Israel, Golan Heights and the Syrian Endgame: New Age Islam’s Selection, 25 April 2016

New Age Islam Edit Bureau

25 April 2016

Israel, Golan Heights And The Syrian Endgame

By Geoffrey Aronson

American Democracy Is Rigged

By Hamid Dabashi

New Constants In Traditional US-Gulf Partnership

By Raghida Dergham

How Saudi Arabia Is Planning A New Economic Era

By Nathan Hodson

Saudi Arabia: Reform Comes With Social Responsibility

By Faisal Abualhassan

Transformation!

By Hussein Shobokshi

Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau

——

Israel, Golan Heights and the Syrian Endgame

By Geoffrey Aronson

24 Apr 2016

As the beginning of the endgame on Syria commences, Israel is signalling its intention to join in the feasting on Syria’s decaying sovereignty – demanding international recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights captured from Syria in the June 1967 war.

The occasion for this demand was an extraordinary cabinet session in on the Golan plateau – the first ever – where, according to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s reckoning, 50,000 Israeli settlers reside.

“I chose to hold this festive cabinet meeting on the Golan Heights in order to deliver a clear message,” Netanyahu declared at the outset of the meeting. “The Golan Heights will forever remain in Israel’s hands. Israel will never come down from the Golan Heights.”

Hezbollah Fighters Push Towards The Golan Heights

This Israeli message bears repeating, particularly now when the parties to the war in Syria are jockeying for advantage in the first stages of the diplomatic battle to end the war and to design Syria’s future.

Netanyahu, no less than the multitude of players circling around the decimated Syrian state, is determined to place its maximal demands on the diplomatic agenda now being fashioned in Washington and Moscow.

The Golan Heights’ Annexation

It is significant that Netanyahu set out this demand for international recognition of the Golan Heights’ annexation without addressing the larger question of a peace treaty with Damascus, which has always been part of the broader diplomatic context in which negotiations over the Golan Heights have been held.

Syria, of course, is hardly able to consider engaging in negotiations over the Golan Heights’ future. Nor is there much evidence that any Syrian party to the war is prepared to recognise Israeli sovereignty. Both opposition leader Riad Hijab and Syria’s Bashar al-Jaafari found themselves in unusual agreement on their adamant rejection of Netanyahu’s provocative declaration.

In any case, Netanyahu is hardly concerned about Syria’s views on the matter. He is aiming at different – and in his view, more decisive – audience altogether. Not Syrian or even Arab, but American and especially Russian.

On the day before the cabinet meeting on the Golan Heights, Netanyahu put forward the broad menu of Israel’s demands on Syria in a conversation with US Secretary of State John Kerry.

“I told the Secretary of State that we will not oppose a diplomatic settlement in Syria on condition that it not come at the expense of the security of the State of Israel; ie, that at the end of the day, the forces of Iran, Hezbollah and [ISIL] will be removed from Syrian soil.”

“The time has come,” he continued, “for the international community to recognise reality, especially two basic facts. One, whatever is beyond the border; the boundary itself will not change. Two, after 50 years, the time has come for the international community to finally recognise that the Golan Heights will remain under Israel’s sovereignty permanently.”

The cold shoulder presented by Washington could not have surprised Netanyahu …

Wide range of demands.

Washington, at least publicly, did not address the wide range of demands Netanyahu outlined, preferring to reiterate Washington’s long-standing view that the Golan Heights is “not part of Israel”.

The cold shoulder presented by Washington could not have surprised Netanyahu, where frustration with the Israeli leader runs deep. Indeed, it is Moscow, where Netanyahu went on April 21, rather than Washington that looms largest in the Israeli premier’s considerations about protecting and advancing Israel’s interests in Syria.

This has most notably been the case since the decisive Russian intervention on behalf of the Assad regime last year, and it will feature prominently in Netanyahu’s current round of discussions with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The critical nature of the Israel-Russian entente on Syria was addressed by the Minister of Transportation Yisrael Katz who explained that: “Coordination of steps between us and Russia allows Israel to defend these interests without fear of Russian intervention, and it is extremely important not only in near, but in the long run … We need to remember that we have interests relating to the Golan Heights, and it is good that, in the case of a settlement in Syria, we have the ability to effectively communicate with Russia.”

