(MENAFN - Arab News) Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah has always focused on the level of services being extended to the citizens by Saudi missions abroad and has emphasized the need for giving the issue a top priority whenever he received newly appointed ambassadors.
The king always tells them that services to citizens should get top priority in their mission. It is noticeable that an improvement has taken place in the services being extended by the embassies to Saudi nationals abroad. The doors of the ambassadors, except for a few, have been opened for the citizens.
This improvement has come after clear directives from the king and after the criteria for choosing ambassadors have been better applied. We now see young and qualified faces instead of civil and military personnel being appointed after retirement. The cultural background and knowledge of the economy has become one of the parameters for the choice of ambassadors of our country, which takes great pride in its culture and heritage and in its strong economic position on the global scale. Had it not been for fear of leaving some out, I would have mentioned a number of names of the newly appointed or old ambassadors who are role models as envoys. They have organized cultural and poetic evenings as well as business gatherings. More than that they have opened the doors, which had been closed for citizens who were looking for a welcoming word and cordial reception in a foreign country.
Maybe what hinder the ambassadors from implementing the royal directives about defending the citizens and providing services to them efficiently are the obsolete financial procedures just like the system of bidding which generally looks for the cheapest bid. The lawyer whom the embassy contracts on this basis will not be among the best lawyers. His services to the embassy will obviously be as low as the payment he receives. Other professional services are similarly dealt with though all agree that these services should not be subject to the system of placing tenders, which was formulated under excessive regulation or red tape. This made late Dr. Ghazi Al-Gosaibi, a former ambassador, complain in a poem to the director of finance at the Foreign Ministry.
It is the financial system, which should be flexible. Due to financial issues many of our embassies remain housed in old buildings, which have not been renovated for years. They are, therefore, not suitable for bolstering the image of our country which has immense financial resources. They don't project the true image of our country that has a strong financial standing globally.
This is evident when we see one of our embassies located near the embassy of another country with much less financial resources, but housed in a bigger building surrounded by greenery.
Most of the countries prefer that the houses of ambassadors and top officials are located within the embassy premises except in cases when it is not possible for certain reasons. In our case, even if lands are available near the embassy for the construction of the ambassador's house, financial provision, at times, are not made available for years. This is despite our country's booming economy.
I am not saying that the appearances and looks of the embassies and the ambassadors' houses should be more important than the choice of other elements that contribute to the smooth working of the embassy. But the fact is that the financial restrictions will adversely affect the level of services being extended by the embassy. It is hoped that these issues be taken into consideration so that the situation can be reviewed in order for the embassies to do better.