Commodore, Royal Saudi Navy (Retired)
During the 1970s, the world saw an unprecedented hike in oil prices and the United States was the worst-hit country.
It was a major oil consumer. Increase in oil prices not only affected the US economy but the American social life also took a downturn. The American weekly Sunday drive was gone, freeway speed limit was set at 55 mph and the system of odd-even numbers at the gas pumps was implements forcing people to look for more fuel-efficient cars. That was the time when the Americans started eyeing small Japanese cars.
During the same time, America started to look for cheaper sources of energy for their cars and electric generators. In short, countries no matter how rich and stable do come across economic recession, social and political changes. In order for a country to continue its march into the future, it must adapt and change.
We are living in a global village, wherein our interests are interlinked. The impact of economic, social or political problems in one part of the world is felt across the globe. Even diseases can spread faster than before. The world is currently witnessing the swift spread of Zika virus from one continent to another. In today’s world, no country can live in isolation.
Due to the changing geopolitical situation in the region, we Saudis should also take necessary measures to tackle the emerging scenario.
Saudi Arabia is surrounded by countries that are plagues with violence, instability, terrorism and economic disasters. In addition to that the Kingdom is facing several challenges from within like a young population, need to modernize our infrastructure, very high birth rate and the habit of relying on the government subsidies to lead a lavish life.
Our government has never left spared any effort to keep the country on the path of development and to ensure safe, stable and prosperous life for the people. Saudis are used to enjoy the facilities of free education, free health care, no income tax and no restrictions on the flow of funds. But due to the global and regional changes, we need to rethink our priorities and should brace for some changes in our lifestyles.
We Saudis have to change and adapt to the changes. The daily lives of Saudis have to change. Per capita, we are the highest consumers of energy, food, water and the biggest spenders on accessories. A large number of Saudi families travel out of the Kingdom around three times a year on an average, making us most frequent travelers in the world. So, the question is what should be our priorities if we need to change and adapt.
We have to make drastic changes in our education system. We have to teach our youth according to the requirements of the labor market. Yes, religious and art education is important for the soul, but studying science will ensure a prosperous future. History is important, but only if you learn from it. Education should teach a person to become more tolerant and open-minded.
We should do whatever is necessary to ride the current economic and political waves with many adjustments to our daily lives. In addition to these changes, the government should introduce effective ways to fight corruption and hate speech.
Saudi Arabia now is facing the dilemma of low oil prices, which is the main source of our national income but this could be a step toward adapting to low prices and finding other sources of income. It is easy for Saudi Arabia to overcome this problem by reducing and delaying mega projects so as to ensure effective utilization of available assets.
There are many changes that we should look for to take place in the Kingdom. The youth should change their habits and work ethics.
Written by Abdulateef Al-Mulhim. Adapting to Change reprinted with permission of Arab News and Abdulateef Al-Mulhim.