Time For Economic Reforms

24 August 2015 | 0 comments | Opinions & Editorials | by

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

These days, a few questions keep on popping up in my head. Are we really a rich country? Is relying on a volatile source of income economically healthy? And how low the price of a barrel of oil could sink before we feel the real crunch?

Indeed, Saudi Arabia is a rich country but only when it is compared with other countries of the region. Being an oil-producing country, we have been enjoying high income. But it is one of the most volatile and unpredictable commodities on the market. Despite oil being the lifeline of the global economy, the world never stopped its search for alternative sources of energy. We could see an increased number of solar panels installed around the globe ensuring production of cleaner and cheaper electricity. We regularly read about new and improved models of electric and hybrid cars in industrial countries. In short, we are a rich country but it is high time we spend our wealth wisely.

Saudi Arabia has a large population reaching 30 million people including all the expatriates. We are blessed with oil reserves but face a huge water shortage. Our government has to bear expenditure to the tune of billions of dollars over the production of water through desalination plants. In Saudi Arabia, a bottle of water is expensive than grade 95 fuel.

Saudi Arabia is one of those countries of the world, which braves harsh weather conditions. The mercury during the summer usually touches the 50 degrees Celsius mark, which means we have to spend billions of dollars for air conditioning and consumer millions of barrels of oil daily. Being a huge country, Saudi Arabia’s civic infrastructure needs continuous expansion. These are the reasons that call for effective budgetary allocation and proper planning to spend our funds wisely.

It is no secret that the world’s economic landscape is rapidly changing. Being part of this world, the Kingdom naturally cannot remain immune from these economic ups and downs. Our main problem is our heavy reliance on a single source of income. We never really diversified our economy and we never taught our youth to make the best of the opportunities that our government so generously provided them with such as free education and free health care. For many decades, our youth did not really work as hard as others to earn a living. In other words, we offered them free lunch and the government stood by them to guarantee a steady source of income, free education, free health care and huge subsidies to ensure an easy life. The government is paying billions of dollars in subsidies for many kinds of food, water, fuel at the pump and electricity. It is true that we should appreciate our government for its role but it is time to change all that due to the winds of change sweeping across the globe. Most important is to change our spending habits and to start using our available resources wisely. This could be done by ensuring closer monitoring of the public funds spending, eradicating corruption and checking misuse of public funds.

In addition to that we must make our youth realize the importance of hard work and the true meanings of patriotism. True patriotism has nothing to do with cheering for one’s soccer team and waving national flags in the streets. True patriotism is all about working hard to get the best education and to take part in the development process of one’s country.

Keeping in view, the sliding oil prices we should change our attitude toward life. In today’s world, only a corruption-free country could prosper in the true sense of the word. We need to effectively fight graft. The world is faced with economic crisis and it has almost reached our shores. We have to work on economic reform for the sake our future generations. Today, we are witnessing low oil prices; tomorrow there could be no oil left. It is time to introduce massive economic reforms and their effective and transparent implementation.

Written by Abdulateef Al-Mulhim. Time For Economic Reforms reprinted with permission of Arab News and Abdulateef Al-Mulhim.

Overcoming All Obstacles

24 August 2015 | 0 comments | Saudi Aramco News | by

Overcoming All Obstacles

Mohammed A. Al Qahtani, a business systems analyst working for the Industrial Security Planning and Support Services Department in Saudi Aramco in Dhahran, who overcame significant speech difficulties as a child, became the first Saudi and first Aramcon to win the World Championship in Public Speaking in Las Vegas, Nevada, in the U.S. on Aug. 15.

He competed against 30,000 participants from about 100 countries after several elimination rounds that began six months ago. The championship is the highest level of speech competition in Toastmasters, and his victory in the contest is the first time an Arab has won this title in the 84 year existence of the organization.

Al Qahtani represented District 79, which comprises 243 clubs in all of Saudi Arabia, and he faced off against national champions representing various nations from around the world to be named the world champion of public speaking.

It was not an easy road for Al Qahtani to get to this point. As a child, he did not utter his first word until he was 6 years old. He also grew up with a speech impediment — stuttering — and was ridiculed for it by other children during his formative years.

“Your mouth can spit venom, or it can mend a broken soul,” Al Qahtani said.

In 2009, he joined Toastmasters and devoted himself seriously to the Toastmasters educational learn-by-doing communication and leadership program. He worked sincerely to overcome his speech impediment, and because of his determination and the support of those around him, he succeeded.

Acknowledging this, Al Qahtani said when receiving his award in Las Vegas: “Look where I am now. If this can happen to me, imagine what can happen to you.”

Green Matters : Conserving Water A Team Effort

24 August 2015 | 0 comments | Saudi Aramco News | by

In managing water resources, countries such as Saudi Arabia find themselves walking a tightrope. Arid nations not only must secure quality water resources but also manage supply and demand of clean water for generations to come. Water conservation is therefore one of the Kingdom’s highest priorities.

