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PERHAPS, the policy “Laissez faire et laissez passer” (Let do and let pass) is applicable in the interpretation of the decisions endorsed by the Saudi leadership to jumpstart diversification of sources of revenues and eliminate the unrealistic image of that country, which is rich in natural resources and minerals, and has a high religious status.
Until recently, many believed Saudi Arabia is just an oilfield. Unfortunately, this image was drawn by the nature of the conditions that prevailed from the year 1979 and the extremism released by the evil of the Khomeini Revolution throughout the region.
During the period between 1975 and 1979, there were economic and social measures as well as transformations that led to the financial boom due to the increasing price of oil. However, on the sidelines, there was emergence of social restrictions which contradicted the nature of the society.
Considering the fact that economic openness cannot be properly achieved without dealing with social obstacles, the leadership’s decisions came in accordance with the country’s developmental plan in a manner that suited its economical and geographical position.
From this viewpoint, the approval of the privatization program, which was endorsed by Saudi Arabia’s Council of Economic and Development Affairs (CEDA) and headed by Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman, received a huge welcome from investors and Saudi citizens.
The program is considered as the most important step for dealing with the crisis of oil dependence that has been ongoing for the last five decades and resulted in negligence of other resources, especially minerals and internal tourism.
The Saudi community is today emancipating itself from the clutches of those who spy on people and prevent them from having fun by exposing them, while our religion urges us to conceal.
Now, the Saudis are relieved and have returned to their innocent fun. Among the principles adopted by several countries were open market, facilitating movement of people, and flow of goods. These principles represented the top motivator for the development of many economies.
They did not set conditions of having experts or competent employees to be those who wear the national dress of a particular country. For instance, after World War II, Japan depended on American technology in the beginning until it developed its own tools. In China three decades ago, its leadership sensed the approach of a major economic crisis and immediately sought the assistance of foreign experts to develop its methods.
The Chinese people neither felt humiliated nor resorted to racist sentiments in this regard. They also did not set conditions for experts, like we do today, to be among those who wear our national dress. They did not localize employments even if the employees were not qualified for the positions. Germany and France also did the same along with many other countries when they took major defining decisions in the aspect of improving the participation rate of the private sector in providing services, while the government focused on organization and oversight.
All of these ideas were inspired by the economic policy set by a leading French thinker Vincent de Gournay in the middle of the 18th century. Unfortunately, there are some Gulf countries which continue to go around inside an empty circle. These countries, such as Kuwait, fail to benefit from its cultural richness, which in turn leads to delays in catching up due to a series of decisions that undoubtedly will lead to poverty and neediness. Such decisions are contrary to the Saudi openness, or the solid economy of the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
They are the kind of decisions that render countries to close the doors on themselves as if they have decided to withdraw from the development movement, at a time when the entire global mood is changing. Today, there are two extremes in the region — the first is the Kuwaiti closed model, and the other is the Saudi, Emirati and Bahraini model of openness. The latter, without any doubt, is in line with the requirements of a better economic future, and will definitely restore the vital role of this region in the world. No one will mourn for those who decide to dwell in the dungeons of going around within an empty circle.
By Ahmed Al-Jarallah
Editor-in-Chief, the Arab Times