Futile ministerial visits


Makkah newspaper

FINALLY I found out something astounding about the Ministry of Transport. It is the ministry’s official Twitter account and its way of disseminating general information, not the news about projects or announcements by officials.

A few days ago the ministry said on its Twitter account that some 43,000 vehicles entered Riyadh through the Qassim Expressway and if all those vehicles were made to line up, they will cover the distance between Jeddah and Taif.

This information is really exciting and it shows the ministry is aware of what is happening on its roads and can understand the problems that people often complain about.

In fact, the transport minister or his deputy need not visit and meet people to learn about their complaints and grievances. A few days ago the deputy minister of transport visited Jazan and met with just 10 individuals. The organizers failed to mobilize enough numbers of people to attend the deputy minister's programs.

We cannot blame the public for their absence, which was quite natural as they were informed of the meeting only an hour before it took place. Obviously they were not able to reach the Jazan cultural center in time for the meeting as reported by Okaz newspaper.

In my opinion the worst thing in that report was not the deputy minister’s failure to meet with the people of Jazan but his statement after meeting contractors that the causes of stalling development projects were beyond the ministry’s control.

The deputy minister also expressed his understanding of the problems faced by the contractors. However, he urged the contractors to complete the projects as per schedule without any further delay.

Here my question to the deputy minister is why he met with the contractors in the first place if he already understood the problems and difficulties faced by them.

During the visit, the deputy minister of transport stated that Jazan benefited from a large number of road projects and the purpose of his visit was to review a total of 56 projects in the region. He also expressed his distress over 21 faltering projects.

Now what is important is whether or not the Ministry of Transport can sit with the parties involved to remove the stumbling blocks before executing the projects, instead of wasting state funds due to a lack of coordination between state agencies.

The ministerial visits will not produce anything except bland statements. No regions need such official visits. Government officials know the requirements of the regions while sitting in their offices. They can also issue statements sitting in their offices.

We used to criticize Minister of Labor and Social Development Ali Al-Ghafis, but his recent visit to the Northern Border Province was worthy of being described a ministerial visit, because no cameras, deputies and advisers accompanied him.

He refused to meet provincial officials during an inspection tour of Jazan region, during which he detected several irregularities. He took a number of quick decisions including the termination of the rental contract of a multi-story building for the Social Development Center because the building was not utilized properly. He instructed employees of the center to move to the Social Insurance building. He also instructed the authorities to rent a new building for a protection home as its present building was inappropriate.

The minister became very upset because he believed many of the decisions he had taken during the visit could have been taken by any official of the region without his interference.