Features & Reports
The many royal Saudi decrees announced last week made some wonder if this is still Saudi Arabia. The latest is that the Kingdom is to host the first Arab Fashion Week in Riyadh this month and females between the age of 25-35 can apply for soldiers in the army. All announcements reflect the government’s efforts to reach economic prosperity through implementing proper social freedom. Not only to gain economic growth but also to give the stolen rights back to the society.
On many fronts, Saudi Arabia could be described as one of the most interesting places in the world. With a young visionary transforming the country, and 70% of the people below the age of 30, many from around the world find themselves intrigued to pay this country a visit.
The many royal Saudi decrees announced last week made some wonder if this is still Saudi Arabia. The latest is that the Kingdom is to host the first Arab Fashion Week in Riyadh this month. All announcements reflect the government’s efforts to reach economic prosperity through implementing proper social freedom. Not only to gain economic growth but also to give the stolen rights back to the society.
The ban on Saudi women driving has tormented the ladies for decades. The ban on female driving has become a cliché for the Kingdom, along with oil, camels, and deserts.
The Royal Decree (link: https://nyti.ms/2yqK5k4) issued on 25th September 2017 lifted the ban on women driving. The change will however take effect June 2018, subject to availability of driving instructors for women.
The Saudi austerity plan is well underway. On January 1st, 2018, Saudi Arabia and the UAE introduced 5% VAT on services and goods.
Five percent is not a big amount, but energy, water, and electricity prices went up because subsidies were cut. Saudi Arabia has been experiencing a price hike since 2005. Over the years, many new Saudi taxes were introduced on electricity, water, labor, and some government and private services. Prices have gone up further in the past 2 years. This puts more burdens on Saudi households with monthly income lower than SAR 4,400/US$1200. But there were protections as well.
Understanding the Saudi society requires a lot of patience and research. The society is weaved with intricate patterns of religion, culture, rules and a desire to break free. On the last day of this year’s Dubai Film Festival, I watched the documentary “The Poetess”.
It is an international co-production. The story and characters are Saudi. However, the two film directors were German, so was the funding. The film had German and UAE production as well.
Saudi Arrests: Monday marked the first month since the Saudi arrests of princes. Along with many corrupt politicians and businessmen in Saudi Arabia.
These Saudi arrests shook the whole world. At first, Saudi citizens did not know how to comprehend and react to these happenings. The Saudi arrests raised piles of questions concerning Crown Prince Muhammed bin Salman’s behavior since becoming deputy crown prince in 2015. When he first appeared on the political scene, the political and socio-economic lifestyle in the country was ambiguous. On one hand was authoritarianism, on the other, an unusual transparency. The aim of the Saudi arrests was to collect unlawfully gained money. The accused had made these deals through their positions of influence in government and business sectors.
For decades, Saudi corruption has had deep roots in Saudi Arabia. The public has been cheated-off of its rights to a safe and healthy living environment. Every major scandal has a top-rated official attached to it, an untouchable.
I started working as a journalist with Arab News in the early 1990s. That’s when a friend alerted me about a lot of raw sewage being dumped in the desert round Jeddah. Sensing a good story, I approached an editor for the green light for the story. I was told that this was too hot a topic to touch. Apparently, the people responsible for the mess were too important to be criticized in public.
It is not unusual for Saudi Arabia to be criticized in the international media. Favorite recurring topics in the past have been lack of women’s rights, religious intolerance, old and indecisive leadership, and corruption. Fair enough, all those criticisms were justified and based on fact. But the Saudi leadership has taken steps to change this in the form of Saudi Vision 2030.
Saudi Corruption: On Saturday 3rd November, guests at the Ritz Carlton in Riyadh received an urgent notice to vacate the hotel by 11 PM. The notice went on to state . “unfortunately, we will not be able to grant an extension request due to high-security procedures dictated by the higher authorities”.