At Saudi Aramco, we are committed to minimizing pressure on nonrenewable groundwater and maximizing its future availability. To minimize groundwater use, we optimize water consumption, minimize water losses, maximize wastewater reuse, and promote use of sustainable alternatives to groundwater.

We have a companywide water conservation program, with measures applied under the auspices of the Water Conservation Policy. Also as part of conservation efforts, our Environmental Protection Department requests each facility to develop a Water Conservation Roadmap to assist facilities in aligning their conservation efforts with the company’s broader water conservation strategy.

Our hard work is paying off: We treat and reuse about 75% of our generated sanitary wastewater. Elsewhere, flow meters have been installed in facilities companywide to monitor water cycles, further identifying conservation opportunities. We also actively monitor shallow groundwater levels at nearly 60 operating facilities Kingdomwide. Annual sampling and laboratory analysis helps track changes and potential risks to the water supply.

Individuals must play a role, too. Quickly repair leaks at home, install more environmentally-friendly plumbing, and avoid letting water run needlessly. Always fill the dishwasher and clothes washer completely to reduce water usage, and store drinking water in the refrigerator instead of running the tap to get cold water.

Actions such as these may seem like common sense, but they’ll benefit the Kingdom’s environment and economy in the long run if we act now in our daily lives.

At 50, Singapore is Young, Prosperous

19 August 2015 | 0 comments | Opinions & Editorials | by

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

It is said that a poor and weak man used to live in a makeshift shack. He was sound asleep one night but woke up in the middle of the night and decided to make his shack bigger. He also decided that he will work hard, earn money and become a billionaire and the sheriff of the town. The moral of the story is that what this poor and weak man wished came true. He became a billionaire without taking money or handout from anyone. He also became the sheriff of the town without even carrying a gun. He made his shack bigger without grabbing any space from his neighbor. Well, the above lines tell us the very brief history of a country called Singapore.

Singapore celebrated its Golden Jubilee a few days ago. It is not easy to dwell on the accomplishments of a country like Singapore in a few lines, but there are a few things that make many people around the world admire this little country. Singapore in only 50 years grew from a swampland to a country with skyscrapers and state-of-the-art infrastructure. It even grew in size not because they invaded other territories, but because they utilized science and technology in the best possible way for land reclamation. It has become one of the richest countries in the world without taking other people’s resources. The Singaporeans simply utilized and made the best use of their very limited resources and turned it into a country with unlimited resources in 50 years.

Singapore has become a powerful and influential country. It was the smallest Asian country 50 years ago. Now it is the second smallest country in Asia with a population of about 5 million. This very small country has one of the most sophisticated military arsenal with the most advanced technology that an army can build or buy. Singapore has a trained and advanced army, air force and navy. In terms of military strength, Singapore is a small country, but they think big.

People around the world and even those who have never been to Singapore wonder how did a country that was one of the poorest in the world just 50 years ago has become one of the richest in the world capable of having a say in the world economy! Simply put, it is very hard not to admire Singapore and Singaporeans for their achievements.

In the past, Singapore was not left alone. Even though it was poor, without any tangible resources and mostly a swampland, there were presence of foreign powers. Firstly, the country was under Japanese control. Then the British took over. Merger with Malaysia took place in 1963. In August 1965, it became independent. Lee Kuan Yew became the first prime minister of Singapore. After that there’s no such thing as a free lunch. You work hard and build the country no matter where you come from.

When you are in Singapore, you can see the whole world. You can be in little India, China, Europe, Arab world and all corners of the world. People and countries can learn many things from this little country. It was and is capable of bringing together people of different backgrounds and ethnicity. Even though the country had very little resources, they all lived in harmony and peace. Now we see many countries and societies with far more resources divided on the basis on ethnicity, race, etc. Despite their vast resources these countries have not been able to bring their people together. I think Singapore has achieved outstanding success because its people worked together to build the country. They have established the best education system and implemented an effective work ethic. But, most importantly it is hard work that has contributed to the success story.

It is true that Singapore is a young country, but it also has a rich history and culture that date back to hundreds of years. Why would anybody really admire Singapore, a country that started to develop just 50 years ago? It is both because of its achievements in such a short time and its continuous march toward advancement and prosperity. As a matter of fact, as far as I know, it is the only country in Asia that has top AAA rating from all major credit rating agencies. Singapore celebrated its Golden Jubilee, and the world said, Congratulations.

Written by Abdulateef Al-Mulhim. At 50, Singapore is Young, Prosperous reprinted with permission of Arab News and Abdulateef Al-Mulhim.

Until They Are Home

19 August 2015 | 1 comment | Special Interest | by

Until They Are Home

That is the motto of the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command headquartered at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Honolulu, Hawaii, where Aramco Brat Brad Swayne, a master sergeant in the U.S. Army, served for three years as head of JPAC’s Forensic Photography Unit. Brad both traveled the world as a member of investigative teams tasked with recovering the remains of missing service members and oversaw other teams members as they carried out similar missions.

“We don’t leave a fallen American behind,” a JPAC officer once said. “Their families deserve an answer.”