In contrast to this delicate and effective dialogue, relations with Washington remain hostage to the clash resulting from Washington’s acknowledged failure to do anything in the last eight years to slow the advance of Israel’s settlement and occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Today, Washington contents itself with heartfelt lamentations, most recently articulated by Vice President Joe Biden, about the course Israel has chosen and a policy agenda that focuses on the slim reed of what used to be called “economic peace”.

Kerry recently explained this policy:

“… I do think it is possible to get something started, get something moving in which you could lay out a vision for where you’re going and perhaps get the parties together and have some understanding, some confidence-building measures. You could have some efforts, for instance, in the West Bank on Area C, which is the area controlled by Israel in its entirety – and begin to build up Palestinian capacity.

“I think you could do more on security … more on economic development. You could build a horizon where there are some expectations for what has to be achieved that begin to quiet things down and give people some confidence or hope that there is, within that framework, the kernels of possible negotiations. I don’t think you can just plunk down and start to negotiate tomorrow, but I do think there are definitive steps that could be taken. And we have – what? – nine, 10 more months, and I think President Obama will always welcome something that’s real.”

This shortcoming is all the greater because of the spectacular failure of the Obama administration’s initial demand for a complete settlement freeze.

The patent first established during the Obama administration’s diplomatic offensive on Palestine – grandiose American statements lacking any real strategic sense or commitment to their implementation – is now playing out in Syria, as well.

Source: aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2016/04/israel-golan-heights-syrian-endgame-160421062818750.html

——

American Democracy Is Rigged

By Hamid Dabashi

24 Apr 2016

In the United States presidential elections, there are two towering political parties – the Democratic and the Republican – that during the course of their “primary” elections get to choose who will be their respective candidates in the course of a national election.

Although any US citizen can join these two parties – or any other political party – millions of eligible voters have not, and consider themselves “independent”.

These independent voters get to vote in the general elections like anyone else, but by the time we get to that general election in November, the two dominant political parties have already elected their nominee, and, therefore, US citizens at large have to vote for one of these preselected nominees if they want their vote to have a role in who their next president will be.

This entirely undemocratic, arcane, draconian, and ipso facto rigged aspect of the US electoral system came to a crucial dead-end during the New York primaries of the Democratic and Republican parties on April 19, when Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump won their respective primaries.

Decisive Setback

In many significant ways, the presidential primaries in New York were a turning point in the unfolding saga of Bernie Sanders’ bid for the US presidency.

His crushing defeat by the former state secretary marks a decisive setback that may, in fact, end his candidacy and usher his massively popular campaign into a new phase, with or without the prospect of US presidency.

So crucial was this victory for Clinton that soon after this primary, the New York Times – which now openly, unabashedly, and against any norm of journalistic decency or professionalism acts as the official organ of Clinton’s campaign – was so confident of her victory that it began to speculate about who her running mate might be.

These primaries were not like any other; New York is the financial, commercial, cultural, and intellectual capital of the US. What happens in New York (and a few other major cosmopolitan epicenters like Chicago and San Francisco) is, in many ways, the barometer of the nation at large.

Some 20 million people live in the state of New York, of which about 8.4 million live just in New York City. This population figure places New York City above many European democracies, such as Austria, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland.

Now, consider the fact that according to reports, “only 19.7 percent of eligible New Yorkers cast a ballot, the second-lowest voter turnout among primary states after Louisiana, according to elections expert Michael McDonald”.

This is not to mention the fact that even those who were registered Democrats and could not vote: “The Kings County Board of Elections purged 126,000 registered Democrats from the voting rolls in Brooklyn, prompting an outcry from Mayor Bill de Blasio and an audit from Comptroller Scott Stringer.”

Since when can a political party … violate the inalienable right of citizenship in a republic?

Whatever the cause of this “purge” (fraud or mishap), this is not the main calamity of the electoral process in the US.

