Prince Mohammed’s visit puts KSA on world stage

Updated 27 September 2016

Prince Mohammed’s visit puts KSA on world stage

THE success of the Far East visit of Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is clear. It culminated in his important participation in the G20 summit in Hangzhou. The Kingdom’s profile at this gathering was arguably its highest ever since the world’s 20 most powerful economies agreed in 2008 to consult regularly on the direction of world affairs.
The key to this standing were the ambitions of Vision 2030. Prince Mohammed had already presented in person the Vision to Americans and French. Before the G20 meeting, it was at the core of his visits to China and Japan. On the sidelines of the summit itself, the Vision was at the center of an intensive round of meetings. Between Saturday and Monday, Prince Mohammed and his party held 15 top level meetings lasting a total of 40 hours.
He met Russian President Vladimir Putin, US Secretary of State John Kerry and British Prime Minister Theresa May as well as Indian Premier Narendra Modi and Indonesian President Joko Widodo. The following day, the deputy crown prince had separate talks with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande, South Korean President Park Geun-hye, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, Brazilian President Michel Temer, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.
This schedule worked out at a meeting on average every two-and-a-half hours. The intervals were taken up by reviews of the previous talks and preparation for the next. This week the Cabinet has hailed what was accomplished. There is no doubt that all major economies now fully understand the immense ambitions of Vision 2030. They have been appraised of the commercial opportunities. They will be thinking how their country’s companies can contribute and profit.
The next 14 years are going to transform Saudi Arabia. It is already the region’s most powerful economy. The vigorous growth of the non-oil sector will boost that dominance. Existing exports include household consumables and dairy products. But the Kingdom’s manufacturing base will be expanded. The focus will be on high technology ranging from automotive to defense industries. Chinese and Japanese companies in these spheres have already inked, or are due to seal such deals. Firms from other countries are bound to follow. With each new manufacturing base comes the need for local ancillary and support industries. Therefore the new jobs for well-educated young Saudis will not simply be created in the new enterprise itself. Goods and services to be needed to underpin these jobs. Everything from publicity to transport and logistics will be required. In other advanced manufacturing economies, on average three external jobs are created for every new manufacturing job.
In China and Japan, Prince Mohammed and his delegation signed 24 deals. These do not just cover industrial projects. There has also been a focus on the environment. China has major pollution challenges. It is seeking direct and indirect technologies to clean up its environmental act, including improving water resources. The Kingdom is already tackling its own environmental challenges. It has considerable experience in water management. With a reduced dependence on oil and the expansion of state-of-the-art urban public transport systems Saudis can look forward to a pollution-free environment.
There is a difference between Chinese and Japanese firms when it comes to the Kingdom. Chinese firms are still feeling their way here. Japanese businesses understand Saudi Arabia well. Their major trading houses have long had executives on the ground. They have researched and analyzed business opportunities. They have done their homework. Tokyo also appreciates what it can achieve commercially. Thus when Japanese Premier Shinzo Abe told Prince Mohammed how much he admired Saudi Vision 2030, he knew what he was talking about.
But there is an extra dimension to Vision 2030 that will have been understood at the G20 summit. The Kingdom is on track to become a regional manufacturing hub. It is already a trusted supplier of oil, not least to Japan and China. Saudi Arabia’s economic power will have a political impact. It will boost the Kingdom’s regional and international influence. Until the deputy crown prince’s crucially important Far East visit, the links with Beijing and Tokyo had been relatively low level and largely trade-based. Now it has been made clear that Saudi Arabia wants to play a full role in the world. Equally, in order to fulfill the ambitions of Vision 2030, it wants the world to play a full role in Saudi Arabia.

EDITORIAL: Jeddah floods a reminder of why we need the anti-corruption drive

Saudi drivers take a flooded street in Jeddah on Tuesday. (AFP)
Updated 22 November 2017

EDITORIAL: Jeddah floods a reminder of why we need the anti-corruption drive

It has happened again. The roads, streets and many underpasses in Jeddah were flooded with rainwater on Tuesday. Many areas were turned into lakes because of the heavy, though forecast, downpour. In some areas, water was knee-deep while in others it was chest-deep. People were stuck in their vehicles and many were seen pushing their vehicles to the side of the roads with great difficulty. In low-lying areas, citizens struggled to remove their belongings from flooded houses.

For the residents of Jeddah, rain has, more often than not, brought trouble and devastation. Whenever the skies open up, thoughts go back to that “Black Wednesday” of November 25, 2009, when more than 100 people lost their lives and property worth billions of riyals was destroyed. An investigation was opened into the disaster and some of the guilty were taken to court and tried; some of the small fry were even jailed. As has been the case in the past, the mighty arm of the law could barely touch those at the top who enjoyed immunity from prosecution.

And so it was business as usual until the rain began to wreak havoc again, reminding us that the laws of nature take their course and that hiding your head in the sand does not chase the clouds away.

Having said that, it must be admitted that, yes, lessons were learned. A disaster management team was set up. The weather forecast department became active in issuing alerts. In fact, Tuesday could have been far worse had it not been for the timely alert from the Presidency of Meteorology and Environment (PME) and a prompt decision by the Ministry of Education to suspend classes, schools and universities in and around Jeddah. That helped in keeping people and vehicles off the streets. At noon on Tuesday, it looked as if the city were under some kind of curfew.

The questions that are on everyone's minds right now are: Why is it that rain renders the city helpless and immobile at this time every year? Why have efforts to create effective rainwater drainage systems not borne fruit despite pumping billions of riyals into new projects such as dams and canals? Why is it that the authorities are found wanting whenever heavy rain occurs? More importantly, what is the solution?

Here is the answer. These floods are a stark reminder of why the current drive against corruption is so essential. It is required in order to instill the fear of law into high-ranking officials and heads of construction companies and civic bodies who have failed in their responsibilities. Those who have cut corners and have pocketed public money, those who have not delivered on the projects and who have provided substandard services must pay for their sins of omission.

This is exactly what is happening. No one is above the law. The guilty, whoever they are, however high up they are, will have to pay — and they are. In this new era of transparency and accountability — initiated by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman — word has gone down from top to bottom that no one is immune. If you are guilty you will be punished. Those responsible for the havoc of the floods on Tuesday will have no rest either.