Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, under the wise leadership King Salman, has spared no efforts in his continuing resolve to bring about increased transparency in the workings of the government and to eliminate bureaucratic bungling and red tape. His aspiration is to move the government to be more responsive to the needs of the people quickly, resulting in a healthier place for all of us.
The Crown Prince has laid out specifics for each government agency to follow in accordance with the bold Saudi Vision 2030 — a vibrant society, a thriving economy and an ambitious nation, which encompasses a change in how we do things. Along the way, he has bolstered the war against corruption.
And while ministries have begun to respond to his call, there remain pressing issues within the various ministries that should be addressed and tackled right away. The 2030 time frame plans are fine and dandy for some, but in the buzzing dynamics of this nation, such a time frame for some may seem far away.
Take the case of health care. The Saudi Ministry of Health is responsible for the supervision of health care and hospitals in both the public and private sectors of this country.
Apart from a few excellent hospital facilities, most of the others leave a lot to be desired for. In a quest to provide higher numbers of government-run hospitals and clinics, quality of care has taken a back seat to statistics.
Disturbing reports of patients receiving substandard treatment are on the rise, as are reports of faulty treatment and errors in diagnosis. The shortage or lack of ambulances, and manned by qualified personnel, that could respond swiftly in an emergency is another worrying thought.
Emergency rooms and intensive care units are not planned in some areas of the cities, and when the need is critical, woe beholds the patient. Health care is an essential pillar for the well-being of any civilised society, and this ministry must set corrective targets and goals that can be measured in days and weeks rather than in years.
Comprehensive development plan
Saudi Ministry of Higher Education is empowered to oversee all universities and institutes of higher learning in the country. As a key player in the comprehensive development plan of this nation, this ministry has a pivotal role. Yet the complaints of businessmen reluctant to hire recent graduates in a variety of fields indicate that all is not well.
Applicants lack the tools and know-how that could successfully merge them into the business world. Having spent a better part of 16 years or more studying and learning, these graduates and their prospective employers may wonder where things went wrong.
Immediate remedies are required to cut down the dependence on foreign labour in the face of high unemployment. Forums between businessmen and the ministry should be set up at various venues to determine the particular needs and requirements of the business community and pattern the curriculum accordingly. It does not bode well for any society to boast of thousands of college graduates, but without a pittance of marketability.
At the state school level, the curriculum must shift its focus from memorisation to understanding. Social ethics, public speaking, communication, stable independence, and regimented physical education for boys and girls should be taken. Quality rather than quantity must be the inherent theme.
Saudi Ministry of Civil Service has been authorised to plan the civil manpower required in the government sector and to ensure that the competence of civil servants matches the requirements of the Kingdom as it implements its various development programmes.
Again, as our civil sector is in dire need of a bureaucratic overhaul, emphasis must be placed on training these civil servants to be more responsive to the needs of those they serve.
It wouldn’t hurt to stress to these prospective civil servants that their roles are to serve the public and not the other way around. Enforcing accountability and honest performance reviews are some elements that should be revisited.
The Ministry of Labor tasked with the development and use of the country’s human resources can jump on the bandwagon and work alongside the Ministry of Higher Education to buoy up the quality of graduates and enable them to mainstream into public or private sectors.
This ministry also deals with labour disputes, and can without delay stem the tide of abuse and violations of labour rights through periodic monitoring and swift punishment for the offenders.
Other ministries should take heed of the Crown Prince’s call. With King Salman King at the helm, Saudi Arabia’s march towards development and progress is unstoppable.
Tariq A. Al Maeena is a Saudi sociopolitical commentator. He lives in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Twitter: @talmaeena