The issue is the fact that less than 20 percent of eligible voters in a state-wide election get to choose who the next presidential candidates in the US national elections would be.

This low number is not any indication of an apathetic low voter turnout, but, in fact, is the evidence of massive voter suppression that, in the racist parlance of the white supremacists, is kept exclusive for what they call “Third World Banana Republics”.

Now, the question is very simple: What is the difference between the way the Democratic Party functions in New York and many other states and the Communist Party of North Korea, the bete noire of the liberation theologians singing Hallelujah for “American democracy”?

Since when can a political party (with an obvious political agenda to promote for its own endurance) violate the inalienable right of citizenship in a republic?

Some More Equal than Others

The principle reason for this voter suppression is what they call in the US “closed primaries”. What is a closed primary?

New York is among many other states that conduct what is called “closed primaries”; namely, they only allow voters who are registered members of a particular political party to vote in that party’s primary.

It is not, therefore, accidental that much to the chagrin of Sanders and his massive supporters among independents, “Clinton has won every state so far that’s held a closed primary”.

If, as a citizen, you followed the debates closely and came to the conclusion that Sanders is the candidate of your choice and not Clinton, you would not be allowed to vote for him unless months ago (long before you were familiar with Sanders or his ideas), you had applied to the Democratic Party and become a member.

It must be a rudimentary fact of any claim to democracy that if you are a citizen of a republic, you must be able to vote in any phase of any presidential (or any other) election simply by virtue of being a citizen.

The Democratic Party, therefore, rules over this false claim to democracy the same way the Guardian Council of octogenarian Super Mullahs rules over the Islamic Republic.

But in this crucial phase of the US presidential primaries, these citizens are not allowed to vote unless and until they are card-carrying members of the political party conducting that primary.

“All animals are equal,” indeed, as we learned from George Orwell’s Animal Farm, “but some animals are more equal than others”.

As a result of this blatantly undemocratic practice, if you are an independent-minded person, follow the news and watch the debates before you decide which candidate you prefer and want to vote for in the Democratic primaries in New York, you might as well a woman be trying to drive in Saudi Arabia: You could not.

False Claim to Democracy

The Democratic Party, therefore, rules over this false claim to democracy the same way the Guardian Council of octogenarian Super Mullahs rules over the Islamic Republic.

In other words, the free and fair formation of political parties that is supposed to be the finest fruit of a democracy has paradoxically degenerated into the most powerful impediment to democracy.

The question is: What is the result of these undemocratic “closed primaries”?

These “closed primaries” are the bottlenecks of a closed political culture, preventing the possibility of any liberating breakthrough into a foreclosed political system.

At the heart of this imperial republic that effectively rules the world with its military might (not with any moral courage or political legitimacy), we have an electoral process that systematically bars any critical judgment of its own citizens to disrupt its mindless militarism. American citizens are as much trapped inside this corrupt system as people around the globe are at the mercy of its fighter jets and drone attacks.

These two parties, Republican and Democratic, are today functioning like two identical but competing Orwellian Ministries of Truth – systematically, consistently, unabashedly disallowing any critical thinking or nonviolent democratic action to enter and disrupt the always-already rigged election.

Source: aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2016/04/american-democracy-rigged-160424071608730.html

——

New Constants In Traditional US-Gulf Partnership

By Raghida Dergham

25 April 2016

The main theme of the US-Gulf summit in Riyadh was pronounced by US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter, after meeting with his Gulf counterparts, when he said that the nuclear deal with Iran does not impose any restrictions on the US. The US military “remains committed and capable of responding to Iranian malign and destabilizing activities and deterring aggression against our regional friends and allies,” especially in the Gulf, he said.

“The United States shares with GCC partners the view that, even as the nuclear accord verifiably prevents Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, there are many more issues to be concerned with regarding Iran’s behaviour in the region,” he said, including support for terrorist groups. This is exactly what the GCC countries wanted to hear from the senior US delegation that headed to Riyadh for the second summit of its kind since the Camp David summit hosted by President Obama.

