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Saudi Arabia announced Engineer Adel Fakieh as the new Minister of Labour, succeeding the departed Dr. Ghazi al-Gosaibi, while also announcing Dr. Hani Abu-Ras to succeed Fakieh as the new Mayor of Jeddah. Adel Fakieh is an excellent choice, as he has a strong background thanks to his experience as Chairman of the Savola group, which is the largest company in the food industry in Saudi Arabia and the Arab world. Thanks to Fakieh, the Savola group witnessed large growth and development, and huge profits, after he contributed in transforming the Savola group from being a company with a single product – namely cooking oil – to a company with a number of successful products in a variety of fields. In addition to this, he followed a policy of geographical acquisition so that the Savola group was not limited to just one market, and so the impressive profits and successes of Savola group speak for itself. Following this, Fakieh moved to the Jeddah municipality where he restructured the administrative sector there, pursuing a number of projects with regards to bridges, tunnels, paving the streets, and new plans to help over-crowded and devastated districts. All of this took place in the city of Jeddah after years of administrative chaos and few developmental projects.

The Ministry of Labour is an important ministry and its primary task is not easy. This is a ministry that is connected to creating decent jobs for the citizens of Saudi Arabia in a just manner that does not harm the youth or discriminate against companies and institutions. The most serious issue that the Ministry of Labour is dealing with is

rising unemployment. However it is inadequate to expect the Ministry of Labour to deal with the issue of unemployment, and resolve this entire problem alone. For resolving unemployment, or at least contributing to improving the unemployment situation, is a shared responsibility, this includes financial bodies and institutes improving financial conditions and offers to companies and businessmen, and not relying on the cheapest labour in the fields of maintenance, manual labour, and construction. These are sectors that employ thousands of non-Saudis, with jobs such as these continually going to workers from Asian or Third World countries due to the extremely low salaries in comparison with living costs, something that makes it impossible for Saudi workers to accept. This ministry is also concerned with developing and improving education so that graduates are “ready” to safely enter the workplace. Adel Fakieh’s background in business means that he will be able to understand the challenge facing the Saudi private sector, particularly with regards to local employment, especially as he was responsible for a huge company that has been able to employ a huge number of Saudi citizens in a variety of fields.

There are many points and issues that Adel Fakieh will face at the Ministry of Labour, and these are important but ongoing issues like, resolving the issue of minimum wage which is still pending and could be lost in the tug of war that is taking pace with regards to this, there is also the issue of women being employed in sales departments catering to women (which was a step first undertaken by the Savola group). The other well-known issue that Adel Fakieh must deal with is that of work visas. There is great hope that Fakieh will deal with these issues in the same decisive manner that he dealt with the issues of land and property infringement as Mayor of Jeddah.

Adel Fakieh has moved one hot seat as the Mayor of Jeddah, to another as Minister of Labour, along with the hopes and belief of a large group of people who believe in his administrative capability that have enabled him to achieve genuine successes. These people know that Fakieh’s success in the Ministry of Labour, and his ability to rebuild the bridges of trust between the financial sector and the ministry will represent an important turning point and a new beginning that deserves praise.

As for Hani Abu-Ras, he is also moving into an extremely important and unforgiving position. The position of Mayor of Jeddah is a difficult one, and he will be at the head of the service sector for the city that is the face of Mecca and Medina, that has suffered from administrative chaos. It is time for stability and constancy, especially in light of the presence of official support from high levels.

We wish these two officials ever success in their new positions, and we will judge their success by their results.

Hussein Shobokshi

Hussein Shobokshi

Hussein Shobokshi is a businessman and prominent columnist. Mr. Shobokshi hosts the weekly current affairs program Al-Takreer on Al-Arabiya, and in 1995 he was chosen as one of the "Global Leaders for Tomorrow" by the World Economic Forum. He received his BA in Political Science and Management from the University of Tulsa.

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