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

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.


Saudi airports welcome back passengers after two-month hiatus

Updated 29 min 45 sec ago

Saudi airports welcome back passengers after two-month hiatus

  • Social distancing and face masks required in aircraft
  • Two local flights to be added daily to restore capacity 

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia is welcoming the return of aircraft and passengers amid strict precautionary measures to counter the spread of coronavirus.
The General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) on Sunday opened 11 of the Kingdom’s 28 airports in a step toward restoring normality to everyday activities.
All flights and means of travel between Saudi cities ground to a halt on March 21.
“The progressive and gradual reopening aims at controlling the crowd inside airports because we want to achieve the highest health efficiency,” GACA spokesman Ibrahim bin Abdullah Alrwosa told Arab News.
He said that two local flights would be added daily until all routes returned to their normal capacity, during which time GACA would increase the capacity of aircrafts as decided by relevant committees. 
GACA has issued a travel guide for passengers, detailing what steps have been taken by authorities to ensure public health and safety and what obligations are on passengers. 
A decision about the return of international flights was up to authorities, he said. 


“I call on all travelers, both Saudis and residents, to read this guide and to look at the information and details in it because the travel decision depends on it,” the spokesman added.
Passengers found to violate any of the terms and conditions will not be allowed to complete the check-in process as per the new travel procedures.
The new terms include the use of e-tickets and passengers will not be allowed to enter airport premises without one. Purchasing tickets inside airport grounds is currently not an option because booking services for airline sales are currently closed.
Wearing a face mask is a prerequisite for airport access and any individual who fails to wear a face mask will be denied entry to the airport.
Passengers under the age of 15 will not be allowed to travel unaccompanied.
The Ministry of Health has set up temperature checkpoints inside the airport and passengers recording a temperature of 38 degrees Celsius or higher will be denied entry in order to ensure their safety and the safety of other passengers.
Social distancing inside the airport has been adopted at entrances, exits, at seating areas and bridges leading to airplanes.
There will be social distancing on the aircraft, with an empty seat between each passenger, according to recommendations from the Ministry of Health, which stipulated that there must be social distancing.
“We want to make airports a safe environment to achieve a safe flight. There is another important issue, which is a well-known social tradition. There are many people at the airport who come to say goodbye to their loved ones or receive them. We will not allow the presence of people who do not have tickets in the airports, in order to ensure the safety of passengers,” said the GACA spokesman.
He said that passenger cooperation and compliance played a key role in the successful restart of flights.
“We rely on citizens and passengers, locals and residents alike, to help us implement preventive measures and to comply with the health rules recommended by the Ministry of Health.”