Secretary General of the GCC Abdullatif Al-Zayani listed several points that were agreed upon between the two sides, including cooperation in missile defense and deploying joint patrols to intercept Iranian vessels smuggling weapons. The long-term strategic partnership reinforced by the Riyadh Summit is not a secondary issue, given the tension that has marred the relationship as Obama gave absolute priority instead to the nuclear agreement with Iran and the détente with Tehran after three decades of estrangement.

That priority required the US president to isolate in his assessment nuclear talks from Iran’s regional ambitions from Iraq to Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, and Yemen. The policy of turning a blind eye to such practices was seen by most Gulf States as a US blessing of Iranian expansionism and hegemony in the region. The Gulf States thus lost trust in Obama, who in turn did not conceal his annoyance with these countries’ objections to his policies.

The crux of the question will be whether US strategic policy will remain committed to the traditional alliance with the Gulf or whether it will fluctuate in light of the US-Iranian relations and the winds coming from Tehran

The decision to hold a second US-Gulf summit to repair and develop relations has reinforced the US security and strategic partnership with its traditional allies in parallel with the emerging US-Iranian relationship, which in turn is experiencing a crisis as a result of the Iranian leadership’s sticking to its guns, especially with regard to its ballistic missile program.

A new development here has to do with the fight against terror, affecting two main aspects: Saudi Arabia’s steps to establish a pan-Islamic military alliance against ISIS and other terrorist groups; and the unprecedented moves by the GCC and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to designate as terror groups led by Hezbollah. Ashton Carter described Hezbollah as one of the malignant activities carried out by Iran in the region, and welcomed the Islamic military alliance against ISIS, sending out an important message to the GCC states.

President Barack Obama, in turn, stressed his opposition to the justice against sponsors of terrorism act proposed by both Democrats and Republicans in the Congress. The bill would allow, if passed, the families of the victims of 9/11 to sue the Saudi parties on charges – denied by Riyadh – of having a role in the attacks. Obama said he opposed the bill before heading to Riyadh, stressing that it would be a dangerous precedent, thereby defusing any possible escalation that would have damaged the summit or even US-Saudi relations.

The US and Gulf parties discussed ways to strengthen security cooperation, according to Zayani’s announcement in the wake of the Gulf defence ministers meeting with their US counterpart, including areas like missile defence, marine security, armament and training, and cyber security, in order to allow the GCC countries to build up their readiness to protect the region’s security and stability. Zayani said the steps agreed included combating Iranian activities that violate international law through joint operations to intercept arms shipments bound for Yemen or other conflict zones.

The second summit between Saudi King Salman bin Abdul Aziz and US President Barack Obama – who was making his fourth visit to Riyadh since taking office – was not particularly warm. However, it adhered to the parameters of strategic relations and joint interests. While the US president was waiting for the joint summit with the six GCC nations, the leaders of these countries were meeting in another summit. This had important significance and was a message to the US and its president.

The Other Summit

Indeed, by contrast, a warm and historic summit convened between GCC leaders and Morocco’s King Mohammed VI, and stressed the principles of non-interference in others’ affairs, mutual defence, and developing partnership towards integration and possibly including Morocco the GCC framework. During his press conference with his Moroccan counterpart, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said that the main principle of the Arab summits in Riyadh was the refusal to tamper with stability and separatism, while his counterpart stressed the importance for these countries to be in a “united bloc.”

Morocco is a partner in the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, and is also a key part of the pan-Islamic anti-terror alliance. These two issues are not the subject of contention between the US and the GCC except in terms of mutual expectations. Yemen remains a Saudi and Gulf priority, while the US wants to accelerate an end to that war and also wants Iran to end its intervention in Yemen. Regarding the issue of the Islamic alliance, Washington welcomes it if its focus will be on defeating terrorism, but there are differences over priorities in Iraq and Syria.

Washington has focused on Iraq and the need for the Gulf countries to step up their support, economic and political, for the Iraqi government, especially as concerns Sunni regions of Iraq. However, the Gulf countries have stressed the need for the government in Baghdad to fulfil its obligations towards Sunnis, and the need to rein in Shiite militias and Iranian dictates.

