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27 gen 2010


Last year I spoke at the annual meeting of the Saudi Arabian Economic Association in Riyadh. It turned out to be an interesting occasion because I met a few high caliber researchers and economists which conflicts with the view that Saudi Arabia is intellectually stagnant. But one thing that I remember vividly was the almost surreal atmoshpere when female economists were presenting their papers: we couldsee the slides on the screen and hear their vocies through the speakers, but we would not be able to see them. They were in another room, another location, and I never had a chace to meet them or even to see their face. So I remained with the curiosity to know more about them. In part this curiosity has been satisfied yesterday by a (female) friend who attended a conference in Saudi Arabia. Here is what she writes live from Riyadh:

"The Saudi women I met at the global competitiveness forum in Riyadh are absolutely tough women. Even though they are sitting the other side of the partition at the conference room separated from men, they ask very challenging and extremely direct and highly informed questions to Saudi and foreign panelists-men! tomorrow... I will shift to women's section as I am sure I will learn a lot from those tough girls!"

I actually enjoyed more sitting together with Saudi, American including Nobel Laureautes women in the women's section during the conference. Fantastic experience! We laughed a lot on some of the men speakers. And God, Saudi women asked grilling question to all those Saudi and foreign men speakers. It is obvious why women are limited access to public service everwhere in the world!!!"

In a country which faces monumental challenges in the near and distant future it seems absurd to wast such talent. Almost saudistic.

19 gen 2010

Water Supply

In a region where water is scarce some fascination with H2O might be justified. And possibly even some extravagance. Take for example the Saudi Royal family. Their daily drinking water supply comes from a Jordanian spring, whose properties and flavor are cherished by the august palates. So a dedicated flight transports the precious liquid from the spring, to be distributed to the tables of selected palaces and villas in Riyadh. One wonders if an aqueduct could be a cheaper alternative.