How can we forget!

February 17, 2021
Aqeel Bukhamseen

IN 1952, Saudi Aramco’s board of directors and its chief executives moved from New York to Dhahran to work in the nascent Saudi city, which had become the main headquarters of the company after World War II.

The shifting of the venue of headquarters came after years of government complaints about the delay in obtaining direct answers from Aramco officials in the Kingdom, as they had to, at the time, go back to the company management based in New York to take the decisions. At the same time, Saudi managers were saying that they did not feel that Aramco’s shareholders had respect for them, and were being treated as subordinates.

In documenting the first era of Aramco’s history, the famous author William Mulligan says that the transfer of the headquarters undoubtedly served the interest of Aramco and the Saudi government, and it was one of the most important decisions taken by the company, as it meant issuing a decision when needed, instead of waiting for it to be taken in New York or London.

We were able to move the main offices to Dhahran and that enabled us to respond quickly to all circumstances in our main offices at all times. The main management has become much closer to the people, including employees, the public, and the government, as they are the entities with whom we deal the most.

The 1952 decision constituted a qualitative leap in the company management’s style and had contributed to the transfer of expertise and the localization of knowledge until Aramco became what it is today with its weight and role in the global economy, and its decisions are being taken from Dhahran headquarters, a few meters from Well Al-Khair No. 7.

The geo-location for decision-making has undoubtedly contributed, after 66 years, to another qualitative leap in Aramco’s operations, when Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman inaugurated the King Salman Energy City (SPARK), to be a global destination that attracts industrial investors in the sectors of exploration and production, refining and processing, electric power and water.

It is unreasonable for the first oil producer to miss the opportunity to localize the industry in which it has a global competitive advantage and it imports everything needed in exploration and production from outside its borders, especially with the possibility of providing the appropriate environment and sufficient financial support to take full advantage of the available opportunities.

After Saudi Arabia’s announcement on Monday regarding the transfer of regional headquarters of international companies operating out of its territory, this step must be considered for what it actually means. Also, work must be done to achieve its real goals, which are transferring expertise, localizing knowledge, developing local content, and attracting more investments to the largest economy in the region, far from any other explanations that may be offered to distract attention from the real goal.

February 17, 2021
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