Disagreements continue in Syria as well because of the divergent visions and policies. Neither the Gulf countries, particularly Saudi Arabia, is willing to abandon Syria; nor is the US administration ready to pursue a new policy on Syria after gradually backing away from its red lines, led by the demand for Bashar al-Assad to step down.

Source: english.alarabiya.net/en/views/2016/04/25/New-constants-in-traditional-US-Gulf-partnership.html

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How Saudi Arabia Is Planning a New Economic Era

By Nathan Hodson

24 April 2016

On April 25, Saudi Arabia is expected to announce a comprehensive economic plan aimed at pivoting the kingdom away from its heavy reliance on oil. The much-touted creation of a $2 trillion sovereign wealth fund will be one pillar of this plan.

Another will be the National Transformation Program, which includes a wide variety of reforms, from tax increases to spending cuts. This strategic reform initiative will build on the multimillion-dollar advice of several prominent consulting firms, a preview of which was given in a December 2015 McKinsey report.

The many challenges facing Saudi Arabia are well known. But if McKinsey’s assumptions and calculations prove correct, then the magnitude of required reform is truly astounding. According to their report, “Even if the government were to freeze the level of public expenditure in nominal terms to contain the deficit and intervene in the labour market to stem rising unemployment by limiting the influx of foreign workers, these reactive changes would be insufficient to maintain current Saudi living standards or sound public finances.”

There can be little doubt that the government is serious about economic transformation. But how far and how quickly they can push reforms are two important questions

In other words, things are challenging. McKinsey’s baseline scenario requires two enormous policy shifts and still won’t save Saudi Arabia from severe economic hardship. Instead, it calls on the kingdom’s leadership to be even more ambitious, focusing their efforts on increasing labour productivity, building a stronger business environment, and managing finances sustainably. What McKinsey has proposed is nothing short of revolutionary. For example, under its full-potential scenario, the consulting firm presumes non-oil government revenue will increase more than ten-fold between 2013 and 2030.

Steps toward Change

Saudi Arabia has already taken a number of steps toward reform. The Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA) has simplified licensing procedures for foreign investors. The government has raised the price of fuel and electricity. And the kingdom has also already begun raising money both domestically and internationally, in the midst of credit downgrades from major rating agencies. Meanwhile, Saudi leadership has also recognized that much more needs to be done, including fiscal consolidation and working to eliminate the budget deficit in the next five years.

However, there is reason to be sceptical about the government’s ability to deliver. As the Economist pointed out, “Saudi Arabia has promised reform before, only for its efforts to fizzle into insignificance. Its capital markets are thin and the capacity of its bureaucracy thinner.” It is much easier to pen a strategic plan than to execute it. Previous plans have often fallen far short of their goals. Productivity growth in Saudi Arabia has been low in recent decades. Even if the government can somehow take immediate concrete steps to make the business environment better functioning and more transparent and can also lop off unproductive government spending, overhauling the education system and reforming the civil service are monumental tasks.

Every piece of the elaborate reform puzzle comes with its own challenges. In order to have a real impact on housing and development, the tax on unused land must be accompanied by the execution of reforms in the mortgage market and on regulations. Meeting proposed deadlines to adopt international accounting standards seems nearly impossible given a shortage of qualified accountants in the kingdom and difficulties ensuring Sharia compliance.

This is to say nothing of domestic political concerns. The government should simultaneously placate the princes, garner the support of the business community, and be careful not to upset or overburden the masses with new taxes, reduced subsidies, and fewer government jobs. There has already been some pushback from consumer groups about water prices. And while targeted cash transfers to low- and middle-income Saudis will help relieve some of the burden, the fact remains that Saudi citizens will still be asked to work harder in jobs that pay less than they are accustomed to.

There can be little doubt that the government is serious about economic transformation. But how far and how quickly they can push reforms are two important questions. It is one thing to call for improvement in government delivery, a breakdown of barriers in the private sector, and improved accountability. It is another thing to deliver on these promises. However, even if Saudi Arabia can pull off only a fraction of the proposed reforms and falls short of its lofty goals, it will be a meaningful start to real economic transformation.

