Removed the head of the supreme court, a hardline Islamic imam, in 2009 as part of his efforts to modernise the court system. Set up specialised family, commercial and criminal courts but diplomats have said the pace of judiciary reform remains slow.
Last July, Saudi Arabia passed a long-awaited law covering housing mortgages, largely completing a sweeping revision of economic policy. Still under discussion is a move to open the stock market to direct investment by foreign institutions.
In September, it was announced that women would be able to vote and run for office in municipal elections in 2015, the only public vote in the country. Women would also be appointed to the Shura Council, which advises the government on policy, from 2014.
New schools have opened for gifted girls and there is a greater emphasis on attending university. Sixty per cent of the college students in Saudi Arabia are women, although only 15 per cent of Saudi females were employed in 2009.
In February 2009, the king removed two radical clerics from senior positions and appointed the first female as a deputy in the education ministry. He launched a national dialogue under his auspices to brainstorm challenges facing the kingdom.