transport system to be overhauled

“The plan in the first phase aims to set up a comprehensive public transport system in these cities that is more reliable and efficient,” said Minister of Transport Jabara Al-Seraisry, who was chairing a session of the Riyadh Economic Forum (REF) on Sunday.
Al-Seraisry, who also disclosed a plan to establish separate transport regulatory authorities in the cities, said an inter-ministerial panel would work out the strategy to fund the new transport projects in these huge cities including Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam.
The three-day REF, on its second day, focused on three important topics — balanced developments of different provinces and regions of the Kingdom, technical education and vocation training and development of urban transport in the Kingdom.
The forum sought to identify strategic economic problems as well as projecting the pioneering role of the private sector in the process of economic development.
A number of speakers and commentators extended support to the government’s efforts to reform the Saudi economy and remove obstacles that impede the path of sustainable economic development.
Focusing on human resources as well as infrastructure projects and government systems, policies and procedures, the REF investigated the problems with different sectors.
Referring to the efforts of the government to address problems in transport sector, Al-Seraisry said Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah has been giving a lot of attention to the public transport.
He recounted the Kingdom’s achievements in laying out the huge railway network and establishing a city railway project in Riyadh among others.
A pilot study conducted on behalf of the Riyadh Economic Forum with a set of recommendations was also presented at the forum.
The study presented by expert Mosaed bin Abdullah Al-Mosaed, who heads the projects department of King Saud University, revealed about 6,460 deaths are caused by road accidents in Saudi Arabia.
The problem is further compounded by about 4 million students who go to school on a daily basis, said Al-Mosaed, calling on government agencies and stakeholders to devise a new system of transportation.
The study, whose recommendations are drawn from the models of four major cities including Atlanta, Paris, Kuala Lumpur and Dubai, further revealed that 82 percent of the Kingdom’s population use private cars for transportation, which create a lot of traffic problems including congestion on the roads. The situation is exacerbated by an unorganized parking system, while the driving population is increasing daily, the study added.
“Hence, there is a need to set up a public transport system and cut reliance on private modes of transportation,” said Al-Mosaed. “Saudi Arabia has also launched an automation project for its driving schools that will be faster and more efficient in terms of handling driving license requests and training,” said Brig. Abdulrahman bin Abdullah Al-Moqbil, director of Riyadh traffic department.
In another REF session, the panelists focused on how to achieve balanced development in different regions of the Kingdom. Fahd M. Al-Hamad, a Shoura Council member, called for making an assessment of the developments of different regions of the Kingdom before making plans and launching projects. He referred to another REF study, which demonstrated considerable variation in the regions in terms of all economic indicators. He also pointed out that the unemployment rate among the Kingdom’s different regions also recorded considerable variation.
He also spoke about the ways and means to ensure equal distribution of resources to realize the aim of balanced development. In fact, the Eighth Development Plan focused on expansion and development of infrastructure in various regions of the Kingdom covering primarily roads, railways, telecommunications, water and sanitation and electricity in addition to improving education, health and municipal services.
To promote balanced regional development, a set of strategies and studies were developed, the most prominent of which are the National Strategy for Social Development, the Healthcare Strategy, the National Industrial Strategy, the National Transportation Strategy, Strategies for Developing Tourism at the level of administrative regions, and the Regional Economic Reports. Then, the Ninth Development Plan aimed also to continue efforts to achieve balanced regional development.
The plan focused on developing the institutional capacities of the agencies working in the regions to enable them to carry out their mission of improving the investment environment, increase productivity, and provide more employment opportunities. Another study presented in this session evaluated the services offered by the government agencies in different provinces and regions of the Kingdom. As for public service indicators in the field of education and health, the study shows that they are close to international levels.
In terms of infrastructure indicators, the study noted considerable differences among different regions of the Kingdom especially in terms of drinking water facilities, sewage connections, paved and asphalted road networks, power supply and consumption. The study has recommended the proportional allocation of loan facilities, especially industrial finance, in different regions of the Kingdom. Moreover, it is essential to prioritize in terms of spending in different provinces and regions, said the study.
The session on the development of regions of the Kingdom was also addressed by Abdulaziz bin Abdullah Al-Khodairy, undersecretary at Makkah governorate. Speaking at another session dedicated to technical education at REF, Rashid M. Al-Katheri, a Shoura member, said education and training constitute the main pillar in supporting the efforts of the Kingdom to reduce unemployment among citizens.
Social and economic problems are closely related to the level of education and training provided by institutions, said the Shoura member, adding the Kingdom represents the largest education industry in Middle East. With over 55 percent of its population below 24, the country holds immense potential for the education sector, said another panelist. The country is “adopting concrete efforts” to develop its education sector and to promote technical education, said Khalid bin Abdullah M. Al-Meshari, another Shoura member, who was chairing the session on vocational training.
Al-Meshari said Saudi Arabia is fast emerging as an e-learning hub. Also, the students’ enrollment in higher education is expected to grow at a rate of around 9 percent per year during 2010-2014. The government remains the major contributor in the development of the country’s higher education infrastructure and is continuously increasing its budget for its education sector and to ensure quality education, he noted.
He, however, pointed out the acute shortage of manpower in various education streams will prove to be major cause for the demand for technical, vocational and medical courses. To this end, it is important to note that the Technical and Vocational Training Corporation (TVTC), has emerged as the Saudi government’s leading provider of training. With institutions all across the Kingdom, TVTC caters for more than 120,000 trainees in more than 100 locations across the Kingdom.
TVTC maintains links to all major countries including Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Great Britain, Malaysia, New Zealand and the United States. It plans to open more than 50 new colleges over the next 10 years. The three-day REF will end today (Monday). More than 1,000 economists are expected to participate in the fifth REF, said Abdulrahman Al-Jeraisy, chairman of the Riyadh Chamber of Commerce and Industry, while delivering his speech on Saturday night.
Referring to the deliberations at the forum, Saad Al-Mojel, REF’s chief of the organizing committee, pointed out the forum will focus on five major studies altogether besides speeches delivered by the panelists. These studies are on the themes of transportation, vocational training, development, food security and investment in the Kingdom. Major REF sponsors include the Saudi Research & Marketing Group, Saudi Aramco, Al-Rajhi Bank, National Commercial Bank (NCB), Saudi Basic Industries Corp. (SABIC) and Saudi Telecom Co. (STC).

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