Source: english.alarabiya.net/en/views/2016/04/24/How-Saudi-Arabia-is-planning-a-new-economic-era.html

—–

Saudi Arabia: Reform Comes With Social Responsibility

By Faisal Abualhassan

24 Apr 2016

On April 25, the Saudi government will unveil its “Vision for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia”, a sweeping package of economic reforms that includes the widely-reported “National Transformation Programme” as well as the privatisation of oil giant Saudi Aramco and Riyadh’s new Public Investment Fund.

While the media narrative surrounding the plan for a post-oil Saudi Arabia largely focuses on the Kingdom’s potential for financial growth and investment, the social context surrounding these reforms demands a closer look.

To date, news of this privatisation and diversification drive has drawn understandable scepticism from many quarters. How can Riyadh, the world’s largest oil producer, wean itself off the petrodollar in the midst of a crash in oil prices?

Crude Power: The Oil Game Uncovered – Counting the Cost

In a region ravaged by economic, political and social strife, the G20 member and World Bank key player enjoys both the financial and human capital to make reforms other countries in the Arab world might not be able to undertake.

Reliance on Petrodollars

If the Kingdom achieves its stated goals, the Saudi push to reduce reliance on petrodollars will be nothing less than a momentous transformation of a country most closely associated with oil fields.

However, the success or failure of this effort will come down to whether it can foresee and inhibit potentially adverse consequences that could follow policy changes of this scale.

By building necessary infrastructure while divesting certain publicly administered services, the Kingdom can indeed kick-start non-oil growth while alleviating its financial burden.

This potential, however, requires more than a mere “economic” transformation. It also requires acknowledgement and encouragement – by the state and foreign investors alike – of Saudi Arabia’s profound and ongoing generational shifts.

Nevertheless, diversification, privatisation, and the opening of the Saudi market to outside investors (especially with recent reforms that facilitate foreign investment) could well make the Kingdom a global investment and trade destination, to the benefit of international markets and Saudi citizens alike.

In privatising public ventures (like airports), the Kingdom is seeking broad institutional changes it hopes will be spearheaded by public-private partnerships.

Sources of Non-Oil Income

The idea of creating airport free zones in Riyadh and Jeddah would provide for additional sources of non-oil income but also create laboratories for local, regional and foreign companies and industries alike. The impact of such changes, however, will not be limited to Saudi finances. They have the potential to impact Saudi society as well. In fact, they already are.

With oil prices likely to stay low for the foreseeable future, the Kingdom is cognisant of its need for outside investment to make up for reduced revenues.

Since joining the SkyTeam airline alliance in May 2012, for example, Saudi airports have begun hosting transit passengers from across the world. This has prompted the hitherto unimaginable breakdown of social and cultural barriers between Saudis and the outside world.

While middle and upper-class Saudis have for decades travelled abroad, airport employees and domestic travellers in the Kingdom’s international airports are coming into regular contact with transit passengers from abroad for the first time.

These fellow travellers represent previously impossible contact with the outside world at a time when Saudis face above-average scrutiny for visas to most Western nations.

With oil prices likely to stay low for the foreseeable future, the Kingdom is cognisant of its need for outside investment to make up for reduced revenues.

Just this week, Saudi Arabia took out a $10bn five-year loan from a consortium of global banks – its first sovereign loan since 1991. This effort to raise the Saudi borrowing profile will be an important part of the necessary shift from Aramco to the Public Investment Fund as the primary financial organ of the Kingdom.

Aside from opening Aramco, the new economic programme aims to attract foreign investment in an increasingly service-oriented local consumer culture by expanding Saudi’s retail and healthcare sectors with foreign investment.

Saudi officials indicate their plans for closer business ties with the United States, focusing on cooperation and investment from the US technology, healthcare, tourism and transport sectors.

This echoes Riyadh’s previous (and continuing) pursuit of British investment in rail, healthcare and construction projects.

While these openings promise more jobs for Saudis, they also require a Saudi labour market capable of moving beyond the managerial, engineering and medical sectors to also handling technical jobs (an area Saudis still avoid).

