(MENAFN - Arab News) Saudization of major senior positions, upgrading the education syllabus and giving nationality to non-Saudi experts can lead the Kingdom toward its sustainable development, according to Saleh bin Nasser Abdul Aziz Al-Sorayai, chairman of Al-Sorayai Group. During an interview with Diana Al-Jassem of Arab News, Al-Sorayai emphasized that Saudi Arabia's major thrust in manufacturing will help it to figure among the global industrial countries. He stated that many laws and strategies have to be further streamlined in order to boost the share of Saudi manufactured products in the global market.
What are the changes that would have a major impact on the lives of Saudis in the coming 20 years?
New technology tools and media will certainly change the Saudi society. With new communication methods, I expect the demand for products and services will increase more than ever. With these and the increasing purchasing power, the Saudi lifestyle will also change. I think Saudis will be influenced by the Western lifestyle in the coming 20 years. From the perspective of economics, I don't think that extracting crude oil will be stopped in the coming 20 years. There is no doubt that the Saudi government is pursuing a policy of diversification of revenues, but a definite picture will not emerge in the near future. After the next 50 years, there will be many changes in all sectors of industry that will contribute toward the Kingdom's diversified revenue.
Role of leadership
What do you think is the role of organizations in the Kingdom? What are the factors and reasons for their current state?
The government leadership will be reflected in each organization. Openness, development and freedom are the three main elements that can help in building organizations. Many challenges are facing the Kingdom today in terms of investments; this is why an enlightened leadership is needed in all organizations. On the other hand, many training courses are required in all organizations to produce qualified staff. Building human resources can empower us to compete in investment and industrial fields.
What are the most difficult decisions that need to be implemented in the Kingdom within the coming 20 years?
Protecting the customer from fake products is a difficult decision. This can be done through institutes that study and monitor imported products in the Kingdom. On the other hand, we need a well-planned Saudization strategy to be implemented very soon. From my point of view, I can assure that the Ministry of Labor has set a good plan to increase Saudization, but this plan must take into consideration the rate of Saudization in each sector. Unfortunately, Saudis still refuse to work in many job categories due to physical and financial reasons. We have not been able to Saudize positions that need physical activity. This is why we still have a problem in hiring the low-class positions of Saudis.
Kingdom's sustainable development
What goals would you set for the Kingdom's development? And how would these goals be achievable through your current role?
The leader's vision should be clear and easy to be applied in his work environment. For me I wish to export the Saudi products to all international market. I also wish to manufacture all raw materials that the Kingdom needs just like what China is doing. We (Al-Sorayai) have succeeded in getting a 50 percent market share in the GCC. In Europe and the United States, we have less than 5 percent of market share. To increase our share worldwide, we need to have our own factories that manufacture Saudi products for worldwide consumption.
Give me an example of the most creative project you wish to establish in the Kingdom.
We hope to establish a college to teach and train people the manufacturing of threads and textiles. We are still working on this project in cooperation with related factory.
KSA in three words
What three words would you use to describe the Kingdom in the coming 20 years, and why you decided on the three words?
Challenges of the industrial age and how we overcome them in the next 20 years.
What characteristics do you think are important for the Kingdom's officials? How would such characteristics contribute toward the Kingdom's future development?
Leaders have to show smartness and fairness in taking decisions, and they have to show transparency in all their decisions. Qualified foreign experts are needed to help Saudis learn from them and gain experience. Currently 70 percent of leaders in various management positions are Saudis, but in technical positions we still need foreign experts.
How can we all improve human rights in Saudi Arabia? What are your expectations regarding human rights practices in the coming 20 years?
The sponsorship system has to be replaced. The rights of foreign workers have gained currency and we are looking forward to showing much more fairness toward expatriate workers than ever in the near future. On the other hand, we hope to have institutionalism to follow up the divorced women's court cases as well as the cases of physically harmed children. We also have to raise the culture of Saudis in terms of human rights. Individuals here don't know their rights yet. I believe that it is the media duty to educate the people more about their rights.
What is the biggest challenge facing the Kingdom today?
The biggest challenge is to lead a safe life amid the political disturbances in the countries around us. I believe that Saudi Arabia is now faced with international media incitements aimed which are announcing unreal stories about our country which unfortunately influence youth and unwise people which we have to be careful and care about our country and fight it.
What are the most prominent economic activities in the Kingdom? What are the neglected sectors that need to be developed?
I believe that small and medium enterprises (SMEs) should be developed in all sectors, including real estate, furniture and retail. Today most Saudis are unable to establish huge projects so it is the government's duty to boost SMEs and fund the youth who are looking to start a business.
There is huge demand for housing in the Kingdom because of rising young population. The government is also emphasizing on this sector has and allocated SR 250 billion in this year's budget for housing. Do you believe housing needs much more attention from the government and private sector?
The government should cooperate with international real estate development companies. These companies should be in charge of building residential units to meet the requirement. Another suggestion is to establish a department in each municipality where such departments can take change of building units at affordable prices.
Education is always a priority of the Saudi government. What changes you envisage in education system to fit Saudi youth in knowledge-based economy?
The Kingdom should focus on developing higher education with focus on creating a strong and efficient curriculum befitting the Saudi society and market needs while keeping an eye on creating technical and physical education for young Saudis. Hence, I am suggesting the government should start giving Saudi nationality to foreign experts who have spent major part of their work life in the Kingdom. I don't mean giving the nationality to everyone, but giving the nationality to highly qualified foreign experts and make them more involved in the Kingdom's development.
How do you see Saudi women's contribution in the labor, social and political arenas in the coming 20 years?
Women should work and prove themselves in the Saudi market. They have to contribute in fields other than medicine and education but without crossing the Islamic limits. In the Western world they work in a mixed environment, but in Saudi Arabia we still need to adhere to Islamic values.
What measures and standards need to be applied to Saudi media? And what do you think is the role of social media regarding change in the Kingdom?
Freedom is needed to deliver the criticism that can contribute to reforms. Society can learn more about the freedom of opinion benefiting the country. Regarding social media I think that it is attracting billions of users.
Learning from the past
What are three or four mistakes that have been repeated in the Kingdom during the past 10 decades?
Many mistakes have been committed in building the infrastructure. I hope to start planning new infrastructure with all services that serves the citizen's need. Moreover, I think it is time for all government services to be brought under one umbrella in a bid to offer one-stop-shop service. To facilitate communication among government sectors, we also need to boost communication methods among these sectors. Finally, I wish to establish a center that can provide real estate data in one go.
Message to youth
Given that youth make up the majority of the Saudi population, what message do you have for them?
My message to youth is to learn without crossing the Shariah limits. My main advice to Saudis is to be self-dependent and patient. They should start working from scratch. One day Saudi youth will be leaders. For the rest of the population who are looking for change, I would advise them to start taking the initiative. If each person learns from his mistakes, the society will develop well.