Address to the New Shura Council for Third Term
June 4, 2001
All thanks be to God, who bestows upon us great blessings, and peace be upon His Prophet Muhammad: in God's name, we announce the start of the third term of the Shura Council in its new formation.
We commence our efforts on this blessed day and pray to God to bless them and make them beneficial to the nation.
It is a pleasure to see the Council continue successfully in its progress, inspired by the past in its initiatives and looking forward to the future in its plans and studies. It makes the transition from past to present with no contradiction, under the umbrella of love and with links of fraternity and belief.
I have the pleasure to meet with you today, as is my custom each year. You are aware that this current event, inaugurating the third term, indicates the passage of eight years of this practice in its present form. These years have underlined the effectiveness of this method that our religion has encouraged for the enhancement of the life of society and for efforts for its development. This method ensures the aspirations of all for justice and prosperity.
It is not in vain that the founder of this great entity, the late King Abdulaziz, chose the Islamic concept of 'shura' [consultation] as a method to contribute to running the affairs of the country and its citizens at a time when ideologies and man-made systems offered to mankind a variety of formulae with which to organize relations among the classes of society.
King Abdulaziz' choice of 'shura' is the choice of shariah [Islamic law]. It reflects his belief, his pride in serving the holy places, and his reign over the land from which the message of Muhammad went out, the message that introduced to mankind the civilization of Islam and its respect for the man who is assigned to build and preserve that land.
King Abdulaziz' principle and method for ruling was to ensure his people security and stability, the prerequisites of development without which there is no bright future for the generations to come. His stances were remarkable in support of the efforts exerted to achieve world peace everywhere.
Our country has been faithful to the method of King Abdulaziz in ruling the country internally, and in his relations abroad. This method is inspired by religion. His sons have been faithful to his message as well as to the enforcement of shariah [Islamic law] in their words and deeds.
The father of all, King Abdulaziz, laid the first foundation for this Council. When we came to realize the need for reviewing the system, to make its bills and measures to be in agreement with the present needs of our country and the requirements and necessities of our age, we issued a new system in 1412 H  to enable the Council to proceed in exercising its tasks and to assume its responsibilities effectively,
This practice of 'shura' [consultation] accomplished the inspiration and underlined the success of Islamic choice that helped in achieving the systems needed by our country, with proposals submitted to help achieve its goals. What this Council produces contributes to the welfare of the homeland and citizens.
We have the right to be proud of all the achievements that enhance our adherence to 'shura' practices and prompt us to provide more support to them. Our interest in the Council's activities and resolutions personally or through government organs, is clear to see. We are all one team, which has one goal to achieve: the dignity of our country.
It is worth mentioning, in the context of our support for the Council's process, our decision to increase its membership for this new term to 120, as was done in the previous session from 60 to 90 members. This demonstrates the success of the practice of 'shura' and a desire to expand the base of participation. God Almighty has helped us in the selection process of an elite of men for three consecutive terms. These men have a reputation for their dedication to their religion, and are knowledgeable, experienced, straightforward, and sincere.
I told your brothers at the start of the first term eight years ago that when I was choosing candidates for membership in the Council I found myself in front of long lists of eligible sons of this dear homeland. This indicates that our country has truly qualified men who are equipped with knowledge and belief. By contributing to various development fields, they have stressed their continual readiness to give more to their country.
On this occasion, I thank former members in the two previous terms. They were sincere, and performed their duties to the best of their ability.
I congratulate you on your country whose aspirations emanate from the principles of our religion and I congratulate your country on you as you contribute through your minds and thought, with the rest of citizens, to acceleration of the progress of development.
No doubt, you are aware of the unlimited extent of my interest in the domestic issues of our country with regard to the life of every person who lives in this country and who looks to a bright future for the coming generations. I do not miss a single chance when I meet government officials to firmly draw their attention to the importance of utilizing the relevant government organs to give service to the citizens, facilitate their affairs, work for their comfort and meet their demands. Our religion instructs justice among all the people. The first priority of the State is to realize prosperity for its countrymen and pave the way for them to reach their noble goals.
In this respect, one of our most important priorities is to provide more job opportunities for the young people of our country who have completed academic courses and are looking forward to building their new careers. As we have already provided education for them, we work, with God's help, to create jobs for them. While I praise what has been realized by the private sector in this field, I demand that this sector provide more job opportunities, since this is a national duty that should be carried out in order to achieve prosperity for our country and its citizens.