Over 400 personnel make up the JPAC team of specialists. Key to their operations is the Central Identification Laboratory at Hickam Field—the largest forensic skeletal laboratory in the world. It is there that extensive testing is conducted on recovered remains, seeking to learn the identity of the individual whose remains have been found.

Extensive preparatory work precedes sending a JPAC investigative team into the field. Historians and other specialists collect data from a wide range of sources, including official U.S. military records, local witnesses near the possible site, members of both the US and enemy military forces at the time, newspaper articles and more. Using this data, analysts put together a case file which is continuously updated as new information is gathered.

Once analysts determine that the site in question likely holds the remains of an American MIA, a field investigation team is deployed to visit the potential recovery site. Based on the information they gather, if enough evidence is found, the site will be recommended for recovery and excavation.

Until They Are Home

Recovery missions usually take between 35 and 60 days average, depending on the location, terrain and nature of the recovery. Between 10 and 14 personnel make up the typical recovery team. A military officer serves as team leader and is responsible for the safety of the personnel and for logistical details. A forensic anthropologist from CIL directs the actual evidence-gathering effort, aided by a linguist, medic, life support technician, forensic photographer, explosive ordinance disposal specialist and other personnel whose skill sets match the specific mission, such as divers and mountaineering specialists.

The forensic anthropologist directs the excavation much like a detective oversees a crime scene: a site grid is established and a pedestrian survey of the surface area is conducted. Once a grid has been laid out, excavation begins. One or two Americans, assisted by local workers, begin filling buckets with debris and passing them along a “bucket line” to a screening station where anything that is not a rock or a stick will go into a separate bucket for special inspection by the forensic anthropologist and team leader later that day.

Excavation sites can be as small as a grave site or as large as a football field in the case of an aircraft crash. JPAC personnel travel to remote and sometimes dangerous locations all over the world, requiring JPAC administrators to work closely with foreign governments to assure the safety of their teams.

Once remains have been successfully recovered, they are flown by military aircraft to Hickam Air Force Base, where a formal arrival ceremony honors those who have paid the supreme sacrifice in service to their country. Then begins the final step in the long process as JPAC laboratory staff work to identify the remains.

Until They Are Home

Over 50 scientists make up the JPAC laboratory staff, including forensic anthropologists, forensic dentists, aircraft wreckage specialists and various support people.

Remains are assigned to a forensic anthropologist who “works in the blind” without any information about where the remains were recovered or the circumstances surrounding them, thus eliminating any possible bias in their analysis.

They begin by identifying the sex, age, race and stature of the individual. They look for any indications of trauma or illness that might aid in identifying the remains. An individual’s dental records are often the best way to ID the service member.

Uniforms, weapons and personal effects gathered from the site provide important clues. Dog tags are key, but often they are missing, and even if they are found, a positive ID is made only when all types of evidence gathered point to the same individual.

Once a positive identification has been made, any personal items recovered, such as wedding rings, photographs, letters and such are returned to the family.

In approximately 70 percent of cases, the final step in the ID process is DNA analysis. For this, attention is focused on Mitochondrial DNA from the mother, which is inherited just from the mother, as opposed to nuclear DNA which comes from both parents.

Until They Are Home

JPAC’s biggest challenge in completing its work successfully is the lack of reference samples of Mitochondrial DNA from family members of those who are still unaccounted for. This is where our readers can help.

If any of you know of a family member who was lost while serving in the U.S; military, no matter how long ago or in which conflict, JPAC encourages you to contact the MIA Service Casualty Office to ensure that a DNA reference sample is on file for that service member. Your action could prove to be key in bringing a lost family member home.

Almost 90,000 service members remain lost. The remains of many have been recovered but not yet identified. JPAC has an open file for every known MIA in U.S. military history, dating back over a century. No file is ever closed until the lost service member has been found, positively identified and brought home to rest. Unresolved cases are kept open in the hope that new evidence will be found or new technologies will be developed that will someday make identification possible.

Until They Are Home

This is an on-going tradition with full support from the U.S. military. People around the world marvel when they learn from JPAC team members that such an effort is maintained.

An officer serving in JPAC describes it best: “JPAC is here to bring our fallen servicemen home. I can’t think of a more noble mission. I can’t think of a more comforting mission to know that, if tragedy strikes and I’m lost, that I know that someone’s going to come find me and bring me home.”

Or, as the head of JPAC’s CIL once said, “You know, people ask why this is important. It’s important because this country sent men in harm’s way, and made them a promise. And that the promise was that they’d be returned. And it’s not a promise made by a government. It’s a promise made by an individual. Each one of these men was somebody’s father, they were somebody’s brother, they were somebody’s husband, and all of us are those things. We’re fathers and husbands and brothers and wives and sisters. That’s who makes the promise. We make the promise to them, one father to another, one brother to another, one husband to another, and it’s a promise that we’re determined to keep.”

To date, over 1,300 service members have been recovered, identified and returned to their families. The men and women of JPAC have pledged to continue their mission until everyone is accounted for”—“Until they are home.”

For more information, please visit www.jpac.pacom.mil.