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Saudi Arabia: Damned if it acts against corruption, damned if it doesn’t

Recent events in Saudi Arabia have certainly shown how astonishingly imaginative — and incredibly misinformed — some self-proclaimed “experts” who appear in international media outlets can be.
I am not sure how some of these pundits can supply every possible explanation except the obvious one; and, in the case of this week’s corruption-related arrests, the correct one.
One of the most imaginative, and indeed false, hypotheses was that the rounding up of potentially corrupt princes and businessmen was part of an internal power struggle and a score-settling exercise.
This could not be any more outdated, or farther  away from the truth.
Anyone who has been following the developments in the Kingdom over the past few months should know by now that any power struggles previously in Saudi Arabia, if indeed there ever were any, were resolved earlier this year.
Indeed, anyone who understands who is who in Riyadh knows only too well that none of those arrested — whether royals or non-royals — has or would have had any political sway in the current climate whatsoever.

Some media outlets insist on covering Saudi Arabia in a negative way no matter what it does — be it allowing women to drive, announcing mega futuristic cities or going after potentially corrupt officials who may have abused their power and positions.

Faisal J. Abbas


More importantly, it is just mind-boggling that very few are noticing the obvious; which is that all of those being detained are incredibly wealthy.
Of course, while being rich is obviously not a crime in itself, it is often the exceptionally wealthy who are investigated for fraud and corruption. The wise — and correct — course of action is therefore to wait until the investigations are completed and the outcome is announced officially. Until then we should refrain from judging either the government, which is just doing its job, or the accused, who remain innocent unless proved guilty.
Nevertheless, some media outlets insist on covering Saudi Arabia in a negative way no matter what it does — be it allowing women to drive, announcing mega futuristic cities or going after potentially corrupt officials who may have abused their power and positions.
What was the newly formed supreme anti-corruption committee supposed to have done instead? Should it have rounded up the accused and cuddled them until those who are guilty finally  confessed?
Why is it acceptable for the Internal Revenue Service in the US, or the Serious Fraud Office in the UK, to go after tax evaders and corrupt businessmen, but this is frowned upon when Saudi Arabia does it?
However, let us acknowledge that the issue here is also the magnitude and the speed of what has occurred, given the context that this is indeed unprecedented in Saudi history.
On this point, and with all due respect to the pundits out there, “experts” analysing Saudi Arabia in previous decades had it too easy. We need to understand that the days when things took too long to happen — if they happened at all — are forever gone. The exciting part is that thanks to the ambitious reforms being implemented under Vision 2030, we are finally living in a country where anything can happen.

• Faisal J. Abbas is the editor in chief of Arab News.
Twitter: @FaisalJAbbas