(MENAFN - Arab News) Saudizing small and medium enterprises (SMEs), boosting infrastructure projects and ending education and health ignorance are the three major steps that should be taken in the coming two decades, according to Osama Alessa, managing director of eZone.
With eZone involved in implementing the Ministry of Labor's intensive Saudization plan, Alessa told Diana Al-Jassem of Arab News in his office in Riyadh that a joint action by Saudi private sector companies and youth for tackling the problem of unemployment and encouraging SMEs in a major effort will boost the economy.
Alessa also focused on the importance of changing the Saudi media through privatization, freedom and creativeness.
What changes would make a major impact on the lives of Saudis in the coming 20 years?
In this period of rapid change and upheaval in the region, I must say, the telecom and new media revolutions will surely have a great impact on our lives in the future as they do today. There is no doubt that with this quantum leap in communications, the Saudi's taste will rise to target a sophisticated life mode.
Role of leadership
What do you think of the leadership roles regarding organizations in the Kingdom? What are the factors/reasons for their current state?
There is a great misconception in Saudi Arabia with regards to the role of individual leaders. Many believe that the leader must take all the decisions, and that with decentralization all is lost; when in fact, the leader must set the vision and motivate its adoption, while teamwork helps its realization.
What are the most difficult decisions that need to be applied in the Kingdom in the next 20 years?
Public officials must value the importance of a country's infrastructure and its education system. In other words, the government must continue to implement major decisions in two of the most prominent sectors, which play a vital role in shaping our future.
Can you give me an example of the most creative project that you wish to establish in the Kingdom?
I wish to establish a project that supports the implementation of an interaction system between cultures for the benefit of Islam and greater good.
KSA in three words
What three words would you use to describe the Kingdom in the coming 20 years and why?
In three simple words I'd say: "Better To Best."
How can we all improve human rights in Saudi Arabia? What are your expectations regarding human rights practices?
We can improve human rights in the Kingdom by creating more awareness campaigns and engaging the public in human rights' adopted practices. Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah has already sanctioned the formation of a Human Rights Committee, and I believe this will fertilize the human rights' ground in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
What is the biggest challenge facing the Kingdom today?
It is the support of non-petroleum-based sector and the establishment of another sector; noting that the petroleum sector is a strong independent and self-established entity.
Prominent economic activities
What are the most prominent economic activities in the Kingdom and what are the neglected sectors that need attention?
Evidently the oil and gas and petrochemical industries rank first in the prominent activities in the Kingdom. Whereas the neglected sectors in my opinion are the industrial and services sectors such as health, education and travel, which if supported and developed, will become strong and reliable sectors.
There is a huge demand for housing in the Kingdom because of rising young population. The government also has put an emphasis on this sector by allocating SR 250 billion in this year's budget for housing. Do you believe housing needs much more attention from the government and private sectors?
Further to what I have stated earlier, the services sector is in great need for profound attention, especially when the housing demand outnumbers the supply/offers. A recent study has shown that 80 percent of the housing offerings are not suitable for the Kingdom's residents due to price inflations. There is a high demand on rents and much less for house purchase because the first is much more affordable. On the other hand, with the allocation of SR 250 billion for housing, I predict a fall in real estate prices, especially when there are vast numbers and spaces of land available in the Kingdom. However, the government has to be involved in developing the required infrastructure in order to speed up the construction of housing projects.
Role of SMEs
There is a need to boost small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the Kingdom as they create jobs of all categories. What role do you see for SMEs in the economy?
The SME sector is the engine behind the Kingdom's economic development and it is the spinal cord of Saudi Arabia's economy; unfortunately, nowadays these enterprises lack good management and long-term visions. The majority of these enterprises are owned by foreigners, which means short-term visions and less efficiency, and if Saudis can see and understand this, then they should be able to turn this into their own advantage and start their own businesses whereby they will be decreasing unemployment, increasing the national income, financing SMEs and finally, they will be enhancing local investment in Saudi Arabia.
Education has always remained a priority of the Saudi government. What changes do you envisage in our education system to fit Saudi youth in a knowledge-based economy?
I am looking forward to seeing more scientific subjects being taught in our schools, an advanced and well-developed school curriculums, and students being taught second and foreign languages starting from pre-school. On a university level, surely King Abdullah's program for international scholarships will have a great impact on the caliber of our alumni.
How do you see Saudi women's contribution in the labor, social and political areas in the coming 20 years?
Saudi women's contribution in all of the mentioned sectors is developing and increasing. In comparison with 20 years ago, today's society and community are being open and appreciative of Saudi women's presence and potential roles. We have already started to see them fill business management positions and 20 into the future, I foresee them running their own businesses and playing vital and active roles in the private sector.
What's required in order for Saudi women to actualize your future vision?
Initially that our society would give them more opportunities upon which they can prove themselves, next, that they have patience, that they develop their skills and last but not least acquire as much experience as possible.
What measures and standards are yet to be (and must be) introduced to Saudi media, and what are your expectations in the next 20 years?
I would say privatization of the Saudi media with less regulatory restrictions, and granting them more freedom.
The Kingdom's economy is one strong and solid economy; hence I expect to see young leaders holding ministerial positions, which in return will further develop the Kingdom's economy and its services.
Learning from the past
What are three or four mistakes that have been repeated in the Kingdom during the past two decades? And how could we eliminate these mistakes in order to develop the Kingdom?
Firstly, there has been a lot of trauma going on with regards to fighting corruption, and this is a very delicate matter that requires raising a red flag. The second mistake would be the neglected educational sector, and as mentioned earlier this sector requires massive support and development. Last but not least, a third mistake which has not yet found an end to it would be, (ironically), our paralyzed health sector. This sector is a matter of life and death and should not tolerate a weak bone in its structure.
Message to youth
Given that youths make up the majority of the Saudi population, what message would you want to be conveyed to them? And what else would you say to the rest of the population?
First and foremost, I encourage the Saudi youth to dive into the arms of the private sector and to paddle as hard as they can against all opposing tides. I also advise them to be thankful for their blessings whether it is education, technology, creativity, etc...., and to utilize all their efforts for the greater good.
As for the rest of the population, I'd say we only live once so let us live in peace and prosperity.