Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 18 February 2020

King Salman reshuffles Saudi government

The king has replaced the head of the royal court for the second time in four months, and appointed a new housing minister.

RIYADH // Saudi Arabia on Monday appointed a housing minister with a background as a real estate developer, strengthening a trend towards giving top government jobs to people from the private sector as the kingdom grapples with economic and social welfare issues.

Majed Al Hogail, former managing director of Rafal Real Estate Development Co, owned by Saudi family interests, was chosen to head the housing ministry by King Salman, an official decree said.

Mr Al Hogail will lead efforts to ease a shortage of affordable housing for millions of Saudis. The government has pledged tens of billions of dollars towards the problem but red tape and difficulties obtaining land have slowed disbursement of the aid and actual construction of homes.

King Salman relieved the previous housing minister, Shuwaish Al Duwaihi, of his post in March – part of a series of shake-ups since he took the throne in January. Since then, there have been two major cabinet reshuffles and the health minister has also been replaced.

Saudi kings have appointed former businessmen to government jobs in the past, choosing the heads of top merchant families for the post of trade minister, for example.

But there are more business leaders serving in government now than in previous cabinets, analysts say, an indication that King Salman wants to use private sector experience as Riyadh seeks to avoid public discontent by improving social welfare and creating more jobs for Saudis.

“It’s clearly a statement that appeals to a more pragmatic, practical paradigm, going away from the traditional bureaucratic approach to problem-solving, especially in sectors relating to services,” said Hossein Shobokshi, a businessman and columnist.

Agriculture minister Abdulrahman Al Fadhli was head of Almarai, the Gulf’s biggest dairy producer, while health minister Khalid Al Falih was chief executive of state energy company Saudi Aramco.

Culture and information minister Adel Al Turaifi was general manager of the Al Arabiya news channel and economy and planning minister Adel Fakieh, also previously labour minister, had served as chairman of food company Savola.

Education minister Azzam Al Dakhil worked in the voluntary sector for a development foundation set up by deputy crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, and social affairs minister Majed Al Qasabi once ran the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

In addition, Saudi Arabian central bank governor Fahad Al Mubarak was managing director of Morgan Stanley Saudi Arabia, while capital market authority chief Mohammed Al Jadaan headed a large law firm partnered with Clifford Chance. Both those posts were always held by career civil servants until late 2012.

* Reuters

Updated: July 13, 2015 04:00 AM

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