Trust in govt sees surge in Saudi Arabia amid pandemic

A view of the Saudi capital Riyadh.

Trust in Saudi government surged five points (to 83%) since January. This makes it the most trusted institution in the Kingdom, says a report.

The surge in trust occurred during the government’s swift response to curb the pandemic impact on citizens and residents; said the 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer Spring Update: Trust and the Covid-19 Pandemic.

Now in its 20th year; the Edelman Trust Barometer uncovers people’s expectations for the future. This is to understand how those beliefs affect their trust in business, government, NGOs and media. The Spring update is an 11-market study that looks at how the COVID-19 pandemic affected trust across institutions and sectors.

The report explores what leaders can do to protect and increase the trust necessary to navigate the crisis; reopen responsibly; and lead conversations around rebuilding the social compact in a post-corona society.

The report shows that Saudi respondents want the government to lead in all pandemic response areas: containing the pandemic (71%); helping people cope with the pandemic (75%); informing the public (71%); providing economic relief and support (84%); and most importantly, getting the country back to normal (78%).

The world’s highest response

The Saudi government also scored the highest in comparison to other national governments surveyed; on their performance in response to the pandemic. The Kingdom’s government received the highest score when measured against being a reliable source of accurate information for citizens and residents (74%). This creates a distribution system that ensures that medical and other necessary supplies are getting to where they are needed most (73%) and taking the necessary actions to keep the economy from collapsing (73%).

This January, Edelman issued the 20th annual edition of the Trust Barometer study that focused on measuring trust based on two distinct attributes: competence (delivering on promises) and ethical behavior (doing the right thing and working to improve society). While globally this year’s results reveal that none of the four institutions is seen as both competent and ethical (-40, -19), the Saudi government received a positive competence score (+17) along with securing the highest net scores globally, for being ethical (+38), the report said.

“Amid this crisis, people are looking to their governments for leadership and hope. While globally, our research shows that neither the government nor businesses are helping people feel safe, in Saudi Arabia, we have seen a stark variance in the response,” said Ed Williams, President & CEO, Edelman EMEA. “The Kingdom’s government has scored the highest on their performance in response to the pandemic. The swift implementation of lockdowns across the country, efficient and effective access to healthcare services and extent of public expenditure to support the private sector has helped maintain confidence in the government.”

People before profits

Seen as a moment of reckoning for businesses, the report shows that majority (70%) of respondents in Saudi Arabia want CEOs to take the lead on addressing the pandemic rather than waiting for government to impose restrictions and demands on their businesses. Despite several high-profile actions taken by companies and CEOs to help those in need, the study reveals several areas of concern for both. About half the respondents in Saudi Arabia believe business is either doing well or very well at putting people before profits (50%), implementing safety measures to protect workers and customers (57%) and at protecting their employee’s financial well-being and safeguarding their jobs (49%).

Omar Qirem, Chief Executive Officer, Edelman Middle East said, “Trust in government in Saudi Arabia has witnessed consistent growth since 2019 and is a true testament to the efforts put in place by the Kingdom to fight this pandemic. While government has taken the lead, now is the time for business to step up and do more as the focus shifts to protecting and reopening the economy.”

Better future

People believe it is vital for business and CEOs in the Kingdom to partner with government. This is to shape a better future instead of working to keep government regulation to a minimum. A majority (71%) of respondents in Saudi Arabia want CEOs to proactively engage in conversations. This is with government to regulate their companies in ways that protect people and the planet. While giving them the flexibility to innovate, respond to a crisis, and meet growing needs for their products or services.

The report also highlights that it is imperative for institutions to take tangible action to preserve trust for the long-term. Business and government must continue to collaborate on solutions and business must live up to its multi-stakeholder promise; with CEOs showcasing strong public leadership in the years to come.

Other key findings include:

• 58% percent respondents in Saudi Arabia say businesses are doing well or very well. This is with ensuring products and services that people need most are readily available and easily accessible.

• 57% respondents in Saudi Arabia say NGOs are also coordinating local relief efforts well or very well.

• 51% percent of respondents in Saudi Arabia say that the media are doing original and investigative reporting. This is to help you understand the full story behind the pandemic. Besides, its potential lasting impact on the economy and on peoples’ lives.

• After nearly a decade as the most trusted industry sector, across the markets; technology (74%) has fallen to third spot behind Food & Beverage (76%) and Healthcare (76%); which experienced nine-point and eight-point jumps, respectively.