They take us for fools
Tariq A. Al-Maeena
The word “fool” as defined in most dictionaries suggests a label that applies to a weak-minded person. A fool is also defined by a wide array of other descriptive words, among them a simpleton, a dunce, a blockhead, a numskull, a nincompoop, a moron, an imbecile, or an idiot. All of these words essentially mean the same thing.
I have long suspected that most public sector officials do indeed take us for fools. My suspicions have been formed over the years through the various statements that emanate from the mouths of such bureaucrats who are entrusted with providing us with basic facilities, such as water, electricity, roads, communication, etc.
And so when I recently read a press report in which the chief of the Saudi Electricity Company in the Western Region was claiming that the continuous power outages in Jeddah are due to the increasing electricity consumption during the holy month of Ramadan, it reaffirmed my previous reservations.
In trying to explain to the media the reasons for the interruption of electricity to neighborhoods all over Jeddah during the summer season which began in June, the official in question, Abdul Moein Al-Sheikh was quoted in an Arabic daily (Al-Hayat) as saying, “Consumption has remarkably increased since the beginning of Ramadan by eight percent.” Perhaps someone should have explained to him that Ramadan began on July 20, whereas the power blackouts started much earlier.
And he didn’t stop at that. He went on to clarify that in the worst hit areas of Jeddah, in the southern part of the city, the delay in fixing the power stations, which have been experiencing abnormal overloads “in the month of Ramadan”, was due to the interference of large and angry crowds of residents in the areas and neighborhoods without electric power.
“Protesters made it difficult for technicians to fix the failure in Umm Al-Salem in southern Jeddah. Security forces had to be called in to disperse the crowds so our engineers could begin repairing the power station. Part of the problem has been fixed and the rest will be fixed soon. Technicians are working 24/7.”
And like any true bureaucrat, Al-Sheikh did not fail us. Blame has to be pinned on someone else, and so he stated that construction activity around the power station was also responsible for the problem. “A lot of digging eventually affects the electricity infrastructure in the area. That is why the electricity company is currently coordinating with the Jeddah city council to avoid similar problems in the future.”
I wonder why everything here is done on a “currently” basis. Why isn’t this form of coordination a natural part and parcel of the rule of law between the various public service sectors of the city? You don’t need rocket science to establish such rules in a city that has been in existence for centuries.
Al-Sheikh also had some more to say. He refuted charges that power cuts and outages were happening as a result of old and worn out cables and equipment. “This is inaccurate. Electric cables are supposed to have a long life and networks work efficiently for more than 35 years.” He concluded his report to the media by assuring the public that although the electricity company was doing its best to cater to customers’ needs, the customers had to cooperate and reduce consumption.
This summer, several neighborhoods in Jeddah have been affected by daily power outages that last for a considerable portion of the day. Many have suffered losses with food that spoiled and had to be thrown away. And from what I understand from the charges of the head of the electricity company, the problem basically lies with us and not with his organization.
We have increased our personal consumption during summer months. We should be ashamed for using extra electricity to power air-conditioners in temperatures that average over 40 degrees C on most days. It is particularly shameful as such acts fall in the month of Ramadan. We should be ashamed to store excess perishable food in our refrigerators only to see it rot away when the power goes off. Some of us should also be ashamed for getting angry enough to march to the nearest power station to express our irritation. And finally, shame on contractors and their workers for digging up areas during construction after getting the proper licenses from the Municipality.
It is never the fault of bureaucrats in the public sector, and I am a fool!