Arabs are obsessed with showmanship.
We can safely say that this is not a sweeping claim since we have quite a lot of facts to support the argument.
The rich Gulf States are known for spending on highly expensive and frankly useless projects such as the tallest skyscraper in the entire universe, the world’s most luxurious hotel and the biggest New Year’s Eve fireworks display on the planet.
Sure, these ventures attract tourists and therefore more money but isn’t it important to invest in the more important stuff first, such as education and livelihood of one’s own people? Or is the construction of sky-impaling towers more important than building civic infrastructure?
Logic would say that it isn’t. However, the monarchs of Saudi Arabia do not seem to understand this, much like their UAE counterparts who built Burj Khalifa – currently the tallest man-made structure in the world in Dubai.
According to reports released on Saturday, construction for the world’s next tallest skyscraper, which will be called “The Kingdom Tower”, is due to begin next week in Saudi Arabia.
It will reportedly measure 3,280 feet when completed and the finished structure will reportedly be 200 floors high. It requires around 5.7 million square feet of concrete and 80,000 tons of steel to build, at a cost of roughly $1.23 billion.
Here’s a small list of reasons why building another giant tower in the Gulf seems like a pointless idea.
Lack Of Information Technology Skills:
Saudi Arabia needs to invest in its Information Technology sector.
“51 percent of IT organizations said the shortage of skills is the “number one challenge in Saudi Arabia,” stated a January 2014 study released by the market research company International Data Corporation (IDC).
Country manager for KSA at IDC Abdulaziz al-Helayyil added that the country doesn’t have enough people who are well positioned or with a good background in the field of Information Technology in the kingdom.
Poor Civic Infrastructure:
The Gulf Kingdom desperately needs an improved infrastructure for its locals.
Earlier in January, Sabria S Jawhar, a Saudi Arabian journalist and columnist for the Jeddah-based Arab News, who also writes for English-language news outlets including The Huffington Post, highlighted the problems with the Kingdom’s basic road and rail network.
“Despite earmarking huge funds for the construction and maintenance of roads, flyovers and expressways, not only the condition of roads in most of the cities and towns is bad but also inordinate delays in the completion of these projects create difficulties to the masses and sometimes result in fatal accidents,” Arab News reported.
Lack Of Quality Education:
Saudi Arabia needs to invest more in the field of education.
Although the Kingdom spends a greater share of its gross domestic product (GDP) on schooling than most wealthy countries, education in Saudi schools fails to help students get a grip on mathematics and science, a report by The Economist stated last year.
“Barely 1 percent of the Saudi children tested gained an ‘advanced’ level, against 47 percent of South Korean and 8 percent of English ones.”
“This suggests that Saudi schools are not just of generally poor quality, but that they fail to encourage brighter students,” the report concluded.
Rampant Human Rights Abuses That Need Attention:
Saudi Arabia claims the Kingdom Tower will help the country symbolize itself as an important “global business and cultural leader” that “demonstrates the strength and creative vision of its people.”
As far as “people” are concerned, a major chunk of the Saudi population is subjected to oppression which primarily includes the ban on freedom of speech.
Saudi Arabia needs to come up with something far more substantial than just bricks and mud to hold a strong and a credible position in the world.
Read More: Saudi Arabia, Syria And Political Hypocrisy
Reputation With Migrant Workers:
This point is more or less associated with human rights abuses but merits a separate discussion since the Kingdom Tower will need (quite a lot of) workforce.
Saudi Arabia needs to work on foreign labor laws and its treatment in general.
In December 2013, Human Rights Watch stated:“Ethiopian migrant workers have been the victims of physical assaults, some of them fatal, in Saudi Arabia following a government crackdown on foreign workers. Many workers seeking to return home are being held in makeshift detention centers without adequate food or shelter.”
“Saudi authorities have spent months branding foreign workers as criminals in the media, and stirring up anti-migrant sentiment to justify the labor crackdown,” saidJoe Stork, deputy Middle East director.
“Now the Saudi government needs to rein in Saudi citizens who are attacking foreign workers.”