When minister turns branch manager


Makkah newspaper

WHY do many people are keen to meet a minister when he visits their area to hand him personally their complaints and demands though there are directors of the ministry's branches or government departments in their regions?

Why do people gather around the minister when he visits a region to assess the people's needs or launch some projects there?

Why do we usually see citizens carrying papers in their hands containing complaints or demands to hand them over personally to the minister?

The possible answer to these questions, in my opinion, is: either the director of the ministry's branch in the region does not listen to them and respond or the ministry's directors and their administrations are incapable of serving the people.

For this reason, the people take their complaints and requests to the minister when he comes to visit their region.

This happens even though the minister's visit to the region may be for just a few hours, which are not enough for him to listen to all the people, no matter how much efforts he puts in.

I think the minister and his aides can decide which of the two reasons is correct. In both cases it is the ministry which is to blame: for keeping useless officials in its regional offices or for remaining silent on the weakness of the officials who are unable to serve the citizens.

The ministerial visits are in response to instructions from higher authorities to assess the needs of the people in various regions.

I believe brief visits of a few hours are not enough to implement these directives. This has to change and the visits must extend at least for a week during which the ministers can tour many areas in the same region, and see and hear a lot.

We have 52 weeks in a year and 13 administrative regions. Therefore I think the ministers will have enough time to listen to the people and to respond to their requests and complaints. This will be much easier for them than repeating the exhausting visits of a few hours.

Minister of Health Tawfiq Al-Rabiah recently visited the Northern Border Province. This visit reflected two contrasting pictures: one beautiful and the other saddening.

The first was when he opened a number of health projects and the second when people surrounded him to present their complaints. It was both a shameful and saddening scene.

I was under the illusion that such saddening pictures had forever disappeared because of the statements of the officials that their doors are open before the citizens any time and with the modern technology communication between officials and citizens has become a much easy task.

Local newspapers said the citizens were not able to meet the minister during his visit to Arar in the Border Province. The Health Affairs in the region fixed a time for the meeting of the minister with the citizens but this date had never materialized so people found themselves obliged to chase the minister and crowd around him.

Ministerial visits to the regions have increased and with them the keenness of citizens to meet the ministers in a manner that is annoying both to him and to the delegation accompanying him. Does the keenness of citizens to meet the ministers during their brief visits convey anything to them?

The minister of labor and social development recently visited an area where he announced a number of decisions. He, however, hinted that many of the decisions he had taken did not necessitate his personal visit to the region.

He said those decisions could have been taken by officials in the ministry's regional office. Therefore there was no need for the minister to come personally to the region. This is what actually mars these visits and turns the minister into the role of a branch manager.

I see the ministerial visits to the regions as redundant but I am surprised that the ministers are not bored of repeating this futile exercise.

A visit to any region will be similar to the visits to any other region. The minister will listen to the same complaints and demands, which could be resolved by his ministry's branch in the region.

If pictures can speak, people would have listened to the same speeches in every region.