For more than a decade, the Saudi budget is witnessing an ascending growth, combined with an increase in expenditure and decrease in the national debt, to an extent that we may say the kingdom is at its best times ever, financially. But, to date, nobody managed to reveal the hidden secret: why don’t these astronomical numbers reflect in the Saudis’ daily life?
The expectations of the Saudi citizen are not limited to seeing a direct increase in his income, but he could settle for less, like in witnessing change indirectly through education or health or roads, or any other public services, but it seems that the citizens are not feeling it, and this is what was envisioned by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques when he announced yesterday the State’s Budget, as he said to the ministers and officials: “you have no excuse, anymore, to any shortcoming or lax or neglect, and you should know that you are all responsible before Allah, Almighty, then before us, for any underperformance that might bring harm to the State’s strategy,” and this is an important message to each of the officials that their ministries are enjoying a historic moment, in which all their needs are met. Therefore, doesn’t the citizen have the right to benefit from the fruits of this budget by seeing his needs met as well?
One must admit that there is a huge gap between the achievements of the budget every year and the citizens’ aspirations; the government allocates a historic state’s budget year after another, and the ministers consider that they achieved their duties, according to their own vision of course, while the citizen don’t see the fruits of these astronomical figures, except mere number on the books.
I believe that the ministers themselves have the biggest responsibility for this situation, how? The King says that every minister and official has to go public and explain through the media, all issues and achievements related to his ministry or area of responsibility. Although this is an obvious role for any minister, yet we don’t see any minister doing it, except for the minister of finance. What’s wrong if every minister gives a full budget breakdown of the achievements of his ministry, and what it failed to achieve, the value of what was executed and the value of what wasn’t or is on the way of being executed, as well as the ministry’s plan to execute the government’s strategy for next year… Then I am sure that a big part of this gap will be filled, as transparency by itself is fair enough to clarify what’s so mysterious that some might classify it as a State’s secret. It has never helped any minister to hide facts from the citizens, as knowing these facts is every citizen’s right, and are not meant to remain in locked drawers.
Let’s all remember that the Oil boom will not remain forever, and that the growth in the State’s Budget might stop or decrease one day, then all of these trillions registered on paper in the previous budgets will not help the common subject. What the citizen really wants was echoed in the king’s address to the officials: “work hard and with loyalty, to execute this budget in the best possible way, in order to guarantee the comfort and the welfare of the Saudis in all walks of life.”
(Salman Al-Dosary is the Editor-in-Chief of Al-Eqtisadiah Saudi business daily where this article was originally published in Arabic. Original article can be read here http://www.aleqt.com/2012/12/30/article_720868.html and Salman can be reached on @SalmanAlDosary on Twitter and email@example.com by email)