Saudi mega projects and the American taxpayer |
Arab News - 05 August, 2012
Author: Abdulateef Al-Mulhim
When I started to write this article, I realized that writing about a multibillion project is way above my pay grade, because you have to understand politics and business. I am not a politician and I am not a businessman. But, I will give it a shot… I am in the US for a month to help my oldest son settle down in Washington D.C. He was sent by King Fahad Specialist Hospital in Dammam to do his residency at George Washington Hospital and also to enroll my daughter for an English course at Virginia Tech at Falls Church, Virginia.
After getting an apartment, we went to J. C. Penney to buy bedroom furniture. When the furniture was delivered, I found out that they are made in Vietnam. So, my daughter said, why our furniture in our home in Saudi Arabia is from the furniture capital of the world, High Point, North Carolina and our beds in Virginia are from Vietnam. Being a former military officer, I told her may be J. C. Penney board members are Vietnam veterans and they wanted to import furniture from Vietnam to prove that they didn’t spray Agent Orange on the Vietnamese forests during the war.
Now… Can you imagine a Vietnam veteran A-4 Sky Hawk pilot buying Vietnamese furniture brought in from the same forests he was bombing 40 years ago? So, if the American companies don’t sell made in America products, then why should the Saudis buy American made products? Some years ago, Boeing Company CEO was in Saudi Arabia for possible mega deal with Saudi Arabian Airlines. Short time after he left, the United States Air Force announced their decision to buy the French Airbus planes for the mid-air refueling. Paris was happy, but Seattle’s Sea Hawks fans were not amused.
Few months ago, Saudis heard that, the American Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, some members of the American Congress and the US media were talking about Saudi Arabia. At first, I thought the Secretary of State, the US Congressmen and the American media were annoyed to see Saudi mega projects in the tens of billions of dollars being awarded to non-American companies. It turned out that the reason was because of a young Saudi woman who always does something on her birthday to test Saudi authorities and she was in jail for few days. This Saudi woman works for one of the biggest Saudi companies and makes more money than what a lot of people think. I am not objecting to what the young Saudi woman did or to her motives, I think every Saudi man or woman has the right to demand what he or she thinks is their right, but, I think this issue was given far more than it deserves. American politicians should concentrate on what is good for the American taxpayer. This is why they were elected. What happened here is a purely Saudi issue. And the American taxpayers will appreciate it more if their politicians and media talked about why the US is number 16 in the world in the number (percentage) of college graduates when they were number one few years ago. Now, there is shortage of American college graduates and the vacuum is filled by foreign graduates who are taking jobs from the Americans.
What is ironic is to see American politicians don’t even want to see American companies get the mega deals.
Presidential candidate (Mitt Romney) was critical about a $ 20 billion joint venture project called SADARA which was finalized between Saudi Aramco and Dow Chemical.
He was wondering why it wasn’t built in the state of Oklahoma. I am not really sure if one of his advisers knows that Jubail City in Saudi Arabia is the chemical industry capital of the world. And all the raw material is near that city. So, what did the American presidential candidate want the Saudis to do with this mega project? Does he want us to take it away from the American company?
Many Saudis always wonder why we never hear a presidential candidate mention the importance of Saudi Arabia and let the voters know how important the relations between the two countries are. We never saw a candidate visit Saudi Arabia during a campaign, but after he becomes the man in the Oval Office, then he realizes how important are the Saudi-American relations and learns what Saudi Arabia did for the world. Saudi Arabia is a country which holds a very important and strategic position in the international arena. We, Saudis, hear American media talk about an isolated case of a Southeast Asian worker in Saudi Arabia, but, they never mention the hundreds of thousands of Southeast Asians who were able to build homes and support families with the money they send back to their families. The American press never mentioned it was Saudi Arabia which was the main reason for the world economic recovery when most of the Southeast Asian countries were in financial crisis and Saudi Arabia stabilized the oil market. We all know, many world market can’t survive on 150 dollars a barrel.
There are many things the American taxpayers should have known about how important and how strategic is the Saudi-American relation. And to be fair, we have seen the American ambassador in Riyadh and the consul general in Dhahran and their staff doing great job in strengthening the economic relations. The embassy and the consulate are going an extra mile in their efforts. They introduced more mid-size companies to the Kingdom. They made many efforts to ease the visa process for students, tourists and businessmen and women and this had a positive impact on tourism and business dealing between the two countries. And we as Saudis have to admit that the Saudi media didn’t make enough efforts to talk to the American public and to help them understand the importance and how important is the Saudi American relation for both, the Saudis and the American tax payers.
This article is exclusive to Arab News