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Saudi Arabia And The How To Change

The Interview of Saudi Arabian Oil, Energy and Industry Minister Khalid Al Falih 2 weeks ago was part of a larger BBC interview. Both TV and online reports appeared over the last two days.

The about 10 minutes TV report disappointed me when I saw it first, as I expected more of a veteran reporter on covering Saudi Arabian affairs than the usual information presented. Low oil prices, Saudi Arabia needing to open up for economic reform, women not driving – actually everything on the list of “What do you already now about Saudi Arabia”.

After a few thoughts it also made me think wether it was the content of the report or Saudi Arabia’s pace I should be disappointed at. As after reading the online report I was positively surprised.

Not only it covered many aspects of the socio-economical situation of Saudi Arabia, the report included various voices from almost all parts of society and economy accompanied with explanatory comments rather than judgmental.

A few years ago, I took a German friend to watch a Saudi movie by a female Saudi director, Haifa Al Mansour “Wajda”. After the movie she told me “at first I thought the movie was boring but I realised this is life in Saudi.”

Yes, structure of Saudi society is one of a kind.

Holding on to whats known rather exploiting new, giving up comfortability for more consequences responsibility brings along, it is very hard to create change in Saudi Arabia. Changes will require Saudis to go to areas  they have no tools for. Not included in Saudi traditional (any type of) authority obedient upbringing.

Vision 2030 looks amazing on papers like many visions before. And despite all the criticism of having a consultant tailor-made strategy that gave the impression Saudi Arabia should be governed like a private company, it is may be what is needed to create necessary discipline. For that human power is needed.

How?

Saudi Arabia reacts well to crisis. In the late Nineties with low prices, many authorities were established to stimulate economic reform  – among them Saudi Arabian investment Authority which is today a shadow of its self, Saudi Tourism Authority which can only do so much with lack of allowing tourists in.

So best is to go with reaction that is usually forced by need. Like economic need we are in now. As a first step.

In such situations Saudis have proven to be up to be responsible –  a majority as seen in the BBC report. Saudis are doers by nature warmer and givers, not good functioning in a system style. The latter fact is required at the moment and for many hard to grasp and live by. But there is no other way discipline is needed to implement 2030 and make it a success. Its is the future of the country and its people. Most Saudis understand. They understand the need of unity, responsibility and growing out of the comfort zone that they have lived in the last decades.

That is not to say that the wrong unfruitful practices existing in society affecting economic development – like women driving – will be easy to change. Its been tackled and results are disappointing.

Education is definitely an important element but alone it cannot accomplish. Otherwise Saudi Arabia would have been in the top rankings from anti corruption to economic performance. The key is social development and social awareness. How to be Saudi efficient, responsible at the same time. This isn’t a matter for anyone to influence except Saudis themselves.