RIYADH, Asharq Al-Awsat – Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz issued a series of royal decrees on Wednesday which aim to improve the social welfare of Saudi citizens, estimated to be worth around 127 billion Saudi Riyals [SR] or 34 billion dollars, upon his return to Saudi Arabia after three months abroad for medical treatment.
The action plan, which includes funding to offset high inflation, to help young unemployed people and support families to obtain affordable housing, was made as popular protests over poverty, corruption and repression hit many Arab countries.
The Saudi monarch pledged to provide an additional 40 billion SR to the Saudi Arabian Real Estate Development Fund, to enable it to meet greater demands for housing loans. He also promised to increase the capital of the Saudi Credit and Saving Bank by 20 billion SR, from 10 billion SR to 30 billion SR, which would allow this bank greater credit to provide Saudi citizens with loans.
Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz also allocated an additional 1.2 billion SR to provide social care and development to Saudi citizens, as well as allocating 1 billion SR to increase the number of family members benefiting from social insurance from 8 to 15 family members.
The Saudi monarch also increased the country’s annual charitable donations by 50 percent to 450 million SR per year as well as allocating 15 billion SR to support the General Housing Authority, in addition to 3.5 billion SR to help the poor repair their houses and pay utilities.
In addition to this, King Abdullah also pledged to allocate 1.2 billion SR for vocational training courses for women, as well as 476 million SR to support poor students. The Saudi King also urged universities to allocate a percentage of seats to students from poorer backgrounds, and also announced the extension of the King Abdullah Foreign Scholarship Program for an additional five years, asserting that Saudi students currently studying abroad would be eligible for this, based upon certain conditions.
As part of efforts to combat unemployment, King Abdullah also set-up a high level ministerial committee to find solutions with regards to employing the growing number of graduates in the public and private sector. This committee is set to reveal its findings within four months. The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques also pledged to allocate a portion of the financial resources of the Human Resource Development Fund to provide assistance to unemployed youth.
The Saudi monarch also ordered the expansion of a number of governmental departments, including the creation of an additional 300 jobs for the General Auditing bureau, an additional 300 jobs for the Control and Investigation Board, an additional 300 jobs for the Saudi Commission for Investigation and Prosecution, and the creational of an additional 300 jobs for the Royal Court and the Special Secretariat of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques.
The Saudi monarch also decreed a 15 percent pay-rise of all Saudi civil servants, and the Supreme Economic Council has been asked to take the necessary step to ensure payment within three months.
Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz issued this wide-ranging set of royal decrees upon his return to Saudi Arabia after three months abroad. The King’s airplane was met by hundreds of men in white robes who performed a traditional Bedouin sword dance on special carpets laid out at Riyadh airport.
State television presenters wore scarves in the colours of the Saudi flag in coverage termed “the joy of a nation” to mark the king’s return, and Saturday has been declared a public holiday to mark the King’s safe return home.
King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz travelled to the United States in November for surgery on a herniated disk which caused blood accumulation around the spine. He has been recuperating in Morocco for the past four weeks.
Saudi Arabia, a member of the G20, outlined spending of 580 billion riyals for 2011, its third straight record budget and the king said last month expenditures are going to rise in the coming years.