Is Sak Wilaya the solution?

Is Sak Wilaya the solution?


THE information revolution has reached its peak. Technology enabled ambitious people to build virtual cities to realize their dreams. It shows that nothing is impossible by the grace and power of God Almighty. In these cities, robots with artificial intelligence are programmed to extend various services to human beings.

These things happen not at the press of a button, but at the touch of a button.

The technological progress has put an end to the age of pressure. Today we can imagine how the world will look like when our children grow up. It will appear to us like a science fiction. All government departments in the country have moderniAzed their systems to cope with the changes taking place around the world.

A laptop and other accessories can be accessed through apps on our smart phones. We can convert project designs into three- and four-dimensional optical segments to see and work on. Modern technology has also enabled us to do our work and hold meetings sitting anywhere, not just in conference halls.

After the meetings and presentations we can send documents in text or images by emails or other electronic means to get them signed by heads of institutions. The message will appear on the chairman’s laptop or cell phone screen with a red light, which will change to green when the signature is attached. No doubt, modern information technology has made communication much faster than in the past.

When all these developments take place in many areas, some important sectors unfortunately remain backward because they just put their vision statement on the wall without doing anything to make real progress on the ground. They have not taken any action to introduce modern information systems, end bureaucratic practices, enact new regulations and ease complicated procedures.

A Saudi woman visited a local bank to open a savings account for her children. She asked the bank to deduct a specific amount from her monthly salary and deposit it in their account every month. The bank refused the request, explaining that the system allows only the father to do this procedure. The woman showed the bank official her family ID card with the names of her children.

But the bank employee insisted that their system does not allow a woman to open an account in the name of her children without the consent of their father. When the discussion heated up, she was told that it was not the bank’s rule but that of the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority, the Kingdom’s banking regulator, and she had no option but to follow the rule. The bank employee suggested that if she wanted a solution, she must bring her children’s father to open accounts in their name and get his consent to deposit part of her salary in those accounts.

When the altercation between the woman and the bank employee reached its peak, the branch manager intervened to resolve the issue. He asked the woman to bring a “Sak Wilaya”, a guardianship document, to open the accounts.

A similar incident took place at the Passport Department where a young man went to get travel permit for his mother and sister after the death of his father. The passport officer rejected his request and asked him to bring “Sak Wilaya”. The young man became angry and explained to the officer that his mother had been looking after him while his sister had met all his expenses. He said he could not produce a document to show his guardianship of the two because it would be unfair and false. He emphasized that he would not accept a system imposed by primitive principles.

When a woman tried to enroll her daughter in school, the official in charge refused to accept her family ID card, explaining the school rules allow only the father›s card. When the woman explained that the card was authentic and issued by the Interior Ministry, she was asked to bring “Sak Walaya” to prove her guardianship of the child.

All these happened not because of bureaucratic practices at government departments but because of the failure of some officials who are in charge of these sectors. Even if these incidents can be considered isolated individual mistakes, it shows the officials› weakness to follow up matters and their lack of awareness on the importance of modernizing systems and easing official procedures so that citizens will receive the required services, instead of impediments that obstruct such services.

The attitude of officials at some government departments reminds us about clerics who used to issue religious edicts on every matter, which they did not understand or did not like. For example, some of them had declared women›s education as prohibited. They also raised objections against television and smart phones at some points.

These clerics are like those sectors that do not have well-thought-out and flexible systems capable of meeting the needs of people considering their circumstances. These departments ask people to bring “Sak Wilaya” to prove guardianship whenever they do not have specific rules to deal with an issue.

The same sectors claim that they have won awards for excellence because of their good performance in providing e-government services. We don’t know the criteria for giving such awards. What we know is that they evaluate their own performance, nominate them for the awards and congratulate themselves, creating anger and skepticism in our minds.

If “Sak Wilaya” is the solution for all problems why the Ministry of Justice does not issue such documents that can be used for various purposes. It would have reduced the suffering of people, especially women?