(MENAFN - Arab News) Boosting education, diversifying Kingdom's resources, and long-term budgeting are the three main steps that should be taken in the next two decades, says Engineer Tarek Al-Kasabi, chairman of the board of Dallah Health.
In an exclusive interview with Diana Al-Jassem of Arab News, Al-Kasabi underlines the importance of finding solutions to education, housing, training and other critical sectors in the Kingdom.
He stresses the need to build human resources to face the upcoming challenges in the market.
Al-Kasabi also expressed his anxiety about the future plans, infrastructure and other economic challenges.
What in your opinion are changes that would have a major impact on the lives of Saudi nationals in the coming 20 years?
I believe that there are many important changes that we really need in the Kingdom. For example, we need to continue rebuilding and improving our legal and judicial system. In addition, there is an urgent need to start transferring from using our oil energy to alternative energy. This is a very important factor that will help us diversify our economy.
We should not totally depend on our natural resources. We should also develop our human resources. Saudi nationals work hard and are willing to advance their knowledge and skills. We want to see Saudis working in skilled and technical jobs that the national economy needs.
Moreover, we need a remarkable change in the methods of education and training of the Saudi youth, so we could prepare them to face the market challenges.
Role of leadership
What do you think are the leadership roles regarding organizations in the Kingdom? What are the factors/reasons for their current state?
In terms of leadership, I believe that we need professional leaders with quality education and extensive experience in the field of responsibility.
What are the most difficult decisions that need to be implemented in the Kingdom within the next 20 years?
Difficult decisions related to Saudization are required to be taken. Therefore, I would love to mention the importance of improving employment opportunities. In addition, we have to have a major focus on activities other than oil and develop our legal and judicial system. Technology and technicians are both very important for a developing country like ours, and also making them competitive so we can change the way we treat our technicians involved in public services. They should be given a better status and salary. There should also be a long-term plan for building our infrastructure by creating a specially created infrastructure fund or any other suitable approach.
What goals would you set for the Kingdom's development? And how could these goals be achieved through your current position?
My goals: Shifting our dependence on oil to human resources capital (HRC) and using alternative energy, training Saudi youths to be able to compete internationally, having a sustainable development plan that is not affected by oil revenues, large-scale promotion of small and medium establishments (SMEs), encouraging secondary industries, and promoting the automotive industry.
What characteristics do you think are important for the Kingdom's officials? How would such characteristics contribute toward the Kingdom's further development?
They should be chosen on the basis of their qualifications and track record. They should be properly qualified with excellent experience in their field, aside of course from basic qualities such as good education, strong leadership, good understanding of our culture with an open mind, and empowerment of subordinates with a visionary mind. The official must be a person of character, with honesty, dignity, respect, fairness and transparency as their attributes. Such people can lead to a sustainable growth.
Give me an example of the most creative project that you wish to establish in the Kingdom?
An authority for SMEs with a SR 20 billion capital and a school that will impart high-quality education and a world-class training center. They pursue a plan and the targeted objectives so the government can evaluate their performance.
KSA in three words
What three words would you use to describe the Kingdom in the coming 20 years?
Highly skilled citizens.
How can we all improve human rights in Saudi Arabia? What are your expectations regarding human rights practices in the coming 20 years?
Apply the Islamic values rightly and completely because Shariah is the fairest law.
What is the biggest challenge facing the Kingdom today?
There are several challenges that we need to tackle. I believe that we have to build our human resources, so we can strengthen our economy. In addition, there is a need to shift from total dependence on oil, and start diversifying the Kingdom's revenues. In addition, we need to build a system and enforce it.
What are the most prominent economic activities in the Kingdom?
Oil and gas, health care and hospitality.
There is a huge demand for housing in the Kingdom because of the ever-growing young population. The government has also put emphasis on this sector as it has allocated SR 250 billion in the budget for housing. Do you believe housing needs much more attention from the government and private sectors?
I believe housing needs creative solutions. We need to implement socio-economical housing projects. Such projects could solve the housing problem for the rapidly increasing population.
Role of SMEs
There is a need to boost SMEs in the Kingdom as it creates various jobs. What role do you see for the SMEs in the Kingdom's economic development?
SMEs are crucial for our economy. As mentioned before, they are essential for growth of our economy because they add value to our GDP and provide new jobs and opportunities.
Education is always a priority for the Kingdom. What changes do you envisage in the education system to prepare Saudi youth for the knowledge-based economy?
Improving the education system, and providing all kinds of training courses and imparting skills in our youth. We must have qualified and trained teachers and raise the education standard including the curriculum, and school and college environments.
The Kingdom should focus on developing general education standards with focus on creating efficient curricula.
How do you see Saudi women's contribution in the labor, social and political areas in the coming 20 years?
Saudi women are contributing to our development by raising their children, both girls and boys. In addition, they nurture the ambition to participate in our country's development and they are very serious about it. Their contributions have been immense and have grown phenomenally over the last 10 years.
Quality education is required to fill gaps in our society. Then, women can compete freely in the Saudi market.
What is required in order for Saudi women to actualize your future vision?
More education and more support for their role as a mother because this is the factory where good citizens are produced and this is a sort of an SME that provides a healthy environment for working from home.
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?
Social media will have a significant role in our market. We just started a radio and TV authority and I hope it will play a major role. A strategy will evolve for change, which is already happening now.
What are the three or four mistakes that have been repeated in the Kingdom during the past 10 decades and how could we eliminate them in order to develop the Kingdom?
We are repeating the mistakes in terms of training young Saudi nationals; we need to develop more training programs to prepare Saudi nationals for work. Depending on oil is our second mistake; there is an urgent need have a plan to change our dependency on oil. Having a short-term budgeting strategy is also a mistake; I believe we need a long-term budgeting policy.
Message to youth
Given that the youth make up the majority of the Saudi population, what message would you want conveyed to them? What else would you say to the rest of the population?
Youth are the pillars for any development. Without their contribution, there will be no development. So I wish we give them excellent education and training, a pleasant and healthy environment for them to work and progress. For the rest of the population, I suggest that they enthusiastically participate in nation building through hard work.
Al-Kasabi's top goals:
Major changes required in:
- The education system
- Rebuilding and improving our legal and judicial system
- Shifting our dependence on oil to alternative energy.
Leadership role should focus on:
- Professional leaders with quality education
- Decisions that tend to be difficult
- Improving employment opportunities.
Major goals to develop the Kingdom:
- More focus on developing human resource capital
- Training young Saudis to compete in domestic and international markets
- Promoting SMEs
- Encouraging secondary industries and promoting automotive industry.
Describing the Kingdom in three words:
- Highly skilled citizens.
- Building human resources
- Building a system and enforcing it
- Diversifying economic revenues
Requirements for housing development:
- Socio-economic housing projects.
Role of SMEs:
- Creation of more job opportunities for upcoming generations.
- More training courses and more qualified teachers.
About Saudi women:
- Women's contributions have grown during the last ten years
- Women's role can be bigger in education and SMEs
- Weak programs for youth training
- Fully depending on oil
- Having a short-term budgeting strategy.
Message to youth:
- Participate more actively in nation building by getting more training, and better education.