What are our priorities and issues in Saudi Arabia?
I recently received a call from a media correspondent who asked me, among other things, what the priorities in our country are and what issues prevail in the minds of the Saudi public. I cannot speak for all, however I believe that any sensible citizen would be concerned about the economic fluctuations and political situations across the globe.
No country is a solitary island, separated from the rest of the world; we are all connected so deeply and are so interwoven that any incident in the world, whether it occurs in places nearby or far away, concerns us. There are many instances in recent history that give credence to my point. For example, the recent fall of oil prices affects our economy deeply, as well as the economies of other nations.
Saudi Arabia is linked inseparably to its counterparts worldwide, and global issues will inevitably affect us in some way. However, I feel the most pressing issues we have are internal – an issue in particular is of youth and education, and a question we must ask ourselves is: How can we provide an education that will instill school-leavers not only with knowledge to make them productive citizens, but also with good characters and values within the framework of our ideology?
We have to admit – we need a lot of revision of our syllabi, more comprehensive training of our teachers, and to use modern methods of communication to try and involve the youth of our country in nation building. There is a reason that young, ambitious people who are interested in furthering their education are pursuing their degrees abroad; there are serious flaws that need to be addressed in our educational system, from the method of instruction of our youngest students up to those pursuing advanced degrees.
Context for our youth
Simultaneously, we have to ingrain dialog, tolerance, acceptance and pluralism into our society, to provide context for our youth to apply all they have learnt to the real world. To others and myself, this is a priority; mainly because targeting the shortcomings of education is one way we can protect our young population from the trappings of extremist indoctrination.
Another priority is the prevalence of the rule of law and a free and fair judiciary system, managed by educated members that possess the priceless qualities of empathy and a broad, knowledgeable outlook. Good governance, accountability and strong work ethic must all be part of the working code governing all officials, and no one should feel that he or she is above the law.
Furthermore, those in authority should be role models and lead from the front! In order to give the young public a chance to become informed, cultured and capable to succeed, they must be provided examples in the form of real people. By observing how figures of authority handle situations and manage different sectors of society alongside one another to maintain healthy development of the nation as a whole, today’s youth will progress and be able to emulate similar, if not better, productive behavior.
Once these goals are set in motion, we can turn our attentions to tackling other issues vital to our survival. We live in a harsh geographical setting and water is a precious commodity. How are we going to manage our limited water resources, and what are we going to do in the face of unexpected circumstances?
Add this concern to our increasing energy consumption and a rising population, and we have a very pressing question – are we doing enough to deal with these issues? Should we set up centers to handle these specific concerns? Do we have the courage to ask for a family planning and population control program, and if we do, have we considered the response of such institutions? Is our media developed enough, to a level that it is able to point out the impending dangers of pollution and the destruction of our environment by certain irresponsible members of our society?
We are quick to pass criticism and indulge in the blame game whilst seated in the comfort of our drawing rooms, yet we do not have the will or courage to point out, in public, what concerns the citizens face. The only way these issues can be addressed is by a civil society in which institutions act as the engines of growth.
Last, but certainly not least, I want the government to embrace these institutions and create a partnership with them that is beneficial to our society. Such a partnership will entail many reforms, but if successful, government collaboration with progressive institutions could pave the way for our nation to develop in unprecedented ways. However, for this to occur, we need the involvement of all regions, peoples and sects.
After all, we are all equal citizens of this country...
Khaled Almaeena is a veteran Saudi journalist, commentator, businessman and the editor-at-large of the Saudi Gazette. Almaeena has held a broad range of positions in Saudi media for over thirty years, including CEO of a PR firm, Saudi Television news anchor, talk show host, radio announcer, lecturer and journalist. As a journalist, Almaeena has represented Saudi media at Arab summits in Baghdad, Morocco and elsewhere. In 1990, he was one of four journalists to cover the historic resumption of diplomatic ties between Saudi Arabia and Russia. He also traveled to China as part of this diplomatic mission. Almaeena's political and social columns appear regularly in Gulf News, Asharq al-Aswat, al-Eqtisadiah, Arab News, Times of Oman, Asian Age and The China Post.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Karabakh.Today