Anti-graft committee will ‘create new era of financial transparency’ in KSA

This file photo taken on December 14, 2016 shows a Saudi investor walking past the stock exchange monitors at the Saudi Stock Exchange, or Tadawul, in the capital Riyadh. (AFP)
Updated 06 November 2017
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Anti-graft committee will ‘create new era of financial transparency’ in KSA

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s new super-committee to fight corruption will give confidence to investors, protect public funds and create a new era of financial transparency, government ministers and experts said on Sunday.

The committee would enforce anti-corruption regulations within the rule of law and to international standards, said Mohammed Al-Jadaan, the minister of finance.

Its work would “consolidate the reform approach adopted by the government to eradicate corruption and consolidate the principles of governance, accountability and justice,” he said.

“This enhances confidence in the business environment and investment in the Kingdom, achieves fair competition among investors, and contributes to development in accordance with best international practice.”

Saudi Arabia was launching a new era of transparency, clarity, accountability and commitment to citizens and the international community in combating corruption, Al-Jadaan said, and would not tolerate or condone any violations of local or global business standards.

“There will be no privileges or exceptions for any investor in order to provide a fair and transparent investment environment based on merit, not nepotism and favoritism. This will provide a healthy and attractive environment to investment, and accelerate the pace of national transformation to achieve the aspirations of Vision 2030.”

Culture and Information Minister Awwad bin Saleh Al-Awwad said King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman were keen to protect public money and eradicate corruption, which was a deterrent to the economy and society. The creation of the committee, led by the crown prince, was a shift in transparency, accountability and governance to produce a healthy environment attractive to investment.

Al-Awwad said that the fight against corruption would achieve social justice and consolidate the values of integrity, justice and equality in society. It would safeguard public funds and punish corrupt people and those who exploit their positions, and establish the state’s management style based on integrity, honesty and sincerity.

Reuters news agency reported that among those detained in the new committee’s investigations were Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, chairman of Kingdom Holding; former Finance Minister Ibrahim Al-Assaf; former Economy and Planning Minister Adel Fakieh; former Riyadh Gov. Prince Turki bin Abdullah; Khaled Al-Tuwaijri, who headed the Royal Court under the late King Abdullah; Bakr bin Laden, chairman of Saudi Binladin Group; and Alwaleed Al-Ibrahim, owner of the MBC television network.

However, there has been no official statement as yet to confirm the details apart from local media reporting that a number of princes and businessmen were arrested on charges related to corruption and money laundering.

Sheikh Saud Al-Muajab, the attorney general and a member of the new committee, said: “The committee has initiated a number of investigations as part of the state’s judicial duty to combat corruption. The government of Saudi Arabia is undertaking these measures in accordance with its laws and regulations in a manner appropriate to the nature of the crimes.

“The suspects are being granted the same rights and treatment as any other Saudi citizen. A suspect’s position or status does not influence the firm and fair application of justice. During the investigation, all parties retain full legal privileges relating to their personal and private property, including funds.

“There is an independent judicial process under way, which will be fully respected. The establishment of the committee formalizes an ongoing process of existing investigations that needs to be concluded with due diligence and in accordance with the law. Everyone is presumed innocent until proven guilty, and everyone’s legal rights will be preserved.”

Ibrahim Al-Omar, governor of the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority, said the establishment of the committee was “a vital step in creating a fair and level playing field for all potential investors.” This was a clear sign that Saudi Arabia was ready to protect companies’ and individuals’ investments from legally reprehensible actions, he said.

“Such policies are internationally accepted norms that will positively impact the country’s overall economic well-being. It should be noted that the anti-corruption committee is only one element of Vision 2030’s policy roadmap for the development of the Kingdom’s society and economy.”

The General Secretariat of the Council of Senior Scholars said it placed a high value on the establishment of the committee, identifying people who commit crimes and holding them accountable. It said the committee’s creation was another wise decision by King Salman in the public interest.


