and it had to turn to the cash-starved Russia and the former Soviet-bloc countries. The Iranians tried to contact countries like Spain and Argentina but discussions never materialized.

When the Iranians decided to restart their nuclear program, they declared to the world that they were a country with about 70 million people and they simply needed more energy resources because oil and gas production were being decreased by 10 percent each year due to the old or obsolete oil production infrastructure and facilities. The dilapidated condition of the oil production infrastructure was a result of the 8-year war with Iraq and the western boycott of Iran. However, due to the loopholes in the international markets, Iran managed to increase its pace in getting the nuclear program back on track. It was obvious that Iran would not quit its quest for attaining nuclear capabilities. They were somehow able to trick the IAEA inspectors. No one knows for sure how far Iran is from becoming a nuclear power. But the question remains: What will Iran do with its nuclear bomb? Is it to dominate the region or is it an attempt to restore past glories?

It is true that the main industrial countries build nuclear facilities to produce more electrical power to run their industrial machines and as a deterrent but at the end of the day, those industrial countries want to boost their economies and raise the standards of living of their people. It is ironic to see clearly that Iran possesses more capabilities and assets than many of today’s industrial countries. Iran has one of the richest histories and culture in the world, a history that goes back to thousands of years. Iran produces the best and finest saffron, which is more expensive than gold and has the most beautiful and expensive rugs in the world. Persian pistachio and caviar can produce and generate more money for Iran’s suffering economy if utilized in better ways. The Iranians are very hard working people and their land with its variety of topographies from high mountains to the beaches can be a tourist attraction for many in the area. It is sad to see all the assets and money being wasted on building nuclear facilities, which is only causing harm to the Iranians. It is important to focus on building Iranian economy to raise the standard of living of Iranians. An Iranian nuclear bomb may raise the moral of many Iranians, but it is high standard of living that can bring the hundreds of thousands of Iranian brains back from the West. Iran might have the capabilities to build a nuclear bomb but the question remains …then what?

Written by Abdulateef Al‐Mulhim. Does Tehran Really Need a Nuclear Bomb? reprinted with permission of Arab News and Abdulateef Al‐Mulhim.

Expatriates Born in Saudi Arabia

30 November 2014 | comments (3) | Opinions & Editorials | by

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

Good morning dear readers. Please meet Khalid. He is a Pakistani. He and his sister are approaching their 60s. Yes, you heard me right I said 60s. So, what is so unusual to meet a Pakistani and his sister? Well nothing strange except that both were born in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia but their passports say that they are born in Lahore, Pakistan. What is ironic is that if his company’s work contract is over or terminated, then he and all his family will have to leave the Kingdom. Oops, did I say that Khalid is approaching his 60s and he is born and raised in Saudi Arabia?

Khalid and his sister were born during the mid-fifties in Saudi Arabia when their father was working at Saudi Aramco’s planning department. Khalid and his sister were born in the same hospital in Dhahran two years apart. When they were very young they traveled with their mother to Pakistan. I am sure the grandparents wanted to see their grandkids. And at that time like many other places around the world, children at that age usually had their names added to their mother’s passport just before processing and obtaining their birth certificates.

So when they were in Pakistan, and planned to travel back to the Kingdom on their own passports, most likely the passport department just put the birthplace as Lahore. And maybe it did not make a difference at that time because the mom and dad thought it would be few years and everybody would return to Pakistan for good and may not be back in Saudi Arabia except during the Haj season. But, for the information of the reader, Khalid is still in Saudi Arabia.

There are many others like Khalid and his sister. There are many expatriates who are born and raised or just raised in Saudi Arabia but never become Saudis. And sometimes, it is a dilemma for many. There are many in the Kingdom who lived and worked for tens of years and their friends and many of their families are in Saudi Arabia.

Many expatriates from Asia would be lost in the streets of Manila, Delhi or Karachi but they know every street of Dammam or Riyadh. And the biggest shock is for their children especially the ones who are in their teens. If they have to go back to their home country, they have to start making new friends and adjust to their new environment in their home country. The bottom line is that we saw an increase in the number of visas for expatriates applying for jobs in the Kingdom and the expatriates will be here for a long time to come if not forever, so, it is important to make some changes to the rules with regards to the expatriates and their status in the Kingdom especially those who had been in the Kingdom for a long time.

And just few weeks ago, a plan has been announced to rename the word (Iqama) to (Hawyat muqeem) which means (expatriate ID) and this can make a difference. Don’t get me wrong, as I am pro- Saudization. I want to see Saudi young men occupying every job in the Kingdom, be it gardener, mechanic, technician or any other job. But, we all know that we in Saudi Arabia will be in great need for expatriates. And many expatriates now not only consider Saudi Arabia as their work place but many of them consider Saudi Arabia as their home. There are many ways that we Saudis and expatriates can benefit from each other. There can be more schools for both Saudis and expatriates and there can be campuses of foreign universities that can take the expatriates children and can also take some Saudis who are interested in learning in these universities. Saudis and expatriates can join hands and continue building the country and it would be beneficial if we can modify some of the rules that can benefit both the Saudis and the expatriates.

Written by Abdulateef Al‐Mulhim. Expatriates Born in Saudi Arabia reprinted with permission of Arab News and Abdulateef Al‐Mulhim.

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