New ministers — new state and market partnership!

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THE stock market was up 5 percent in response to the new royal decrees. They include appointments at the ministerial level, as well as deputy ministers, and the creation of royal protectorates in most of the upper half of the country. That’s in addition to other natural parks that were protected by prior decrees, especially in the southern part of the country.

It is hard to tell what has more to do with the upsurge of the share market. However, most analysts seem to agree that it was the appointment of technocrats from the private sector. Six ministerial posts went to highly trained professionals from the national oil company, ARAMCO. They come with impressive list of certificates, experiences and achievements, to join other successful leaders from the same company, like Minister of Energy, Industry and Mineral Resources

Khalid Al-Falih, and Minister of Transport Nabeel Al-Amoudi.

The message here is that there is a stronger partnership between public and private sectors, more than anytime before. The state is listening to the market, and is looking for more contribution from its leaders and pioneers. The market, too, has been listening and waiting for such an opportunity to be part of the decision-making process. They have been calling for a role, a voice and an active participation in government affairs, development planning and agenda sitting. Now they are in — in an unprecedented way! Hopefully, they would make the best of it, in the best interest, not only of their sector, but of all.

Most appointees are in their thirties and forties. They represent 70 percent of our population who are under 30. It seems to be part of Saudi Vision 2030 to bring up the most talented of our youth to lead us to the future. Our young leaders bring energy, freshness, modernity, and newness. They have their way of looking at the way government does business. They proved themselves capable with every assignment they were tasked with, and I have no doubt they would prove us right in our highest expectations.

The new Labor and Social Development Minister Ahmad Al-Rajhi, is the son of self-made billionaire Sheikh Suleiman Bin Abdulaziz Al-Rajhi, co-founder of Al-Rajhi banking, industrial, and farming empire. Ahmad was a businessman who, among many posts, has been elected chairman of Saudi Chambers of Commerce and Industries, Chairman of Riaydh Chamber of Commerce and Industry, as well a president and board member of many successful companies. He is the 18th minister in the ministry’s 60-year history, during which it underwent a change in identity through the integration and separation from social affairs.

After years of miscommunication between the private sector and the labor ministry, hopefully the new minister would be able bridge the gap and resolve the disagreements between them. This prospect alone, would be enough to boost market confidence and bring back migrated and reluctant capitals.

Others, such as Minister of Culture Prince Badr Bin Abdullah Bin Farhan also come with a business background. He was the chairman of the biggest Arab media conglomerate, Saudi Research and Marketing Group, and chairman of MiSK Art Institute, founded by Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman. Prince Badr is the governor of the Royal Commission for Al-Ula and a board member of the General Authority for Culture’s (GCA), which includes artists, filmmakers, executives and government officials. He is tasked with opening up a whole new world for Saudis. That includes, cinemas, museums, libraries, operas, music festivals, theaters, movie studios, art galleries and academies. These, too, are areas worthy of huge investments.

Dr. Abdullatif Bin Abdulaziz Al-Sheikh is our new Minister of Islamic Affairs, Call and Guidance. He is known for his expertise in Islamic jurisprudence and has previously served in a number of governmental institutions, including as Director General of Investigations at the Saudi General Presidency, and Second Assistant Secretary General at the Saudi Council of Senior Scholars. He received his PhD in Islamic jurisprudence from the Imam Muhammad Bin Saud Islamic University, and previously established and ran a number of Islamic charities.

Most importantly he is a moderate, who fought extremists during his tenure as the President of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice. His views of enlightenment, tolerance and moderation have brought him ruthless enemies and cost him his job. Now, he is back in a higher position and more important role to implement his visions and instill his values.

We are in, ladies and gentlemen, for a new show. This time, it is by the energetic, highly educated, well trained, very eager and ambitious youth of Saudi Arabia. They made a fortune for themselves... now it is time to make a fortune for the rest of us!

Dr. Khaled M. Batarfi is a Saudi writer based in Jeddah. He can be reached at kbatarfi@gmail.com. Follow him at Twitter:@kbatarfi


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