How Saudi women are getting ahead of men as STEM graduates

Dr. Fatima Alakeel, cybersecurity expert. (AN photo)
Updated 20 March 2019
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How Saudi women are getting ahead of men as STEM graduates

  • ‘Securing a job after the degree remains the challenge,’ says Dr. Fatema Alakeel of King Saud University in Riyadh
  • ‘Saudi women are ambitious,’ says one graduate. ‘We are acquiring high degrees and seeking successful careers’

DUBAI: More and more girls in Saudi Arabia are opting for an education in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM), and now the challenge is finding them employment, said Dr. Fatima Alakeel, a cybersecurity expert and faculty member at King Saud University (KSU) in Riyadh.
“In the Kingdom, STEM-related jobs are limited at the moment, as the economy is primarily oil-based and there are few technical jobs available,” said Alakeel, who is also the founder and CEO of the non-profit Confidentiality, Integrity & Availability Group (CIAG), which focuses on information security training and research in Riyadh.
According to a government report on the labor market situation in the third quarter of 2018, more than 30 percent of Saudi women aged between 15 and 65 are unemployed.
Among them, the highest rate of unemployment is among 20-24-year-olds (more than 70 percent) and among 25-29-year-olds (55 percent).
According to the report, there are 923,504 Saudi jobseekers, of whom 765,378 are women (82.2 percent).
“We have more girls in STEM education compared to Western countries,” said Alakeel, who completed her doctoral degree in computer science in the UK at the University of Southampton in 2017.
According to a report prepared by the Saudi Education Ministry, girls accounted for 57 percent of undergraduates for the year 2015-2016 in the Kingdom.
That same year, women outnumbered men in graduating with a bachelor’s in biology, information technology (IT), mathematics and statistics, and physics.
According to a survey Alakeel recently conducted on social media, “almost 80 percent of (Saudi) girls were keen to study STEM, but securing a job after the degree remains the challenge,” she said.
Maha Al-Taleb, 22, graduated earlier this year with a degree in technology from KSU, specializing in IT networks and security.
“It’s common for girls in the Kingdom to opt for STEM education,” said Al-Taleb, who now works in a public sector company in Riyadh as a junior information security analyst.
“Saudi women are ambitious. We’re acquiring high degrees and seeking successful careers. I don’t know why the world assumes that Saudi women are a backward tribal species who have no say in these matters. This entire perception is flawed.”
Al-Taleb got a job offer immediately after university, but realizes that not all her peers are as fortunate. Women “are facing problems in securing jobs, not because companies don’t want to hire us, but because employment for Saudi youths is a major challenge,” she said.
“In today’s Saudi Arabia, parents are encouraging their daughters to get a degree not just in the Kingdom; they also want them to go to Western universities. It has become a common phenomenon. Things have changed. Women are a crucial part of the nation’s development process.”
Not all women graduating in the Kingdom are as lucky, among them Razan Al-Qahtani. “It has been several months since I graduated, yet I haven’t been able to find a job. It has been a struggle so far,” said the 25-year-old IT graduate. “We have more talented and qualified girls, especially in the field of technology, but there are few jobs available. It’s a difficult situation, but we’re hopeful things will change very soon.”
Al-Qahtani expressed confidence that the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 reform plan will bring opportunities for qualified Saudis.
As part of Vision 2030, the government has committed to raise employment among Saudi women.
Alakeel said the government is working hard to find a solution, and it is only a matter of time until more such jobs are on offer.
“As per Vision 2030, there will be more jobs, including technical jobs, available in the country. Once we have more jobs, women will eventually get their due share,” she added. According to Alakeel, female empowerment and promotion to leading roles have made huge progress in Saudi Arabia, and this may affect existing STEM job opportunities.
“We’re glad to see Her Royal Highness Princess Reema bint Bandar Al-Saud becoming the first female ambassador of the country. It only suggests change is on the way,” Alakeel said.
Al-Taleb expressed pride in the way her parents have supported her, saying: “My father isn’t educated and my mother has basic literacy, but both provided me with the education I desired. They want their daughters to be as successful as their sons.”
Like women in any country, the transition from university to the workplace is not always easy, even for young Saudi women with technology degrees. Yet they are not losing hope.
“We realize these are difficult times in terms of employment, especially in technology-related fields, but things will change,” Al-Taleb said. “Saudi women will soon be ruling the fields of STEM all over the country.”