Saudi plans to overcome challenges welcomed

Updated 10 January 2016

Saudi plans to overcome challenges welcomed

RIYADH: The Kingdom’s domestic and foreign policies outlined this week to meet economic and political challenges were welcomed by a broad spectrum of citizens, expatriates and experts on Friday.

The priorities of the government were unveiled by Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, second deputy premier and defense minister, in a wide-ranging interview published by The Economist magazine on Thursday.
Saudi Arabia’s plans for its economy amid dropping oil prices and tackling conflicts in the Middle East, including its gains to restore the legitimate government in Yemen, made headlines in the Kingdom and abroad, including on social networking sites.
The deputy crown prince had ruled out a war with Iran because it would be “catastrophic”; spelled out plans to diversify state income with various measures including the possibility of certain taxes and making Saudi Aramco public and launching job creation initiatives for citizens.
Mosad Al-Zayani, a Dubai-based Saudi journalist, said the Kingdom’s approach to Iran showed it was committed to stability in the region. He welcomed the economic initiatives outlined, including the move to shun dependence on oil revenues and the proposed Aramco privatization.

Mohsin Sheikh Al-Hassan, an author and public relations expert, praised the government for not wanting a war with Iran, but said Tehran must be “taught a lesson” for its destabilizing tactics with a boycott of its products.
He said the Kingdom’s exports stood at SR400 million to Tehran, whereas its imports amounted to SR685 million. “This has to be stopped because we can import these Iranian goods from other friendly countries,” he said.
Zakir Aazmi, an Indian expatriate and author, praised the deputy crown prince for dealing with every important policy area of the government, which he said reflects his “dynamic, visionary and energetic leadership.”
Naif Al-Rashid said the deputy crown prince had outlined initiatives that would ensure the country can effectively face up to political, social and economic challenges. “It is good that Aramco, linchpin of the oil market, goes public,” he said.
Seyed Hamid Moulana, a senior business executive, said it was clear that the government had an answer to all obstacles, including Iran’s “unnecessary” attempts to create tension in the region, and the fall in oil prices. He said he was “overwhelmed” by the analysis provided by the deputy crown prince.
In the interview, which was also translated into Arabic, the deputy crown prince had, in his capacity as head of the newly formed Council of Economic and Development Affairs, said the country was not facing an economic crisis.

Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province feels very American, says US consul general

US Consul General Rachna Korhonen finds the diwaniya and majlis culture of the Eastern Province fascinating. (Supplied)
Updated 25 February 2020

Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province feels very American, says US consul general

  • Saudi hospitality wins the heart of diplomat who considers Kingdom one of her favorite destinations

DAMMAM: The US consul general in Dhahran, Rachna Korhonen, lists the Kingdom as one of her favorite places and is in love with the local culture and traditions.

Working in the Kingdom since 2017, she has been impressed by the tremendous changes taking place in Saudi Arabia under Vision 2030.
Arab News caught up with Korhonen to discuss all things American and Saudi.
“As US Ambassador Abizaid has said, the US-Saudi partnership is more vital than ever, particularly as we confront regional security challenges and work hand-in-hand to achieve shared economic and political objectives.”
This relationship is strong and multifaceted, she said, adding: “We work together every day to promote prosperity and economic development, protect the security of our two countries, and build the people-to-people ties that keep our relationship strong.”
She said that a posting to Saudi Arabia was her first choice for an assignment.
“I did not know at the time that I would be the first woman to serve as the US consul general in Dhahran. I really wanted to learn about energy! I was pretty nervous and somewhat scared, but also excited and enthusiastic. I spent three years in Riyadh and some time in Kuwait and Iraq so I had a pretty good understanding of the region.”
Korhonen speaks highly of the Saudi hospitality and the way people welcomed her.
“I came (to the Kingdom) just before Eid Al-Adha. It is a tradition that the consul general makes Eid calls to visit prominent families. I was lucky enough to meet people from the very first moment I arrived. I have always made an effort to get to meet people at different occasions. Saudis have welcomed me into their homes, shared meals and traditions with me. I really have the best job in the best place at the best time,” she told Arab News.

Saudis have welcomed me into their homes, shared meals and traditions with me.

Rachna Korhonen, US consul general

Korhonen said she finds the diwaniya and majlis culture of the Eastern Province fascinating.
“I enjoy meeting new people and learning about what is happening in the Eastern Province. Diwaniyas are a great place to do that. I also love gahwa (Arabic coffee) and dates,” she said.
Korhonen said the Eastern Province feels very American to her. She thinks this is partly due to the close relationship enjoyed by the countries since the 1930s, which began with Aramco and also because thousands of Saudis from the Eastern Province have studied in the US.
Commenting on the social transformation in the Kingdom under Vision 2030, she said: “I still remember very well the first game I attended in Saudi Arabia. It was a very hot and humid day in August, but I wanted to be in attendance to show support for the Eastern Province teams. There was a big crowd and the energy in the stadium was amazing. At that game, I was the only woman in the family section. Now, it completely feels normal to see entire Saudi families in the stands. I could be anywhere in the world at a sporting event. It’s such a huge change.”
She told Arab News that “there have been no recent changes” in the US visa process, adding: “We have visa appointments most weeks from Sunday to Thursday. We encourage everyone interested in going to the US this summer to start thinking about applying now, since we expect demand will grow as we approach the summer season.
“We continue to look for ways to reduce the amount of time a person spends in our waiting room, the wait for visa appointments (especially for students), and the time it takes for someone to get their passport back with the visa.”
She said her favorite initiative that brings Saudis and Americans together is the International Leadership Program.
“The consulate also works with local Saudi partners to bring American athletes, musicians, entrepreneurs, artists and other experts to the Eastern Province to exchange ideas and explore ways to collaborate. Our EducationUSA office helps Saudi students who are interested in studying in the US learn about US universities, the admission process and how to prepare for their educational experience,” the consul general said.