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April 2, 2010:  Saudi Arabia has renewed its contracts to have foreign personnel provide maintenance services for Saudi army helicopters. After over 60 years of vast oil income, and the opportunity to train Saudis for this work, foreigners are still used. This is all because of a unique collection of cultural customs in Arabia. While many Saudis have received education in the last 60 years, there was not a lot of enthusiasm for technical studies, or manual labor. Religion has been a more popular topic for students, or liberal arts and business. Moreover, those with technical skills consider maintaining aircraft a less desirable job. Thus the Saudis have not been able to recruit sufficient soldiers, or hire local civilians, to handle maintaining all the modern aircraft they have purchased. The government has tried to reverse this trend, but has run into opposition because of cultural norms that are very slow to change. The government is eager to find a way around this problem, because they realize that the oil will eventually run out, and that technology is the future of the kingdom's prosperity.

The cultural problems the Saudis are confronting are common throughout the Arab world. The preference for religious, over technical, studies is somewhat unique to Saudi Arabia, where a particularly conservative form of Islam is prevalent. But there are other problems as well.

Lack of initiative has long made it difficult for Arab armies to maintain modern weapons. Complex modern weapons require on the spot maintenance, and that means delegating authority, information, and tools. Arab armies avoid doing this and prefer to use easier to control central repair shops. This makes the timely maintenance of weapons difficult. This is but one of many cultural problems in the Arab world that result in a lack of economic and technological progress.

 

 

 


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