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Saudi Shura Council Chairman: The View from Riyadh - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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File photo of Dr. Abdullah ibn Muhammad Al Al-Sheikh. (Asharq Al-Awsat)

File photo of Dr. Abdullah ibn Muhammad Al Al-Sheikh. (Asharq Al-Awsat)

London, Asharq Al-Awsat—In an exclusive interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, Dr. Abdullah ibn Muhammad Al Al-Sheikh, the chairman of the Shura Council (consultative assembly) of Saudi Arabia said that “the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, decided to appoint female members to the Shura Council after he realized that Saudi women have reached a high degree of intellectual and scientific ripeness in a manner that will enable them to effectively contribute to the formulation of national decisions.”

In his first interview since the enrollment of women as full members in the council, Al-Sheikh spoke about a new strategy he said would strengthen the presence of the council in the media, expressing a desire to begin using social networking websites.

Al-Sheikh pointed out the need to change the rules governing the preparation of yearly reports submitted by ministries and state institutions including universities and other governmental agencies. He highlighted the council’s hope that it would receive transparent, clear and comprehensive reports.

Responding to those questioning the actual role of the council, Al-Sheikh enumerated a list of the regulations the council has issued recently. He highlighted decisions governing the documentation and accreditation of graduate degrees, a proposal for the general authority that deals with small and medium enterprises, a proposal that would toughen regulations on patient safety, and a proposal for amending the financial market authority system.

He emphasized the benefits of communicating and strengthening ties and cooperative efforts with all parliaments of the world. In his view, this step has attracted the support of several international parliaments to Saudi Arabia over many Arab, regional and international issues.

“The Shura council constantly works to be close to citizens and tackle their concerns and issues, and to discuss them by way of its special committees. The members of the council represent citizens, which the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, emphasized in his opening speech at the sixth session of the council,” he said.

Al-Sheikh explained that the council has structured its operations so that citizens are given the opportunity to ask ministers and senior officials questions about services and key issues.

The new female members of the council have been effectively voicing the concerns and issues of Saudi women, Al-Sheikh said.

The chairman said that the council has recently approved a recommendation put forward by three female members demanding equality between women and men when applying for loans from the Real Estate Development Fund. The council voted in favor of the recommendation after it was adopted by the Committee of Financial Affairs, he added.

“By their participation and the recommendations they make, female members have proved to be broad-minded. . . . They participate extensively in a number of issues and add much to the discussions of the council.”

Speaking about the regulations issued by the council, Al-Sheikh said: “Allow me to clarify that the council is a [legislative] regulatory authority that derives its power from the King. Decisions made by Shura Council are referred to the King according to Article 17 of the council system.”

As for the council’s responsibilities, they include “discussing the general plan for economic and social development, examining regulations and international agreements and accords, interpreting regulations, and discussing the yearly reports that the ministries and governmental agencies submit.”