According to figures issued by the Saudi Ministry of Finance, the state allocated a total of 2 trillion and 500 billion riyals for development projects from 2007 till 2012. This is a huge amount and hardly anyone can imagine the numerous benefits it would provide.
This money would cover the mountains, plains, and coasts of the kingdom. So, imagine what it would do for its development, beautification, and self-sufficiency.
These amounts, too hefty for a calculator to handle, could move mountains and turn deserts into fresh, cold water if properly utilized. So what was achieved on the ground in return for this unprecedented flow of funds? We need to stop a little and ask ourselves whether it was right in the first place to authorize such incredible budgets.
Countries do not solely develop with money. Of course, money is an important factor, but never the most important. Money does not create development or usher a country into the ranks of the first world.
The question is: are the projects implemented across the cities and streets of Saudi Arabia congruent with these amounts? In fact, a lot of countries do not have one tenth of those budgets and their streets and parks look more beautiful and their infrastructure more developed. In the 1980s, foreign companies were tasked with development since at the time national companies were not yet ready to embark on such ambitious projects. The results were astounding and we ranked first in the region. Now, pressing development projects are assigned to local corporations that do not have the minimum expertise required for such a massive undertaking.
Those involved in the planning of projects submitted by local municipalities are not efficient enough and are, in fact, incapable of offering a master plan for one city in the coming 10 or 20 years, one that develops it and caters to the needs of its people.
Therefore, we have huge amounts of money together with bad planners and worse executors. This is clearly reflected on all the Saudi cities.
If those amounts were actually spent, if the Ministry of Finance has the documents that prove so, if the results are what we see now, and if neither your life nor your education nor your health nor your job is getting any better, then the figures in the budget are not reflected on the ground.
(The writer is a columnist at al-Hayat, where this article was first published on Dec. 5, 2012.)