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.


Putin welcomes Saudi delegation at St. Petersburg cultural forum

Updated 18 November 2018
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Putin welcomes Saudi delegation at St. Petersburg cultural forum

JEDDAH: Russian President Vladimir Putin warmly welcomed Saudi Arabia’s delegation to the 7th St. Petersburg International Cultural Forum as one of the main guest countries attending the annual event.
The delegation was headed by Saudi Minister of Culture, Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan, who posted a selfie with Putin on his Twitter account.
“We responded to the invitation from our friends in Russia to participate in the St. Petersburg cultural forum, and it was an opportunity to meet with officials to promote cultural cooperation,” the post said.


The forum, which ran from Nov. 15-17, was held under the theme “Culture as a Strategic Potential of the Country,” was attended by visitors from 101 countries.
Opening the forum, the Russian president expressed hope that the event would develop fruitful dialogue between society and the state.
Putin said the forum gives others a chance to get to know Russia more closely, stressed that “what distinguishes his country is the diversity of languages and traditions.”
During the visit the Saudi minister held talks with the Russian president on the sidelines of the event.
He also met his Italian counterpart, Alberto Bonisoli, on the sidelines of the forum to discuss areas of joint cooperation between the two countries and means of enhancing Saudi-Italian cultural relations.
“I was delighted to meet with the Italian Minister of Culture and we have many opportunities for a future of strong cooperation between the two countries,” Prince Badr tweeted.

Bonisoli said that culture is “a means of communication” for politics, even when serious international crises occur.
“If there are problems between two or more countries, according to their positions, culture is still a way to convey the messages of partnerships, communities, politicians, and sometimes to promote fundamental values,” he added.
The St. Petersburg International Cultural Forum annually attracts thousands of experts in the field of culture from all over the world.
Stars of theater, opera and ballet, renowned directors and musicians, public figures, representatives of and academic communities, all attend the event.
The year’s program includes 14 pavilions, including museums, circuses, theaters, cinema, literature, tourism, folklore and popular culture.