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The Tough Transition, Criticism

The Tough Transition, Criticism

Wednesday, 27 December, 2017 - 10:00
Abdulrahman Al-Rashed
Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is the former general manager of Al-Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine Al-Majalla. He is also a senior columnist in the daily newspapers Al-Madina and Al-Bilad.

It is not easy to promote an act in a hostile climate. It is even more difficult to persuade skeptic people who know us very well and think that it is impossible for this nation to change. This is how the Saudi desire to change is met outside the kingdom within different economic, media and political circles.

Naturally, they won't wait until the last minute to express their doubts and launch their judgments, because they have seen several experiences of failure. They have the right to do so, because judgment is always made based on the results. When the act is accomplished, this would be an enough promotion for itself.

I understand the doubt of think-tanks and media institutions, in which most of the development projects in developing countries start as electoral or national celebrations then become only novels. There are few successful stories such as South Korea and Singapore.

There are amazing ideas in the Saudi plan and huge promises that need to be believed by the nationals. As for those skeptics outside the kingdom, they consider them suspicious promises until they are true, and that’s fine.

The media outside is in its nature doubtful and can’t be easily convinced that a country such as Saudi Arabia or other states in the Middle East can rid their near past and move into a new state capable of creating and working towards what is often viewed as contradictory. Doubts should push us to insist on transition and development – a tough mission but not impossible, though.

The new decisions in correcting prices, real prices without subsidies, are not easy. Very few actually believed that the government is willing to take this political risk, but it did. Subsidies policies might originally be a temporary need but when they last they undermine the economy.

In the past, they were easy political solutions to tackle urgent conditions. As time went by, these subsidies remained active and the government did not dare change them.

Healthy economies are those that don’t survive by the government support, and become capable of finding greater job opportunities, higher incomes and are less prone to danger. Reaching this advanced stage requires tough steps, and this is what pushes most analysts and media personnel to doubt the economic correction proposals. Some of the questions they ask are: Can they walk till the end of the path and bear the social, economic and political risks?

It is clear that politicians prefer to satisfy citizens through subsidies, but this doesn’t fall in their interest. A day will come when decision-makers will fail to provide jobs, wages and services. This is not a lecturing or a pessimist intellect but facts that can be concluded from our condition if unchanged.

Subsidy cuts on commodities’ prices may not please many, however, this concerns their future and their children’s. Even if oil prices increase again and no matter how much governmental revenues increase as a result, resorting to the subsidy policy and to a rentier economy doesn’t serve citizens’ interest or the country’s future.

The aim is to build a future that protects generations via relying as less as possible on oil revenues and on government’s support.

The world only respects superior states. The media will only end its mockery when it sees that these countries are capable of proving themselves. Once these countries succeed, they will care less about their image and others’ standpoints.

Skeptic economists think these ideas do not suit our society and are unachievable in a culture that relies on oil revenues. We understand these doubts.

Change is difficult because a major part of it is based on developing the society and individual not just on developing modern cities and importing advanced technologies. Everything we know needs to change; such as education. New concepts must be introduced and this is more difficult than we think.

The final aim is for the society to exit the cocoon it’s been living in – to no longer be a burden on the government and to stop relying on the revenues of a single product which is governed by the market fluctuations and technological development.

This is a transitional phase with a 12-year duration. We must view it as a state of emergency that requires both parties’ – i.e. the government and citizens – endurance and perseverance.

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