Editorial: New visa regime a practical move

Updated 12 August 2016

Editorial: New visa regime a practical move

A range of important regulatory changes has been made by the Council of Ministers. Under the chairmanship of Vice Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Prince Mohammed bin Naif, decisions were made that reflect the reality and are based on a pragmatic approach. The Kingdom will pay the SR2,000 visa fee for those coming for Umrah and Haj for the first time.
This move serves two purposes. It discourages those who make multiple pilgrimages. It therefore creates room for others to make the obligatory Haj. It also ensures that those who come for Haj more than once are able to support themselves.
The decision has been welcomed. The ambassadors from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka were among the first to appreciate the move.
There have also been important changes to the exit, entry, transit and other visitor fees. These are designed to boost the continued growth of economic diversification. The German ambassador stressed their significance. He hoped they would ease business between the Kingdom and its international trading partners.
The changes are part of the drive to improve the quality of official services. This includes the growth of e-government. Saudi Arabia already scores highly in terms of the regulations to set up businesses. But the government knows that local companies are operating in a competitive regional and global environment. Quality official support is essential. Improvement is not a single stride. It is a continuous process. There are always new efficiencies to be found. There are always better ways to implement them.
The Council of Ministers has also given local government a stronger income base. New fees will fund improvements in its services. These range from e-government to waste recycling. Environmental health schemes will boost health in cities. Ecologically-friendly parks and playgrounds will be added to the existing gardens and recreational open spaces.
Such developments will be part of a new national urban planning system. Municipalities will be able to learn from each other. The emphasis will be on following the best-in-class. And where local government seems to be getting it wrong, citizens will have swifter remedies. A new online platform is being established. This will not simply host complaints. It is also going to be a place where people can offer ideas for improvements or completely new services.
All of this is highly positive. But the Council of Ministers also addressed one of the great negatives of daily life. The Kingdom’s roads are among the most dangerous in the world. This is in part to do with the selfish and inconsiderate behavior of far too many motorists. But drivers do not come more selfish and inconsiderate than young drifters.
Illegal organized events where young people defy traffic cops and perform dangerous stunts on public roads often end in death and injury. They are unacceptable crimes. They cause the loss of innocent lives. The police struggle to deal with them. The youths post guards to warn of their approach. Participants then scatter. And worse, when the motorized hooligans were caught, the fines were too small to matter. Confiscation of vehicles was rare.
All this has now changed. The Council of Ministers has decreed that first time offenders will be fined SR20,000. Their vehicles will be impounded until the fine is paid. The fine doubles for second time offenders and rises to SR60,000 if a young man is caught for a third time. Of equal importance is the likelihood that drifters will be referred to a special court which could send them to prison. Vehicles can be seized permanently. If the offender is using a rented or stolen automobile, the fine will be increased to cover the value of that car.
These tough measures were overdue. As with the introduction of Saher speed cameras there will be protests. But unlike the speed cameras, there will be less chance of getting around the new anti-drifter regulations. In the short-term, some young tearaways may see the new rules as adding spice to their dangerous pastime. But once drifters have seen to feel the full force of the law, attitudes will change.
The mystery is that properly-staged drifting tournaments have not caught on. Many young drivers display high levels of skill. Those who enjoy watching automobiles skidding round and round could do so from secure platforms on designated sites. But of course the illegality and danger are part of the thrill. Now however, those who take part and risk the lives of spectators and other motorists are about to discover that there is an extremely high price to be paid for their dangerous selfishness.

Editorial: Iran must not go unpunished

Updated 16 May 2019

Editorial: Iran must not go unpunished

  • Arab News argues that while war is always a last resort, an international response is a must to curb Iranian meddling
  • US strikes worked well when Assad used chemical weapons against his people

The attacks on Tuesday by armed drones on Saudi oil-pumping stations, and two days beforehand on oil tankers off the coast of Fujairah in the UAE, represent a serious escalation on the part of Iran and its proxies, should the initial conclusions of an international investigation prove to be accurate. 

Riyadh has constantly warned world leaders of the dangers that Iran poses, not only to Saudi Arabia and the region, but also to the entire world. This is something former President Obama did not realize until the Iran-backed Houthis attacked the US Navy three times in late 2016. The recent attacks on oil tankers and oil pipelines were aimed at subverting the world economy by hitting directly at the lifeline of today’s world of commerce. Tehran should not get away with any more intimidation, or be allowed to threaten global stability. 

It was in 2008 that the late King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz called upon the US to “cut off the head of the snake,” in reference to the malign activities of Iran. Nearly a decade later, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman referred to Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as the “new Hitler of the Middle East.” We are in 2019 and Iran continues to wreak havoc in the region, both directly and through its well armed proxies. Crown Prince Mohammed was therefore clearly correct when he argued that appeasement does not work with the Iranian regime, just as it did not work with Hitler. The next logical step — in this newspaper’s view — should be surgical strikes. The US has set a precedent, and it had a telling effect: The Trump strikes on Syria when the Assad regime used Sarin gas against its people.

We argue this because it is clear that sanctions are not sending the right message. If the Iranian regime were not too used to getting away with their crimes, they would have taken up the offer from President Trump to get on the phone and call him in order to reach a deal that would be in the best interests of the Iranian people themselves. As the two recent attacks indicate, the Iranians insist on disrupting the flow of energy around the world, putting the lives of babies in incubators at risk, threatening hospitals and airports, attacking civilian ships and putting innocent lives in danger. As the case always is with the Iranian leadership, they bury their heads in the sand and pretend that they have done nothing. Nevertheless, investigations indicate that they were behind the attack on our brothers in the UAE while their Houthi militias targeted the Saudi pipelines.

Our point of view is that they must be hit hard. They need to be shown that the circumstances are now different. We call for a decisive, punitive reaction to what happened so that Iran knows that every single move they make will have consequences. The time has come for Iran not only to curb its nuclear weapon ambitions — again in the world’s interest — but also for the world to ensure that they do not have the means to support their terror networks across the region. 

We respect the wise and calm approach of politicians and diplomats calling for investigations to be completed and all other options to be exhausted before heading to war. In the considered view of this newspaper, there has to be deterrent and punitive action in order for Iran to know that no sinister act will go unpunished; that action, in our opinion, should be a calculated surgical strike.