Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Fahd Bin Abdul Aziz inaugurated last night the first session of the fourth year of the Consultative Council (Majlis Al-Shura). On his arrival he was greeted by Crown Prince Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz, Deputy Prime Minister and Commander of the National Guard; Prince Sultan Bin Abdul Aziz, Second Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Defense and Aviation, and Inspector-General; a number of other royal princes; Chairman of the Shura Council Sheikh Muhammad Bin Ibrahim Bin Jubair; members of the Shura Council; and other senior officials.
Addressing the meeting, King Fahd expressed his pleasure on the occasion, which “is set to renew our valued aspirations and goals for serving our dear nation and strengthening our blessed march, and effect the continuation of our great development in the light of our Islamic faith and the noble values originating from it in terms of its text and its spirit”. Remarking that “the Kingdom is a great entity based on the guidance and practice of Islam, which makes it a real model for any nation that applies the shari’ah of Allah to all its dealings”, he referred to how [the Kingdom’s founder] King Abdul Aziz established, in managing the nation’s affairs, “the principle of Shura (consultation) as enshrined in the Holy Qur’an and the Sunnah (traditions) of the Prophet”.
King Fahd went on to say: “Our country is now at the peak of its strength because it is rich in terms of its faith, its people, and its plentiful natural resources. In addition, the grand expansion projects of the Two Holy Mosques and the Holy Sites have been completed, and all the facilities are in place to ease the mission of our brothers, the pilgrims.” He then referred to the great events that the region has witnessed in the past years, events that weakened the development of the Kingdom, and stated that in spite of these: “Our economy is stronger than anyone could have imagined”.
Industrial development, he said, is progressing day by day. Many items which in the past were imported, are now manufactured in thousands of factories. The state gives assistance, and provides a suitable atmosphere that ensures protection, encouragement and substantial financial support as well as other benefits. The Saudi Industrial Development Fund, for example, has offered facilities and easy loans amounting to SR 31 billion (U.S. $ 8.3 billion) for industrial projects.
Progress in the field of education has surpassed all expectations, with a total of 23,752 schools at all levels with almost 5 million pupils, while in the sphere of higher education there are seven universities, incorporating 68 colleges with an enrollment of 155,182 students, both male and female, and another 61 women-only colleges with 100,000 female students. In addition, there are 56 specialized colleges for technology, health, and teachers’ training, and 70 technical centers and institutes in the fields of industry, agriculture and commerce, catering to thousands of trainees.
As for health, the state has established integrated and specialized hospitals as well as different kinds of clinics and health centers in towns and villages throughout the Kingdom. King Fahd gave assurances that this policy will continue. Turning to the agricultural sector, he stated that Saudi Arabia is currently producing all its needs for various kinds of grains, vegetables, and fruits, adding that the development of a variety of agricultural crops would continue to be a major concern in line with the policy to realize food security. Concerning water, Kind Fahd said: “The Kingdom is a pioneer in the field of water desalination and is the largest producer of desalinated water in spite of the high financial cost. On this occasion, I would like to say that it is the duty of all of us to rationalize water use and to conserve it in order to protect this precious wealth.”
King Fahd went on to discuss the construction sector and housing for citizens, remarking that the Real Estate Development Fund has offered SR 108 billion (U.S. $ 28.8 billion) in this area. Dealing with the economic infrastructure, King Fahd said that the state has built roads, ports, and electricity facilities in record time, stating: “All of us are working with full determination to realize the happiness and well-being of each citizen as well as to ensure security for him and his family.” The state budget, he said, reflects this every year, with the current 1997 budget including allocations for new development projects involving the establishment of mosques, schools, health facilities, water projects, dams, roads, basic infrastructure, and increased assistance for new social insurance cases, all in addition to what has already been allocated for projects in the past which are still financed by the state.
Turning to the international scene, King Fahd declared: “Our country is distinguished in its foreign relations by preserving its existing brotherly ties with the Arab and Islamic worlds and paying all its attention to Arab and Islamic causes”, and made special reference to the cause of the Palestinian people and that of Al-Quds Al-Shareef [Jerusalem], reiterating support for the peace process in the Middle East. The Kingdom’s relations with friends throughout the world, he said, are “noted for their clarity, consistency, and solidarity, enlightened by the exchange of respect and mutual interest as well as cooperation for the realization of justice and the strengthening of the bases of security and stability in the interests of all humankind.”
King Fahd thanked the chairman and deputy chairman of the council, and all its members, as well as all employees, for their good efforts, wishing the council and its session well in its proceedings and hoping it will succeed in realizing the goals on which it was formed.
Chairman of the Shura Council Shaikh Bin Jubair then addressed the meeting, prior to handing over to King Fahd the council’s annual report. He reviewed the past three years as a period of formulating the bases for progress such as the re-formation and completion of internal regulations for the new system, and the commencement of operations after preparation of the personnel. The council also strengthened its relations with other authorities inside the Kingdom, as well as building ties with similar bodies overseas. Its contacts with the latter, whether visiting them or welcoming them to Saudi Arabia, have allowed a unique opportunity to brief others on the principles of Shura as contained in Islam, spread its ideas and clarify its application in the Kingdom. This year coincides with the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the first Shura council system by King Abdul Aziz.
Sheikh Bin Jubair reported that since the first session of the current Shura Council three years ago, there have been 103 general meetings, plus 588 meetings of its eight specialized committees, which have issued 130 resolutions, 102 of them endorsed in plenary sessions. The important thing, he stated, is not the number of resolutions, but the fact that the committees have worked with foresight and deep thought, taking their time to reach decisions which will have a lasting impact on the interests of the nation and its people, are suited to the faith and the shariah, and conform to society and its circumstances.