On several occasions I have underscored the importance of continual review of Saudization-related decisions in both public and private sectors. I have also stressed that there should be a strategy for recruitment that takes into consideration the development of the domestic labor market and the increase in the number of Saudis seeking jobs. Let us hope that these efforts yield their desired goals.
We are all aware that the contribution towards building the nation, maintaining its achievements, and taking care of them is the first duty of all citizens. We also know that the labor market requires academic qualifications and applied training as two complementary factors. Accordingly, the education and training sectors, for instance, have gained a considerable share of this year's budget.
We have done this so that our universities, colleges, and institutes of technical training and vocational education can accommodate greater numbers of young people. This is in addition to the role that needs to be played by the private sector in the area of training young people according to its actual needs.
I am indeed proud, when there is talk about education issues, to state that education in our country has made great strides. In this respect, I can point out tens of thousands of public schools that have been accommodating both boys and girls in addition to large numbers of colleges as well as the eight universities, all of which embrace over eight million students, male and female, who receive lessons from thousands of efficient teachers and instructors.
On this occasion, let me remind you of the Seventh Five-Year Development Plan which was approved by the Shura Council and endorsed by the Council of Ministers. The plan focuses on the provision of education services, and on training of Saudi cadres, who are regarded as a basic resource to enhance the productive capabilities of the nation's qualified citizens, and to be able to deal with the world's technological developments in various fields. This plan has also affirmed the importance of diversifying the sources of the nation's income and expanding the productive base in all economic fields.
The government has promoted in many sectors the method of privatization. One of the most important objectives of this method is to increase the vigor of the private sector on one hand and on the other, to push it to take continuing initiatives to meet the requirements of the society. Privatization works to expand the contribution of citizens in the productive sectors, encourage national and foreign capital for domestic investment, increase the efficiency of the national economy, augment its competitive capability, and, above all, create job opportunities for young Saudis.
It is clear that we are speaking at length and in detail on the state of the young people of our country and paying attention to their future. We always pay special attention to the development of programs and projects that are directly related to the life of the citizens, that give assistance to their welfare, and that contribute to the improvement of their economic and social standard of living. This has been confirmed in all previous development plans. For instance, among other good news, the latest plan announced the opening of 29 new hospitals with a total capacity of 4,630 beds, plus 250 dispensaries and primary health centers and 60 emergency centers; the establishment of 17 health colleges, nine for boys and eight for girls; the establishment of 1,111 elementary schools, 819 intermediate schools, and 905 secondary schools; the inauguration of 10 technological colleges and 17 multi-specialization secondary technical institutes; an increase in the capacity of technical education to 55,000 students by the end of the plan, with 50,000 graduates; and enrollment of some 17,000 trainees at vocational training centers by the end of the plan, with around 46,000 graduates.
In addition, the plan augurs well for other service organs such as transportation, telecommunications, and municipal and rural affairs.
Raising productive efficiency, promoting better performance, cutting costs, rationalizing expenditure, boosting economic projects for greater vigor and encouraging optimum utilization of the country's resources, will all lead us to achieve the national goals that we seek in our development plans. As you all know the aim behind all this is to serve the citizens and country.
In spite of having been adversely affected by different circumstances in recent years, our national economy in recovering. To this end, the efforts of the government and those of the private sector should be combined. It is always a great delight to see the giant economic projects that have been established by the private sector. I especially praise the participation of Saudi businessmen who invest in their country, as this results in strengthening the national economy.
The recent announcement of the foreign investment system, and the establishment of the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA) and the Supreme Commission for Tourism (SCT) aim at accelerating development and broadening the base of national economy. Moreover, the Saudi Electricity Company (SEC) was established as a stock company with a capital of SR 33 billion [U.S. $ 8.8 billion] to give a boost to the private sector and facilitate its role in the process of development.
You have all surely heard and read about the recent decisions of the Supreme Council for Petroleum and Minerals (SCPM) regarding the preparatory agreements with a number of international oil companies that will undertake implementation of the development of natural gas projects in the Kingdom. This step will yield direct economic benefits including the employment of qualified Saudi workers.
Over the past year there have been a number of rules and strategies studied by the Shura Council and issued by the Council of Ministers. They are, for example, the national housing and urbanization strategy, the real estate ownership system for non-Saudis, the system of social insurance, the system of press and publications, the system of welfare for the handicapped, the system of prisoners' welfare and the establishment of the health insurance council.
