Sep 18 2012
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Alateeq: Accelerate Saudization process in senior positions
Intensifying Saudization, boosting cooperation between the public and private sectors, and ending bureaucratic delays are the three major steps that should be taken within the coming two decades, according to Abdullah Alateeq, CEO of Watan Pac. With Watan Pac involved in implementing the Ministry of Labor's intensive Saudization plan, Alateeq told Diana Al-Jassem of Arab News that a joint action by Saudi companies to bring together both old and new generations in tackling the problem of unemployment, checking rising prices and encouraging SMEs in a major effort to boost the economy. Rapid change
What changes would make a major impact on the lives of Saudis in the coming 20 years?
Unemployment: We need to be more concerned with major issues like finding employment for our new generations. We have to prepare the Saudi market for receiving fresh Saudi graduates. About 200,000 Saudi students are expected to enter the job market in the next few years. I expect the Kingdom to work harder than ever for bringing unemployment to zero level. The recent statistics showed the unemployment figure at about 1.7 million in the Kingdom. We want Saudis to work in prestigious and highly skilled positions rather than in lower levels. What we have seen in the Kingdom is that the Saudization plan tends to employ Saudis in lower positions.
Industrial boom: I believe that completing the pending industrial projects will lead the country to an industrial boom, thus contributing to a positive economic movement. Budget will also have a positive impact on local markets, especially if we motivate local investment projects. In addition, huge infrastructure projects and industrial cities will help in developing trade and the economy overall.
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?
Cutting red tape in bureaucracy is a 'must' in the coming 20 years. We need to fight the bureaucratic delays by streamlining the system that can deliver on time. Unfortunately, both time and money are wasted because of slowness in the bureaucratic system. To end this menace we, need to establish a monitoring authority to identify and punish the erring officers and even expose them in the media. Such an authority also should issue periodic reports evaluating the performance of each sector. We should all be concerned about the country's welfare more than anything else.
What are the most difficult decisions that need to be applied in the Kingdom in the next 20 years?
Saudization of middle- and high-level positions in both the public and private sectors is a real challenge.
When such a step is taken, remittances from the Kingdom to overseas destinations will come down and local investment will mark a sharp growth. Transparency is also needed where media has to be more accurate in evaluating and discussing the problems of both the public and private sectors.
We need to activate the role of youth and offer them job opportunities by establishing joint stock companies that hire only youth under the supervision of retired and highly experienced businessmen.
The trend of rising prices can not only be tackled but also completely stopped if our youth are allowed to make their contributions through participation in retail and wholesale businesses. Such a measure will help fight the growing monopolistic and control price-rises.
Encouragement of SMEs in industry and trade will ultimately increase Saudization in these sectors. Such SMEs can subsequently be brought under the supervision of huge companies.
What goals would you set regarding the Kingdom's development and how would these goals be achieved in your current position?
My main aim is to see that the Saudi economy is driven and managed by young Saudis. This could be achieved by reducing the opportunities for expatriate workers and allowing Saudis to work in higher positions.
Hiring of Saudis in management positions will help them implement Saudization speedily and successfully. We notice that there are some expatriate managements that tend to create obstacles for new Saudi employees. We should fight and put an end to such tendencies. I am in favor of encouraging teamwork and implement such strategies in both public and private sectors. Such strategies can help boost skills among our youth and allow them to cooperate with their bosses. Surveys should be carried out periodically in all companies where employees can evaluate their bosses. Such measures will encourage officials and mangers to work harder. Saudi companies must adopt an 'Open Door' policy for encouraging discussion and dialogue.
Can you give me an example of the most creative project that you wish to establish in the Kingdom?
I wish to establish a holding company where retired and young Saudis can work together. The aim of this holding company should be to offer job opportunities to unemployed Saudis, provide houses for them with appropriate, affordable prices and end monopoly in industry and trade, as well as check price-rise.
KSA in three words
What three words would you use to describe the Kingdom in the coming 20 years and why?
Safety, development and prosperity are the key elements that will shape the Kingdom in the coming years.
How can we all improve human rights in Saudi Arabia? What are your expectations regarding human rights practices?
I don't think we are lagging behind in human rights. What is required is to keep reminding people about human rights through media, especially through regular campaigns on TV, print media and other promotional channels.
What are the most prominent economic activities in the Kingdom and what are the neglected sectors that need attention?
The most common economic sectors are related to oil and petrochemical. The neglected sectors are services and tourism. I believe that we can benefit much more from the holy sites by encouraging more religious and tourist arrivals.
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?
Housing companies and landowners are constantly looking for profits. However, monopoly in this field has contributed negatively going by the rising prices of houses. We need a new strategy that can help build residential units with all essential services. A joint company can do that with contributions from both the public and private sectors. In addition, the projects of building residential units should be given to big companies that have the capability to execute the work with international standards. We already have such projects in Jubail and Yanbu.
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?
This sector is the backbone of any country's economy. It is the catalyst of any world economy. No giant country or company can work without having SMEs. Most international operations need factories to support their need for components and accessories. Japan is an example where they have Seven Trading House to organize import and export of the products for thousands of SMEs. I firmly believe that supporting the SMEs help them play a vital role in developing the Kingdom's economy and end the unemployment problem. The Japanese SMEs' experience has shown how they can function smoothly under a separate authority.
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?
Adapting the curriculum to the market needs during the next years will help further promote education in Saudi Arabia. However, when we talk about academic education, it is also necessary to create a link between students and the public and private sectors. I suggest university students should divide their time between study and work, so when they graduate they will understand the work strategy easily. I wish our education imparts 60 percent theoretical and 40 percent practical studies, especially in the last two years of university education.
How do you see Saudi women's contribution in the labor, social and political areas in the coming 20 years?
The contribution of the Saudi woman in labor market is needed, but she should be ready to contribute through good education and training.
What measures and standards are yet to be (and must be) applied to Saudi media and what are your expectations in the next 20 years?
Saudi media should have more transparency to deliver the voice of population. Meetings with citizens are important to know their points of view regarding many local issues. In addition, special programs must be held to observe the performance of both the public and private sectors and talk about their mistakes loudly.
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?
Bureaucratic delays in both the public and private sectors are among the common mistakes that we have to avoid during the coming years. Lack of organizational and management skills in both sectors as well as in various industrial areas are also something that should be corrected.
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?
I would advice the youth to use new strategies in their workplaces such as team spirit, open discussion and dialogue. Youths have to preserve the progress achieved by their forefathers in the service of the nation. I also want to remind them not to give up their pursuit of service because they are the future and they will get their opportunities sooner or later.
Major changes required for:
Increasing Saudization rate
An industrial boom and positive outlook for economic growth
Role of leaders:
Fight bureaucratic delays
Streamline procedures to do jobs in time
Establishment of a joint company that can bring together both retired employees and aspiring youth
Kingdom in three words:
Prominent industrial activities:
Oil and petrochemicals.
Requirements for housing development:
Build residential units under the government's supervision
Role of SMEs can be strengthened by:
Encouraging in industry and trade
Increasing Saudization through more SMEs
Establishing a special authority to supervise SMEs and promote their growth
Major changes in education:
Link education syllabus with the market needs
Saudi women can enhance their contribution by:
Being more active in labor market
Seeking better education to succeed in labor market
Mistakes could be avoided by:
Cutting the bureaucratic red tape
Removing shortcomings in public and private sector organizations
Streamlining operations in both public and private establishments
Message to Saudis
Work as a team
Never give up in your endeavors because you are the country's future
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