Somalilandsun – As I drive home through the streets of a city in a country which has enjoyed and continues to enjoy abundant reserves of Oil, I cannot but think that all this could one day be replicated in Somaliland.
Now, although I want what is best for Somaliland, the country I am currently residing in isn’t the glitzy U.A.E nor is it the up and coming Qatar. I am in a country that has, in my opinion, failed to fully realize it’s developmental potential after more than 50 years of oil exports.
From dilapidating roads, buildings and infrastructure to non-existent public transport, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is slowly realizing that it must invest in key areas to not only modernize the country with railways, light rail, larger airports and an integrated public transport system but to also provide more employment opportunities for it’s citizens and diversify it’s economy. The reasons for the country’s inability to modernize it’s infrastructure over the years are many but the few I have observed in my short residence here relate to a fragmented country development strategy coupled with inefficient local authority control. For example, how can Jeddah’s airport be so small with the millions of Hajj and Umrah visitors every year (resulting in long delays at the airport) whilst at the same time building additional hotels in Makkah and Madina (therefore increasing Hajj and Umrah traffic)? There have also been cases of corruption where those responsible for upgrading infrastructure pocketed millions. The flooding in Jeddah in 2009, where hundreds lost their lives due to projects designed to stop flooding not being done, come to mind. A lack of accountability and transparency at local government level is to blame. Thankfully, the country is now moving in the right direction.
Today, Somaliland is standing at the cross roads of its destiny. Close to exploring potential oil and gas reserves as well as making a strong case for international recognition, if either or both come to fruition, Somaliland would start it’s journey of real, tangible development. If Somaliland and it’s people wish to avoid the same problems experienced by Saudi Arabia as well as the potential for local disputes in the future, then it must get it’s house in order now. A strategic and coordinated national and local development plan must be drawn up and steps taken to implement it. I am aware that such a plan may exist and I am in no way criticising the government, but we need this to be reviewed, discussed, explained and understood by all for it to work for the benefit of the country.
We all want the same thing. A secure, economically strong and developed nation. The question is how do we get there and with what? The first step is to establish the demographics of the country through a census. Secondly, a full review of the country’s infrastructure and services needs should be conducted thus establishing what will be required in each region in terms of health care, education, local services etc based on the results of the census. Thirdly, a mechanism ensuring income is spent proportionally to the demographics of the country must be developed and agreed upon by all stakeholders. This process would leave little room for ambiguity and would satisfy the citizens of the country that their best interests have been considered.
At local level, coordination strategies between the government, local governments, municipalities, road authorities and utility companies must be developed along with building regulations and financial management strategies thus ensuring coordinated design and construction as well as robust management of finances reducing the risk of irregularities.
We must be proactive in how we wish to develop as a nation and avoid sleep walking through it by always reacting to something going wrong or someone abusing his position. Rome wasn’t built in a day but the vision was there on the first day.
Abdi Y Abdi