Most press coverage of the National Transformation Programme has revolved around floating Aramco to foreign investors and the sovereign wealth fund, with job creation largely relegated to an afterthought.

Any vision of true transformation, however, must place an equal emphasis on encouraging generational change in the Saudi workforce and society. This means taking into account the changing social aspirations, habits and needs of Saudi youth.

Failings Of The Welfare State

Affluent young Saudis, frustrated with the failings of the welfare state, have thus far embraced the Thatcheresque models underpinning the National Transformation Programme. One cannot forget, however, the downside of Thatcherite economics: ignoring unemployment.

Thus far, Saudi higher education has (despite its best intentions) created an academic environment that prioritises producing employees over scholars, blurring the boundaries of academia. Liberating Saudi academics from this scholastic-industrial complex by creating and expanding technical colleges would give greater focus to both areas and produce Saudi workers better qualified to reduce reliance on foreign labour.

Winding down generous scholarship programmes to universities abroad and focusing on quality over quantity in domestic education should do much to improve this long-standing labour issue. The new economic platform must include even broader restructuring of education expenditures to earn better returns on those investments.

Comparing the support enjoyed by the soon-to-be-announced National Transformation Programme to past labour reforms, the failure of the oil-based welfare state’s Saudisation policies helps explain the warm reception of the economic policies now being revealed.

This time around, the economic programme can and should emphasise a population capable and encouraged to explore all fields of work – including technical work. Otherwise, the issues that now plague the oil-based economy will remain.

Source: aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2016/04/saudi-arabia-reform-social-responsibility-160424113834488.html

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Transformation!

By Hussein Shobokshi

Apr 25, 2016

There is excitement in the air these days and the Saudis are in a state of optimism while anticipating the announcement of the national vision program, which is circulating in various media circles.

With all the information that is being exchanged, Saudis are awaiting with hope and passion to hear details about this ambitious program.

The world is changing and Saudi Arabia is also part of this changing world. Therefore, it is natural that the changes are desired and expected by the Saudis as well.

According to what we have been hearing through the media the ideas about the national transformation program seems to be bold, ambitious and promising.

Saudi Arabia is changing in a changeable world and it is therefore the right of every Saudi citizen to dream of an ambitious national vision, which should feature clear objectives and a road map for a leap into a real quality life in future.

Grand National projects with a fixed vision and long-term goals will always chart a future of clear direction.

The Saudis are now of the view that the implementation of huge national projects based on long-term vision will be bold and challenging and this will certainly make all the difference.

There is a big difference between those who have a date with history or have a date with the future. Saudi Arabia is a young country, not exceeding 100 years since it was founded and 60 percent of its population is under the age of 25.

This young generation needs a new vision to address their queries and remove all the obstacles from their way and open the way for new opportunities.

Saudis believe that they are prisoners of bureaucratic decisions and these bureaucratic ideas kill ambitions and exaggerates fear of change that lead to a monotonous point of boredom, which affect their pattern of thinking.

Comparing ourselves to our neighbors in the past we were far more advanced then but now the situation has reversed.

There is a conviction among the Saudis that they have the ability to provide creative ideas but the climate of administrative restrictions existing at present does not help them and therefore there are many voices calling to embark on the development and improvement in the management across all sectors.

The Saudis are now convinced that their association with oil-based economy over time is over and it is now time that they face the new reality and plan accordingly for the future without relying on a single-item based economy.

The national transformation program, which the Saudis are anticipating and optimistic about, is a rare moment in the nation’s history and it is a long-awaited move the citizens are waiting for.

Source: saudigazette.com.sa/opinion/transformation/

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/middle-east-press/new-age-islam-edit-bureau/israel,-golan-heights-and-the-syrian-endgame–new-age-islam-s-selection,-25-april-2016/d/107092

– See more at: http://newageislam.com/middle-east-press/new-age-islam-edit-bureau/israel,-golan-heights-and-the-syrian-endgame–new-age-islam-s-selection,-25-april-2016/d/107092#sthash.MDlONdRX.dpuf

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