Saudi Arabia has announced a budget that projects total expenditure in 2013 of SR820 billion ($219 billion) and Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah has warned that there must be no excuses for negligence. In his speech to ministers and officials at the extraordinary session of the Council of Ministers convened to approve the state budget for fiscal year 1434/1435H, he said: “I say that there is no excuse for any negligence as of today. You have to know that you are also responsible before Allah Almighty and then before me for any negligence that harms the strategy of the State. Every minister or official should go to the media and explain in detail about his sector.”
The King said: “Our duty and responsibility have impelled us to look to the future to make a balance between the requirements of the current generation and future generations. This will be implemented through rational usage of the State’s resources together with the huge reserves saved over the past years.”
King Abdullah pointed out that the SR820 billion expenditure in the budget represents the continuation of spending on programs and projects for the development and progress of the country, providing more job opportunities for citizens and improving the services provided to them. “Manpower development and investment in human resources are the basis for overall development.
So SR204 billion has been allocated for the public education sector, higher education, manpower training and for improving the educational environment, in line with modern requirements, through the establishment of new schools and training centers, universities and specialized colleges,” he said.
New budget, new strategy
The King has outlined a wise strategy to address the major challenges facing the Kingdom today. He has made it plain that incompetence will not be tolerated. From now onwards people expect to see tangible and swift implementation of promised projects and wise appropriation of government funds. Accountability should be exercised and waste avoided. Those guilty of shortcomings should be taken to task. Ministers should set an example in productivity and accountability. Meritocracy should be of paramount importance. We need to see the right person in the right place. Government officials who fail to carry out their duties should be relieved of their posts.
Clear goals and targets need to be outlined. We must not suffer from poor strategies and illogical, hasty decisions.
King Abdullah has urged the government to resolve the country’s housing problem. Makkah Governorate has received 230 million square meters of land to implement development projects that include the construction of 70,835 housing units in the region. Let us hope that implementation is carried out according to King Abdullah’s directives.
King Abdullah has stressed that housing projects should target citizens who are eligible for loans from the Real Estate Development Fund and citizens who wish to own residential units with affordable monthly payments.
Funding should also be made available for developing slum neighborhoods. There should be strict supervision to implement the long awaited housing funds.
Delays due to bureaucratic inefficiencies will not be acceptable. There should be no room for corruption and the contracts of construction companies that do not conform to basic standards and requirements should be swiftly terminated.
The housing projects include the building of mosques, kindergartens and schools, as well as security stations, health and post office centers, public libraries, shopping malls, sports stadiums and public parks. There should be stringent management to carry out the distribution of funds in order to avoid complacency, embezzlement, and land grabbing that have in some cases in the past wasted the valuable time and money of the State.
SR200 billion has been earmarked for the development of the public transportation system which continues to be an urgent need for the Kingdom’s major cities. Media reports indicate that contracts worth billions of riyals have been signed. Citizens need to know the reasons behind the delays of much needed projects. It is time for the implementation of the promised integrated and high-standard network of high-tech roads, railroads and seaports to boost the development of our transportation system and make our roads safer.
Saudi Arabia certainly has no lack of resources and the budget has more than doubled since 2006. The government continues to initiate ambitious projects to address social and economic challenges to meet the demands of our fast growing population.
The major concern for the State continues to be the high unemployment rate. About a quarter of Saudis between the ages of 20 and 30 do not have jobs. The new budget will focus on employment opportunities and investment programs to enhance sustainable economic growth.
The public also hopes to see the efficient use of the billions of riyals that have been appropriated for universities, in addition to allocations for the construction of three university hospitals and the completion of several university cities. Separate budgetary allocations for the electronic university show the significance given to this sector. The health sector needs to be upgraded and staffed by more competent professionals to carry out the new ambitious projects. Hopefully the Ministry of Health will implement international standards in the construction of 19 new hospitals, and efficiently supervise the completion and furnishing of 103 hospital projects and five medical cities in addition to opening 29 new hospitals. Massive spending on the health sector should guarantee highly advanced medical facilities and improved medical services for all citizens.
This fiscal year’s budget provides us with a great opportunity for growth and development. Let us use it the right way.
* This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette on Jan. 5, 2013. Link: http://www.saudigazette.com.sa/index.cfm?method=home.regcon&contentid=20130105148166
Samar Fatany is a Chief Broadcaster in the English section at Jeddah Broadcasting Station. Over the past 28 years, she has introduced many news, cultural, and religious programs and has conducted several interviews with official delegations and prominent political personalities visiting the kingdom. Fatany has made significant contributions in the fields of public relations and social awareness in Saudi Arabia and has been involved in activities aiming at fighting extremism and enhancing women’s role in serving society. She has published three books: “Saudi Perceptions & Western Misconceptions,” “Saudi Women towards a new era” and “Saudi Challenges & Reforms.”