Victims of brain freeze

Victims of brain freeze

Tariq A. Al-Maeena

Tariq A. Al-Maeena

Some people claim that they often experience brain freeze during Ramadan, meaning that they just can’t seem to think straight and get things done.  Their symptoms can be perhaps explained by the absence of food and water for the major portion of the day.

But what about several projects the Kingdom has embarked on and which have dragged along the “brain freeze” road.  What exactly is it that they lack?  Considering the money and resources allocated by the government to upgrade the infrastructure and quality of life, these projects always seems to be falling short of the finish line.

Sandwiched between some genuine accomplishments, examples of such failures lay everywhere.  Major cities in the Kingdom are still devoid of a comprehensive potable water network that leaves many homes at the mercy of waiting, sometimes for long hours, for a water tanker for their household needs.  Similarly, the lack of a sewage disposal network has given rise to an army of sewage disposal tankers that run about the cities carrying their foul-smelling load.

The road networks that connect many of the country’s towns and cities are criticized for lack of public service facilities along the routes.  The absence of gas stations, convenience stores and rest rooms along highways makes longer journeys often a challenge to endure.

Public schools renting dilapidated buildings as institutions of learning have been severely criticized by parents over the years, and while there has been some progress, parents feel that it is not enough as many districts have yet to house their students in appropriate facilities.

Many Saudis faced with such burdens do not mince words when it comes to evaluating conditions.  Said a college professor: “Now we are not talking about Malawi or Haiti here.  Those countries have hardly any natural resources that could generate sustainable income.  We are fortunate to be sitting on top of the world’s largest resources of oil.  The government has been generous in its allocation toward improving the life of the Kingdom’s residents. And yet I often feel that we cannot even match Bangladesh in proper public service facilities.”

Another professor added: “Fix our country’s major airports.  They are pitiful!  We are embarrassed at their poor and pitiful facilities.  Not only do these airports present a negative image to visitors, they are also a disgrace to the country’s residents who have to use them regularly.
Enough money has been spent and what do we get?  Promises every year!”

An airline pilot interjected: “I remember when a massive public announcement appeared on television and in newspapers that Jeddah would have a completely refurbished airport by 2012.  Yes, 2012.  Then everything became quiet as the years slipped by until the beginning of 2015 when the airport authorities announced that the airport would be open at the end of that year.  It is now 2017 and the refurbished airport is yet to open.  Bear in mind that during this time, our next-door neighbor Dubai opened three new terminals and a completely different and new airport!  If they can do it, why can’t we?”

A retired businessman said: “I remember Dubai when it was a small fishing and trading village.  But look at them now.  How did it happen there and we missed it?  They don’t entertain excuses like we do.  We are novel in blaming everything for our failure to complete projects on time.  Major projects here just remain frozen in time.”

An automobile dealer interjected and said: “You are right.  Just yesterday, I read that the chairman of the Public Transport Authority and the Saudi Railways Organization said that the train linking the two holy cities of Makkah and Madinah would be operational by 2018.  What happened to 2015, the year that the Minister of Transport proclaimed would be the start of train operations between the cities?  What happened to 2016 or 2017 for that matter?   Our officials just talk, and hope we will soon forget what they said.”

In spite of generous government support toward some of the projects, we just seem to be coming up short.  Maybe it is time to shoo off the prevalent brain freeze among our planners and contractors and borrow Dubai’s playbook.

— The author can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @talmaeena