Regarding oil affairs, I recall that we voiced support, at the time, for the Caracas Declaration issued by the Second OPEC Summit. We believe in the necessity of cooperation and consolidation among OPEC member states. As you know, oil is a strategic substance that constitutes a major source of energy and substantially contributes to global economic development in various fields.
Therefore, we should not forget to consolidate relations between OPEC and other oil producing countries on one hand and oil consuming countries on the other hand.
This should take place within the framework of cooperation and understanding of common interests as the stability and equilibrium of the oil market is a common responsibility. Hence, OPEC should not be blamed for harming the world economy due to oil price hikes. The Caracas Declaration called on oil consuming countries to adopt a just stance towards international energy markets and urged them to reconsider their policies in order to reduce taxes for the benefit of consumers.
Based on the Kingdom's belief in the need to bridge the gap between the oil producing and the oil consuming countries, Saudi Arabia proposed, while hosting the International Energy Forum a few months ago, the establishment of a standing General Secretariat for the Energy Forum and offered to host such a secretariat in our country. This will contribute to opening more channels of contact among the various sides and help guarantee the stability of the oil market.
Regarding our role at Arab and Muslim levels, you all know the Kingdom's desire to unify Arab ranks, enhance Muslim solidarity, and enlist all Arab and Muslim potentialities in various spheres for the achievement of stability and security and the maintenance of prosperity and peace worldwide. We therefore support the League of Arab States in achieving its goals.
We in the Arab world express a clear desire for this part of the world to live in true peace. This goal is what we all seek to achieve, as a strategic choice. However, the whole world is witness to the practices of the Zionists against the Arabs of Palestine, their territories and their Holy Sites. The Zionists have not hesitated to commit all kinds of tyranny, killing and destruction especially during the last few days. The aggression has taken the form of a real war as the Zionists use all types of lethal weapons, including warplanes and rocket launchers, at a time when the international powers are completely unable to confront and suppress their arrogance.
The Zionists have brought the region to a situation that augurs ill both in the near future and in the long term. We call upon the international community to put an end to these practices committed against the unarmed Palestinian people. And we call in particular on the United States to take a decisive stance towards ending this situation, especially since the enemy is ignoring all conventions, charters and principles upon which human rights have been founded.
Will the United Nations and the Security Council respond to the appeals of our Palestinian brothers and send an international force that will prevent the fall of more martyrs and wounded?
Everybody knows our stance on the Palestinian issue and peace in the Middle East. We always say that the region will not enjoy security and stability unless the Palestinians regain all their rights, establish their independent state with Al-Quds [Jerusalem] as its capital, and unless the Syrian Golan Heights are returned along with all occupied Arab lands.
We will continue to provide all kinds of help to our Palestinian brothers. On this occasion, I would like to recall that Deputy Prime Minister and Commander of the National Guard Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, as my deputy, proposed at the Arab Summit held in Cairo the setting up of the Al-Quds Intifada Fund, with an amount of U.S. $200 million, and also proposed the setting up of the Al-Aqsa Fund, with an amount of $800 million, to which the Kingdom would contribute 25 percent, to enable our Palestinian brothers to become economically independent. The summit adopted the Saudi proposal.
What we are offering to our Palestinian brothers is our duty towards them. This is only one part of serving Muslims worldwide.
One of our goals is to enhance the solidarity of Muslims and create conditions that will enable them to achieve greater accomplishments. The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) has an effective role in achieving these goals. Others envy the achievements that have been fulfilled since its establishment. Just recently, the GCC added to its regular annual summit a Consultative Summit to be held every six months or whenever deemed necessary.
In the context of creating more opportunities for understanding and cooperation with our neighbors, we were very pleased to sign international border agreements with the Republic of Yemen, including offshore areas; with the State of Kuwait concerning the shallow seas parallel to the area formerly divided between it and Saudi Arabia; and with the State of Qatar on the final maps covering both land and sea frontiers. Furthermore, the signing of the security agreement with the Islamic Republic of Iran has substantially helped in strengthening the relations between the two countries.
All these achievements happened last year with our neighbors and this has paved the way for the creation of a more positive atmosphere.
We take this opportunity to thank the Governors of the Provinces and to praise what the Provincial Councils are offering in promoting the process of development in the country.
In conclusion, we pray to God Almighty that you succeed in your new term, and we advise you to keep your eyes on the concerns of your country. This is your responsibility.
We thank the Chairman of the Council and his Deputy as well as the Secretary-General and the Council's Agencies and Committees on the good work they have performed to ensure the success of this body, which is a source of pride to us.