Voices from the Arab press: Happy news from Saudi Arabia

A weekly selection of opinions and analyses from the Arab media around the world.

 VISITING THE Edge display  at the Dubai Airshow,  November 15. (photo credit: STRINGER/ REUTERS)
VISITING THE Edge display at the Dubai Airshow, November 15.
(photo credit: STRINGER/ REUTERS)

HAPPY NEWS FROM SAUDI ARABIA

Asharq al-Awsat, London, November 19 

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Last week, Saudi Arabia formalized its naturalization program, which will pave the way to citizenship for foreigners with exceptional abilities and talent.

The importance of this decision can be summarized in three points.

First: The decision attracts talent, which will reflect positively on Saudi society and its future. Attracting brilliant minds was one of the reasons that contributed to the successes of major countries.

Let’s not forget how the United States, for example, benefited from the naturalization of outstanding workers who lived in the country. Examples for this abound – 8% of doctors in America are of Indian origin, and one-fifth of the technology companies in Silicon Valley were founded by individuals of Indian origin. Immigrants in America start up about a quarter of companies each year, and a third of American Nobel Prize winners come from immigrant backgrounds and subsequently acquired citizenship. Let’s not forget the Arab immigrants and their role, and let us remember that Steve Jobs was the son of a Syrian immigrant.

Second: The decision increases cultural and social diversity in the kingdom. We now know that successful societies are ones that can embrace citizens from different backgrounds while uniting them under a single national identity. In short, diversity makes society richer. The world we live in today is more connected than ever before, and a global society reflects a nation’s ability to adjust to changing circumstances.

 US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan Al-Saud deliver remarks to reporters before meeting at the State Department in Washington, US, October 14, 2021. (credit: REUTERS/JONATHAN ERNST) US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan Al-Saud deliver remarks to reporters before meeting at the State Department in Washington, US, October 14, 2021. (credit: REUTERS/JONATHAN ERNST)

Third: The decision mitigates the fanatical calls for complete closure of borders or the dangerous racism and xenophobia that have been plaguing the Middle East. Such racist calls are based on pure hatred that classifies people based on where they were born. They can tear societies apart, if they aren’t nipped at the bud.

The decision carries a clear moral and humanitarian message that a person is judged strictly on the basis of his or her merit; not appearance, religion, ethnicity or race.

Finally, the importance of this decision extends well beyond Saudi Arabia. It sends a clear moral message to other governments and nations – a message of acceptance, openness and communication in a divided Arab region charged with calls for incitement and hatred.

Enriching society with competencies, introducing the element of human diversity, and curbing racism are undoubtedly the signs of strong, healthy and tolerant societies that look toward the future, in contrast to dogmatic societies filled with vengeance and hatred, which ultimately destroy only those who believe in them. – Mamdouh al-Muhaini

GCC STATES HAVE OVERCOME BIG OBSTACLES

Al-Ittihad, UAE, November 18

It seems that the Gulf Cooperation Council countries are on their way to overcoming two major obstacles that limited their growth during the past two years.

The first is COVID-19. GCC states have made rapid progress in vaccinating their residents, allowing them to restore important financial activity, such as tourism and travel, and boost their economies.

For example, Emirates airline managed to decrease its losses in the first half of this year by roughly 54%. Similarly, the World Expo, hosted in Dubai, and the Dubai Airshow, brought thousands of visitors into the UAE. This was achieved to a large degree thanks to creative new measures such as the adoption of a unified Gulf vaccination certificate, similar to the one introduced by the European Union.

Another obstacle that left its effect on the Gulf economies is related to the significant drop in oil prices last year, which led to severe budget deficits and the postponement of large projects in many Gulf states. However, recent data suggest that the recent rises in oil prices will have significant positive repercussions on economic activity in GCC countries, especially the increase in spending and the reduction of deficits.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia already announced a significant decrease in its deficit in the second quarter of this year, coming down from 109 billion riyals in Q2 last year to 4.6b. riyals in the same quarter this year. Similarly, the Kuwaiti budget deficit decreased by 94.5% in the first four months of the current fiscal year, according to the Ministry of Finance. The budgets of the rest of the GCC countries are expected to witness a similar shrinking in the deficit for the current year.

All of this provides real hope for economic growth in the coming year, ranging between 3% and 4%. These developments provide a valuable opportunity for Gulf countries to avoid further difficulties in the event of sharp fluctuations in oil prices.

Thus, GCC states can leverage these financial and health developments to revitalize their economies and bring them back to their pre-pandemic levels. This will be an incredible achievement that can be built upon for the coming years. 

– Mohammed Al-Asoumi 

THE LEAST READ, BUT MOST IMPORTANT NEWS

Al-Nahar, Lebanon, November 17

As columnists, we often find ourselves writing about what we think our readers are interested in reading, and not necessarily about what we think is important.

However, today I’ve decided to do the opposite and update my readers on what I think is hugely important for their lives: climate change, terrorism and modern technology.

Taken at face value, these three issues seem unrelated. But the truth is that the three are directly connected.

You see, the issue of earth’s changing climate is related not merely to an increase in global temperatures or even to the disappearance of certain cities; it also has to do with the rise in bloody conflicts, revolutions and migration waves. The depletion of water resources and the rise in the price of food and basic commodities is directly correlated with conflict.

For example, the current conflict in Sudan is a conflict over farmlands and access to agricultural resources. In neighboring Ethiopia, the conflict between local ethnic groups emerged due to scarce resources and water rights. And even in Syria, climate change pushed people to migrate from the countryside and into the cities.

Even the 2015 European refugee crisis – the crisis which, perhaps, threatened the European Union more than any other crisis it had ever faced – could be attributed in part to climate change. Migration from South America to North America has also been exacerbated by climate change and the depletion of resources available to people, leading to political turmoil at the country of origin and to growing anti-immigration sentiment at the destination country.

And, as we know, immigration always carries an inherent risk of terrorism, since terrorists abuse political turmoil to spread their presence and establish new cells.

The third factor is the tremendous development in technology, which is on the one hand beneficial to mankind, and at the same time harmful.

Today, information (correct and incorrect) is no longer restricted to a small group of people, but has become available to all people, and technology and the attempt to discover drugs have developed to release the worst that the human mind can produce, harmful to the masses of people. As for spreading ideas and subversive sayings, they roam the world in minutes, if not in seconds.

Furthermore, the technology used to discover cures to the worst diseases is the same technology that can be used to threaten mankind with novel biological weapons.

Finally, cyberwarfare has become a growing threat on both developed and developing nations, with non-state actors taking down banks, voting stations and critical infrastructure, such as power lines, with the simple click of a button.

Problems like climate change, terrorism and the regulation of technology are not issues that can be solved by the United States, the EU or China alone. Rather, the entire world has to come together and collaborate.

At the recent UN Climate Change Conference (COP26), China and the United States were able to overcome their differences and cooperate because both countries have a common interest to fight global warming.

Just as the two superpowers could work together in the field of climate change, they can also find ways to work together to fight international terrorism and regulate technology. – Mohammed Al Rumaihi

Translated by Asaf Zilberfarb.