In October 2016, less than two years before his death, Jamal Khashoggi published a series of commentaries on the proposed Vision 2030 plan of reforms in Al-Hayat, a venerable pan-Arabic daily that (at time of writing) is out of print. As the Al-Hayat website is now defunct, I have included the full series here from a mirror website that hosts writings from various columnists. I hope you find it of interest.
We have heard what the government wants us to do, as it announced in detail the National Transformation Plan 2020 and “Vision 2030.” But what does the citizen want?
Of course, he wants everything the government promises in the “Plan” and the “Vision”, but it is useful to listen to the citizen as well. Therefore, I have volunteered to prepare a list of what I think are the demands of the Saudi citizen. Of course, they will differ from one citizen to another, but this is my list and others can add and delete what they will…
…most of these are basic and common sense, such as housing, job, education, medical treatment, and entertainment. Others may surprise the reader, yet when he reads my reasons for including them he will realize their importance, especially as they come under the achievement of “quality of life.” This is a wonderful term that entered into usage with the “Vision 2030” and deserves attention, thinking and execution, such as the availability of sidewalks in our streets and neighborhoods, car parks, football stadiums and parks, and the separation of residential and commercial properties…
Finally, I called for two things that include some degree of politics, namely the right to information and participation in local politics.
The basic requirement is a roof over the head of each citizen. This strengthens national sentiment, and turns the citizen into a creative and productive being. His eagerness leads to unlimited horizons in terms of earning and establishing a family, and is interested in educating his children after he reassured and settled. In all of this there is a real and sustainable addition to the national product.
…every university graduate believes that they have a right to a job, and will be angry if they do not get it. they will not be convinced by the business sector saying they are incompetent, nor by government saying that its jobs are limited. They see in this certificate a license or a “right” to get a job.
It is therefor necessary to constantly generate new jobs, but also to improve the quality of education in order to restore “the diploma” to its prior prestige. Most important is the revival of the work culture, which was destroyed by the growing addiction to foreign workers who are unqualified yet ready to work under any circumstances…
Only the state that sees and knows statistical details of overall interest to the country and the people, in all their complex and interrelated economic, security and social forms.
Citizen have the right to know that the state will provide them with jobs, not others. Yet most of the new jobs created as a result of the expansion of the Saudi economy go to foreigners, and neither correct nor politically and economically healthy…
A society and economy where more expatriates are more than a third of the population and 85% of the [private-sector] workforce is a big mistake, and we do not need a strategic expert to point this out…
There is a class of Saudi citizens who rejects this fiercely – the “maskers” [i.e. those only pretending to hire Saudis while they benefit from inexpensive foreign labor]. Though they are just a small percentage, albeit louder than most of us citizens by virtue of their wealth and influence, they presenting their minority private interest as the interest of the homeland. These people are are “criminals” in light of the [labor market] legal system
[Note: the “foreign occupation” of the Saudi labor market was a major interest for Jamal at this time – he published a book on it in 2013, with the re-issue of the book in 2016 still his pinned tweet on Twitter at the time of his death.]
As a citizen, I would not be satisfied with excuses from a director of human resources who refused to employ my son or daughter. Even if I acknowledge our poor education outcomes, I would insist that this is the education provided by the state, and that this certificate should be sufficient for the job…
The government has adopted for its Vision 2030 a system of “key performance indicators” to account and monitor the various government agencies implementing the Vision. As a citizen, I hope that the success of education will be measured by the ability of Saudi graduates to obtain a job not only in this country, but even in other countries, and to compete with the children of those countries…
The numbers say that most citizens are treated in government hospitals, but they also that they complain about few things as much as the Ministry of Health, which was has been called the “Incinerator of Ministers.” [i.e. a dead-end career]…
…all the citizen wants, at the end of the day, is to not be forced to contact his cousin’s cousin, the undersecretary. He fears the man will not remember him, as he requests “wasta” to find beds for his mother in a prestigious hospital, because the city’s public hospital admitted that it could not perform the necessary surgery. Perhaps there is a long waiting list ahead of her, or because the medical doctor has submitted his resignation and left the country…
Topics related to “quality of life”
- On equipping cities with sidewalks so citizens might actually move about without a care (10/19/2016)
- On providing enough parking spaces (10/20/2016)
- On providing soccer fields (10/21/2016)
- On providing public parks (10/25/2016)
- On separating commercial and residential districts of Saudi cities (10/26/2016)
- On the need for more trees in Saudi cities (10/27/2016)
On Right to Information and the Press
The press can be the watchdog that follows up on the implementation of the Saudi Vision 2030, setting the controls that the government has adopted to monitor the proper implementation of the plan, to be a popular watchdog, but it needs muscles to carry out its desired mission, after seeing it weak for several reasons other than the attack of the alternative media…
[In addition, ] the state should provide both a system and a guarantee for the “right to obtain information.” This is a system in place in many countries that ensures transparency and fights corruption, the principle of which is that any citizen has the right to go to the municipality or any government department and submit an application for details of any project. If this system were available, it would lead to a revolution in the press and restore the confidence of the citizen, who would benefit from its responsible news and reports.
This is what the man responsible for the Vision, Deputy Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman, promised in a meeting where he gathered many intellectuals. He said: “The press will have a role in monitoring [the Vision’s] implementation.” We, as journalists, want this role.
On Popular participation in decision-making
Many readers asked – what about democracy and popular participation? I invite you to understand that while they are not among the priorities of the citizen, participation in local decision-making is very beneficial to ensure the success of the “Vision 2030,” and the citizen is surely enthusiastic about that…
Small villages in the Kingdom lack financial capabilities, yet if its people have some degree of participation, it can transform into a life environment that competes with even the economic cities that enjoy financial support, attention and high-level planning from the state. Within years, after practice, trial and error, its people will acquire better management skills than a municipality president who comes to them from the best public administration institute in the country, or even from a prestigious American university. A little participation makes the difference.