Saudi Arabia’s corruption crackdown strengthens economic growth


Saudi Arabia’s corruption crackdown strengthens economic growth

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As Saudi Arabia diversifies its economy and introduces reforms in almost all spheres of life, it is taking its fight against corruption very seriously.
In 2017, a committee was formed under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to root out corruption and help the Kingdom realize its true economic potential.
The committee was empowered to investigate graft accusations and cases, issue arrest warrants, impose travel bans on suspects, disclose and freeze bank accounts, probe money trails and assets, and prevent their transfer.
In 2019, the committee completed its task with an estimated value of settlement amounts exceeding SR400 billion ($107 billion), in addition to confiscating assets, such as real estate and stocks.
Recently, the Oversight and Anti-corruption Commission, commonly known as Nazaha, arrested 282 individuals, including citizens and residents, over alleged involvement in corruption cases.
Suspects included employees of several ministries who were charged with bribery, abuse of power and forgery. The arrests were made after investigations into the alleged role of 748 people in corruption scandals.
The Court of Appeals convicted 24 defendants, both citizens and residents, on charges related to money laundering involving about SR17 billion ($4.5 billion).
Nazaha and other government agencies, such as the Saudi Arabia Financial Investigation Unit, have played a remarkable role in cracking down on financial and economic crimes that could cause severe damage to the national economy. In a recent TV interview, the crown prince indicated that corruption in the past consumed 5-15 percent of the state budget.
According to a World Bank report, bribery is costing the world about $1 trillion, which could be used for people in need in all countries.
In addition to its negative impact on the economy, corruption causes other damage, such as eroding trust in public sector services and wasting public funds earmarked for important community and infrastructure projects. This means that the public has to put up with poor quality government projects and services. Likewise, corruption causes social injustice and political unrest.
The Kingdom has realized the threat corruption poses to the economy and to society, and has employed technology to a great extent in providing public services without the need for contact with humans. Absher, as an electronic platform, is a good example in providing online public services around the clock. The platform has 21 million subscribers and offers more than 200 electronic services.
The Expenditure and Projects Efficiency Authority also aims to achieve spending efficiency in government agencies, and improve the quality of projects, assets, facilities, infrastructure planning, programs, initiatives and operational processes financed from the state’s general budget.
Saudi Arabia’s serious efforts to combat corruption have resulted in an improved ranking of 51 out of 180 countries in the Transparency International’s 2019 Corruption Perceptions Index.

• Talat Zaki Hafiz is an economist and financial analyst. Twitter: @TalatHafiz

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