Mar 21 2011
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Put Saudization on right track: Turki
Prince Turki, chairman of King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies, and Al-Kibsi, managing partner of McKinsey and Company , were speaking on the subject "The Prosperous Citizenship" during the third session of the Jeddah Economic Forum (JEF) at the Jeddah Hilton on Sunday. Abou Bakr Bakader, deputy minister of information and culture, was the third speaker.
"Over the next 20 years, the standard of living in Saudi Arabia will drop by 50 percent, with many unable to provide for their families if productivity and job creation are not dealt with now," Al-Kibsi said.
"Particularly to balance the equation in my mind the approach of the Five-Year Plan for Saudization has been unsuccessful and we must be frank that we still are searching for a solution," Prince Turki said, adding that the latest initiative of financial support measures announced by Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah on Friday will help increase job opportunities.
"Qaddafi himself has said he does not have any official position. At the same time, he is in charge, contradicting himself," the premier said when asked by Arab News whether Qaddafi should step down. He added that he had asked the Libyan leader to appoint a president with popular backing as a way to end the crisis. "Qaddafi should hand the country over to whoever has legitimacy. I wish to see an end to the bloodshed and to see the will of the Libyan people dominant," Erdogan said.
The Turkish leader, when asked whether his country would pursue the same stand on the Palestinian issue if it became a EU member, replied: "I will be very sad if you doubt me about that. Yes, our stand will be the same."
He emphasized his confidence that Turkey would become one day a EU member. "Turkey has all the financial institutions and structures that meet EU requirements. There will be a day when they (EU) will be forced to make Turkey part of EU," he said, adding, "Turkey's EU membership would be a test for the clash of civilization theory."
In the earlier session, Al-Kibsi, while raising the bogey of unemployment, also proposed a way for the future. "We can create a more economically stable future by employing two simple principles to boost productivity from the current rate of -0.5 percent to 3 percent and by improving education over the next decade. This alone will increase productivity by 30 percent," Al-Kibsi said, adding that the productivity rate had fallen in Saudi Arabia due to slow progress in the private sector and focus on public sector.
"By focusing on productivity in the private sector we can add 2.5 million jobs through mainly SMEs and the service sector," he said. He added that vocational training is critical to close the gap and increase productivity and, therefore, the Kingdom's standard of living.
Currently, only four million, out of 20 million Saudis, have jobs with 2.8 million employed in the public sector. "This means that there will be six million more Saudis in 20 years seeking jobs, one million of who will find jobs in the public sector leaving five million to be forced to accept low-wage jobs in the private sector," Al-Kibsi said.
Prince Turki said that job opportunities are essential for the country's future development. "It is inevitable to take additional measures to have extended development continue," he said.
He also called on banks to provide more loans to SMEs that will in turn provide high employment opportunities for Saudis.
He stated that more monitoring of corruption should be in place to promote prosperity and job creation.
Prince Turki said that private sector growth would be the key to preserving the assets of society, adding that government officials should open channels to gather opinions by launching a national dialogue with citizens. He also called for more authority to the Shoura Council to ensure stability.
"We have not yet reached this level of education but should make it our goal to give society the chance to participate in implementing the measures that King Abdullah unveiled in order to have a positive impact," he said while stressing that the solution lay in education.
Earlier addressing the forum, Erdogan highlighted the growing relations between his country and Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries. "People of Syria, Lebanon and Jordan do not need visas to enter Turkey. We are now in talks with Saudi Arabia to nullify the visa requirement. We want to remove all obstacles between our two countries."
Erdogan stressed the growing role of youth in Muslim countries.
© Arab News 2011
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