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

Do you know the true value of a billion? It is equal to a thousand millions. In other words, if you happen to be a billionaire you can spend a million riyals every month for 83 years and end up with four million riyals left in your pocket. Phew, a billion goes a long way.

It goes without saying that any billion-riyal project is surely a mega project. Having understood the value of billion riyals, it would be easy to realize the importance of a project worth SR286 billion. In other words, we are talking about more than a quarter of a trillion. And yes, there are reports about such a mega project that will help Saudis to do things in a particular way to achieve impressive results. In the business world, consultation firms or consultants are very common.

Just a few days ago, Saudi columnist Barjas Albarjas wrote in the Saudi daily Al-Watan that a special project had been designed for the effective implementation of the five-year National Transformation Initiatives. Global giants like McKinsey are eyeing the project.

As per reports in the Saudi newspapers, the idea of hiring any consultation firm is yet to materialize and has not moved beyond the brainstorming phase. Most of the points in the national transformation plan are all leading initiatives for ministries and their associated departments. All this can be done much cheaper without the involvement of foreign companies. The amount of money spent every year can be utilized in direct projects that will improve the infrastructure in the Kingdom. We are talking about a quarter of a trillion riyals that will be spent in five years just to show us the way of doing things better and to pave the best way for a ministry to conduct its business. I have read many things about this consultation project but I found it difficult to understand the idea.

We are preparing the country for a very ambitious plan that will take Saudi Arabia to new levels of development and to reduce the country’s dependence on oil income. So, it is very important to see tangible results when initiating a mega project. When a project of this size is initiated, it is important to see and calculate how many jobs it will create, its effects on the environment and its long-term effects on the economy.

More funds should be allocated to train Saudis to run and manage mega projects. In addition, there is a need to train the Saudi youth in the science of funds management. There are many ways to cut expenditures without any negative effects on these projects. We have built government buildings, mosques, airports and other high-rise buildings with high ceilings that require a lot of energy to cool down in a country with long and hot summers with temperatures reaching more than 45 degrees Celsius. We are used to constructing palatial government offices that need huge funds for general maintenance. We should devise ways to cut down these unnecessary expenses.

Written by Abdulateef Al-Mulhim. A stitch in time Saves Nine reprinted with permission of Arab News and Abdulateef Al-Mulhim.