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Alex Wright

Saudi minister blames 'wrong mind-sets' for housing crisis

Saudi Arabia has severe shortage of affordable housing for millions of people [YouTube]

Date of publication: 8 November, 2015

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Blog: Saudis must fix the way they think if they want to have affordable housing, the country's housing minister has said, prompting an angry online backlash.
In Saudi Arabia the housing minister's comments that Kingdom's housing crisis is a result of incorrect "thinking", not a lack of organisation or resources have stirred up a a mini Twitter storm a few days ago.

Majid al-Hugail recently blamed the shortage of affordable housing for millions of Saudis on people's mind-sets an event organised by the Asbar Centre for Studies and Communications.

"Thought is an important aspect of handling the housing crisis. It is not an issue of resources or land, but it is a problem of thought," Hugail said.

"If we try to fix this way of thinking we will completely solve the housing crisis," the housing minister added.

The Saudi government has pledged tens of billions of dollars towards the housing problem but red tape and difficulties obtaining land have slowed disbursement of the aid and actual construction of homes.

Social media users were quick to lash out at what some saw as Hugail's simplistic answer to a difficult issue, using an Arabic-language hashtag, meaning "the housing crisis is a problem of thought".

"I am going to fix my way of thinking from today on as my contribution to solving the housing crisis," joked veteran Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

"The problem is the minister lives in a palace that takes up four streets, where he can't see people begging their friends to help them pay their rent every year," said Mohammad Hammad.

"The problem is with the people who have monopolised the land not with people's way of thinking," said university professor Abd al-Aziz al-Zahrani.

Hugail came under fire in July when he was appointed the third housing minister in less than four months.

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