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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2710

Awash in a sea of studies

By Tariq A. Al-Maeena

Just about every news item relating to the performance of our municipalities has to include the statement from a city official that a related problem is or has been “under study.” Over the years, many have come to accept this as a case of something just being whitewashed by the municipality for consumption by the feeble-minded public or to explain away the municipality’s ineptness to tackle some very pressing issues.

And even when some studies are miraculously completed and their contents made public, the implementation of the study’s recommendations falls woefully short, undoubtedly preparing the way for another study a few years down the line.

Just about a week ago, Jeddah Municipal Council Chairman Tariq Fadak condemned the state of pedestrian bridges both in Jeddah and across the Kingdom. This statement was prompted by a fire on a walkway over the Haramain Highway that crippled traffic for five hours and posed a danger to the public.

“Over 80 percent of bridges in Jeddah are poorly maintained and could pose a severe danger at any minute,” he said, adding that for the previous three months, a study on the state of pedestrian bridges was being carried out.

Municipal Council Vice Chairman Hassan Al-Zahrani said the situation of the many pedestrian bridges in Jeddah required a detailed study in view of the increasing number of incidents occurring at bridges. What, another study?

The director general of the Building Regulations Department at the municipality announced recently that following an intense study, the municipality has concluded that “Shopping malls in Jeddah must have parking areas with a capacity of 500 cars instead of 200, according to new municipal regulations. New regulations for parking facilities for buildings have been laid down to guarantee that parking facilities are available, not only at banks, shopping centers, restaurants and malls but at all locations in the city,” he stated. A rocket scientist I’m not, but exactly how is this result of another study going to be implemented?

In late June of this year, our own mayor grandly announced to the press that by 2010, the completion of 22 construction projects would slide Jeddah’s crippling traffic congestion to a distant memory.

“Once the projects worth some SR2 billion are finished, Jeddah would have no traffic problems whatsoever,” he said and detailed the scope of infrastructure overhaul, throwing in tidbits of information on new bridges, tunnels, intersection underpasses as well as improvements to major road arteries.

Jeddah municipality and King Abdul Aziz University engineers were working on a study of a further 35 projects costing SR3 billion, he added and went on to describe other construction works either under way or being planned.

“Once these projects are completed, Jeddah will be able to boast of being one of the most modern cities in the world,” he added.

Less than a month later, the same mayor announced that mistakes were made in the construction of some of Jeddah’s new flyovers as a result of the authorities rushing work so as not to lose allotted funds for the projects.

“There were mistakes in the construction of some bridges in Jeddah as we were keen to quickly begin work fearing the lapse of funds allocated in the general budget for the projects at the close of the budget year,” he said, adding that studies for the flyovers were also rushed.

Did that mean that Jeddah would no longer be in contention for “being one of the most modern cities in the world?”

The assistant director for public relations and media at the municipality added that the mayor’s statement was prompted as a result of the discovery of mistakes at a number of bridges presently under construction.

He added that the mistakes were being corrected through the cooperation of concerned parties, including the Traffic Department. “This can be avoided by earmarking separate provisions for studies.” Oh no, here we go again!

In the pipeline, I suppose, there is an array of studies yet to be made public. May I suggest a study to determine why such previous studies have often fall woefully short of the public’s expectations, and what is being done to recover the exorbitant amounts spent on such research that produces very little results?

I hold my breath in anticipation.

Tariq A. Al-Maeena is a Saudi socio/political commentator.

- Asian Tribune -

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