We in the Arab world always express satisfaction at the state of Arab industrial output. While advances have been made in some sectors, many others within the Arab world lag far behind those of other Asian countries, let alone Europe or North and South America.
A recent news item caught my eye; it made me ponder the state of our industry. It reported that the Israeli Ministry of Commerce and Industry had announced that companies producing advanced technology had exported 8.7 billion dollars worth of goods in 1996. This is equivalent to 65 percent of the total volume of industrial exports excluding diamonds. I don't have exact figures for Israel's farm exports but those too, I am sure, run into billions.
The figures indicate that the Israelis are not only developing modern technology but have also perfected the fine art (or science if you please) of marketing their goods in the face of stiff competition.
The figures also indicate that the Arabs are far behind. Although no figures for Arab exports for the year 1996 have been prepared, I am sure they are meager indeed compared to Israel's.
Why the Arabs in such a sorry state?
I believe that the focus of education should be on experimental science and technology. And not on note memorization with no idea of how the information might be used.
It is true that Israeli immigrants in the last few years, especially the 250,000 from the former Soviet Union, have added extra punch to Israeli industrial might. However, we must not use that as an excuse for our backwardness; Israel has turned technology into a major source of revenue. Why can we Arabs not do the same?
What is needed is a sincere and honest critique of our present position and the creation of research centers. We have had enough of gigantic airports and monstrous shopping malls filled with imported goods.
We must focus on the much needed and highly relevant technology industries that will play a vital role in the 21st century.
We cannot afford to be lax.
Changing times, with speedy communications and varying life styles, has changed many traditional ideas.
In yesterday's business world, meetings and negotiations took place in boardrooms filled with men dressed formally in navy blue or gray suits with conservative ties.
Today, all that has changed. Captains of industry end up scoring more deals on the golf course than in the boardroom, according to an article published recently in Golf International .
The most famous example is that between Gerry Robinson, Granada's chairman, and Dermot Desmond, the Irish tycoon, who struck a 40-million pound deal.
However, it is to be noted that when arranging a golf game, it is important that both players be about equal in terms of golfing ability.
Sports, of course, is a great unifier - and I am not talking of professional sport which has sadly become very divisive.
It is gratifying to note that many businessmen in the Gulf and Saudi Arabia have taken up sports and joined various clubs. This act itself serves two needs: One physical, wherein after a hard day's effort, a good workout is a stimulation and the second, social, where they meet colleagues and others.
Despite the sporting atmosphere, conversation inevitably drifts to business, notes are exchanged and possible future deals discussed.
I have personally witnessed this at a club I visit in Jeddah. As for the game of golf, it has really taken off. The number of Saudis swinging their clubs in the wee hours of the morning is a good sight to see. To make the holes takes a lot of effort. As for myself, if I am thinking of a prospective partner, I grab them at the 19th. That takes less effort.
Driving has now become a deadly business. Every day we read about horrible accidents resulting not only in the deaths of daredevil drivers but also of innocent people. Everyone, it seems, is helpless. The police, the authorities, the parents and loved ones of those who risk their own as well as others lives.
Despite instructions, guidance and all manner of warnings and deterrents, the madness of crazy driving continues. What adds to the confusion is the lack of "driving culture." With so many nationalities on the road, each with his own characteristics, there is bound to be confusion.
For example, you have drivers from the sub-continent who drive so slowly that one feels their car is crawling. Those from the eastern Africa drive talking and gesturing to each other, oblivious to blowing horns. The Europeans drive carefully, eyes on the road, ready for any evasive action. The Americans believe that they can save themselves with their seat belts. And speaking of seat belts, I have heard that a law mandating the use of seat belts in the Kingdom exists. The best way to implement it would be by policeman setting the example.
And then of course there are the spoiled kids whose fathers have given them fast, expensive and fancy cars. They all believe they are Shumakers and Damon Hills. You can see them driving with extreme arrogance and daring anyone to say anything.
Once I advised some of the "Tahlia terrors" to drive safely. All I got was abuse hurled at me. So much for their breeding. Someone remarked: I was lucky to get away with abuse and not bruises. Now, while driving, I maintain complete silence.
Driving - which was formerly an art and an example of civilized behavior - has suddenly become madness. Everyone speaks about deadly accidents and we read daily of condolences to families whose young ones have died in horrible accidents.
Is it true that not much can be done about it? These same people, let us note, when driving in the streets of Orlando make it a point to obey every letter of the law. Can someone tell me what's missing here?