World Bank official: Saudi fight against corruption ‘important for development’

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Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is spearheading an ambitious reform plan for Saudi Arabia. (Reuters)
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Hafez Ghanem, the vice president of the World Bank for the Middle East and North Africa, said the first step for fighting corruption was to ensure transparency. (Reuters)
Updated 12 November 2017
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World Bank official: Saudi fight against corruption ‘important for development’

LONDON: Fighting corruption is key to Saudi Arabia’s development, a senior World Bank official said as he welcomed the raft of reforms underway in the Kingdom.
Hafez Ghanem, vice president of the World Bank for the Middle East and North Africa, told Arab News that anti-corruption drives were important to a country’s future development.
“Fighting corruption is important for development, it is an important part of the Vision 2030,” he said, making reference to the ambitious reform plan spearheaded by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Areas in which the World Bank has worked with Saudi Arabia include transparency of procurement systems.
“The first step for fighting corruption is to ensure transparency; if you’re going to fight corruption you have to have a transparent system — people should be able to see what is going on. So we work with the government of Saudi Arabia on its budget system to make sure that it is transparent,” he said.
“It is very important also to work on the public procurement system, to make sure (it is run) in a transparent way and also in a competitive way. And there is a level playing field.”
Ghanem said the World Bank had been providing an increasing level of technical assistance in support of the Vision 2030 plan.
“We provide support to the social sectors — education, health, labor, social protection and so on. We provide support to sustainable development and infrastructure support, to economic management and fiscal policy and also we provide support to capacity building to improve accountability and fight corruption.
“From our position this entire Vision 2030 reform program is very ambitious, very dynamic, very important … we at the World Bank are strongly supportive of it.”
Ghanem praised the “exciting” Vision 2030 plan and pointed to the speedy pace of reforms in the Kingdom.
“One important indicator is what we call the ‘Doing Business’ indicators that the World Bank publishes every year and the one that we just published two weeks ago showed that Saudi Arabia is among the top 20 reformers in the world and the second best reformer among high income and G-20 countries,” he said.
“It shows the speed of change which is really commendable. Given from where Saudi Arabia started, that is an amazing outcome.”
The Kingdom has embarked on a wide anti-corruption drive, with 208 individuals having been called in for questioning, as authorities said at least $100 billion of funds have allegedly been misused. Seven of those individuals were later released.
Ghanem declined to comment on ongoing legal proceedings or specific cases in the Kingdom.


Hollywood star Cuba Gooding Jr. shares career at Saudi Film Festival

Updated 26 March 2019
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Hollywood star Cuba Gooding Jr. shares career at Saudi Film Festival

  • He said he hopes to support Saudi filmmakers through his recently launched production company
  • The festival, at Ithra, is part of the Sharqiah Season in the Eastern Province

DHAHRAN: Oscar-winning actor Cuba Gooding Jr. talked about his experiences in Hollywood, and the challenges he has faced during his career, when he appeared on Monday night at the fifth Saudi Film Festival, which is part of the Sharqiah Season in the Eastern Province.
Known for his roles in movies such as “Men of Honor”, “A Few Good Men” and “American Crime Story,” among others, he has appeared in more than 85 films during a 30-year career on screen and stage. He won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his performance in the 1996 film “Jerry Maguire,” alongside Tom Cruise and Renee Zellweger.
Gooding Jr. arrived for the event, at the King Abdul Aziz World Center for Culture (Ithra), accompanied by Claudine De Niro, the estranged wife of actor Robert De Niro’s son, Raphael. They were greeted by renowned Saudi film producer and Hollywood businessman Mohammed Al-Turki.
Gooding Jr. spoke to the audience at Ithra for almost 60 minutes about his long career and the challenges and pitfalls he had experienced on the road to success in the film industry. He also offered some advice to anyone interested in following in his footsteps.
“No one prepares you for success,” he said. “That’s why you see a lot of actors that star in movies, then disappear. Or you see athletes that make a $100 million and then they disappear, too. They weren’t ready for it.
“You have to envision yourself standing on that stage, holding an Oscar over your head, saying, ‘This is for the Middle-East’. You have to envision the script that you will write and envision being on that stage, holding that Oscar.
“People asked me after I won that Academy Award if I ever thought I would be on that stage. I always said, ‘Not in a million years.’ But that’s a lie. You have to envision yourself on that stage, winning that award, so that when you succeed it will feel normal, not like it’s something special, so that you can do it again.”
The actor also said that he intends to support filmmakers from Saudi Arabia and other countries through his recently launched production company.
Asked if he had any projects planned in the region, and Saudi Arabia in particular, he said: “I do, actually. I have a couple of things. I don’t want to give it away but let’s just say that there is a lot of great literature that I’ve read, a lot of different books, including Arabian Nights. It’s hard to talk about the things in development because you don’t want to give it away but there is definitely something in development.”