Major government reshuffle

P.K. Abdul Ghafour | Arab News
Publication Date: 
Sun, 2009-02-15 03:00

JEDDAH: Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah yesterday reshuffled the Kingdom’s Cabinet, changing four ministers and appointing — for the first time — a woman deputy minister. He also named a new chairman of the 150-member consultative Shoura Council.

Prince Faisal bin Abdullah bin Mohammed is the new minister of education. He replaces Abdullah Al-Obaid. Abdul Aziz bin Muhiyuddin Khoja has been appointed the new minister of culture and information, replacing Iyad Madani.

Justice Minister Abdullah Al-Asheikh has been appointed new chairman of the Shoura Council, replacing Saleh Bin-Humaid. Mohammed bin Abdul Kareem Al-Eissa, former deputy chairman of the Court of Grievances, is the new justice minister.

Dr. Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al-Rabeeah, who became famous after successfully conducting a number of operations to separate Siamese twins from different countries, replaces Dr. Hamad Al-Manie as the new health minister.

Nora bint Abdullah Al-Fayez, director general of the women’s section of the Institute of Public Administration, made history by becoming the first woman deputy minister in Saudi Arabia. She will be in charge of girls’ affairs in the Ministry of Education. She replaces Prince Khaled bin Abdullah bin Mohammed.

This is the first major Cabinet reshuffle made by King Abdullah since he came to the throne in August 2005. According to Labor Minister Ghazi Al-Gosaibi, the changes were made to speed up implementation of the new educational and judicial reforms introduced by the king.

King Abdullah also reshuffled the Shoura Council, naming new faces to the consultative body. Former Shoura chief Bin-Humaid has been named chairman of the Supreme Judiciary Council while Abdul Rahman bin Abdul Aziz Al-Kelya was named chief justice of the Supreme Court.

The appointment of Abdul Aziz Al-Humain as head of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, replacing Ibrahim Al-Ghaith, has been described by analysts as an important move.

King Abdullah named Muhammad Al-Jasser as the new governor of the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency (SAMA), the Kingdom’s central bank. He replaces Hamad Al-Sayari, who had been the SAMA chief since 1985. Finance Minister Ibrahim Al-Assaf said the new appointment would not bring about any major changes in SAMA’s banking and monetary policies.

The new appointments come into effect Feb. 28.

John Sfakianakis, chief economist at SABB (Saudi British Bank) said: “The change at the helm of SAMA signifies continuity, stability and competence. SAMA’s highest standards of professionalism and institutional memory have been well-preserved with the appointment of Al-Jasser as governor. Just as Al-Jasser takes over during one of the worst global economic recessions of the past decades so did Al-Sayari back in 1985 when the Kingdom was witnessing the end of the second oil boom.”

“Al-Sayari’s legacy as a prudent and consistent governor when most in the region and beyond opted for exuberance has to be noted in the Kingdom’s economic history. Al-Jasser comes with the highest credentials as an economist and a central banker.”

Faisal bin Abdul Rahman Al-Muammar, secretary-general of the King Abdul Aziz National Dialogue Center, has been named deputy minister of education with the rank of a minister.

Khaled bin Abdullah Al-Sabti replaces Saeed bin Mohammed Al-Malees as deputy education minister for boys’ affairs.

The reshuffle did not change key ministers such as Petroleum and Mineral Resources Minister Ali Al-Naimi, Commerce and Industry Minister Abdullah Zainal Alireza, Finance Minister Ibrahim Al-Assaf, and Labor Minister Ghazi Al-Gosaibi.

Dr. Bandar bin Abdul Mohsen Al-Qanawi was appointed new executive director of National Guard health affairs, a post that became vacant with the appointment of Al-Rabeeah as health minister.

The changes introduced by the king also covered the armed forces. Lt. Gen. Hussein bin Abdullah Al-Qubail, commander of land forces, has been appointed deputy chief of staff while Maj. Gen. Abdul Rahman bin Abdullah Al-Murshid was appointed commander of the land forces after being promoted to the rank of lieutenant general.

Other major appointments include: Ibrahim bin Shayie Al-Hoqail, chairman of the Court of Grievances and Ali bin Abdul Rahman Al-Hamad, his deputy; Bandar bin Mohammed Al-Aiban, chairman of the Human Rights Commission; Abdullah bin Suleiman Bin-Munie, Abdullah bin Mohammed Al-Mutlak and Abdul Mohsen Al-Obaikan, advisers at the Royal Court with the rank of minister; Mohammed bin Ahmed Al-Kenhal, president of Saudi Food and Drugs Authority; and Mohammed bin Fahd Al-Dossary, chairman of the Higher Administrative Court.

— Additional input from Khalil Hanware

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