According to a report in a local newspaper, the government will start paying contractors within the next two weeks and up to 80 percent of the money owed will be paid by the end of this year.
Fahd Al-Hammadi, head of the National Contractors Committee at the Council of Saudi Chambers, said that around SR 40 billion has already been disbursed to construction firms and asked that the rest be distributed as per the directives of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques. His request can be fully appreciated as delays have caused untold hardship to workers, business owners, suppliers and banks. Our national economy has suffered and our image abroad has been damaged.
This culture of delayed payments has prevailed for some time and was even the case when oil prices were high. It stems from irregularities, corruption, mismanagement and a lack of empathy among those in the world of business and finance. At times the attitude of bureaucrats, even minor ones, could make or break a major project.
It is important at this critical juncture when oil prices are down and reserves have taken a hit that the Ministry of Finance manages a cash flow that helps streamline the economy.
Another report in a local daily states that Saudi reserves can cover the budget deficit for the next seven years. However, we need not wait for that to happen! And it should not happen. After all we have oil exports as well as some non-oil exports, and there are other sources of revenue, as well.
Saudi Vision 2030 is clear. However, what is needed is a balanced budget, fiscal responsibility, an end to waste and a proper costing of projects. International standards should be applied. Furthermore, while in the past major conglomerates were in control, the business scene should change to allow small- and medium-sized enterprises to participate in the national economy.
Let us usher in a positive atmosphere by modernizing our ministries and making Saudi Vision 2030 a goal and a reality. History will not forgive us if we do not do so.
— Reprinted with permission of the Saudi Gazette and Khaled Almaeena. The writer is Editor-at-Large. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter: @KhaledAlmaeena