Saudis celebrate removal of minister who exploited position to employ son
JEDDAH: The dismissal of Civil Service Minister Khaled Al-Araj through a royal decree on Saturday is being widely described as a momentous decision.
“It heralds a new era of transparency,” said Dr. Hamdan Al-Shehri, a Riyadh-based Saudi political analyst and international relations scholar.
Al-Araj has been blamed for abusing his position to recruit his son to a high-paying job. He has not only been removed, but a committee has been set up to investigate charges of nepotism against him.
Talking to Arab News on Sunday, Al-Shehri said it was a “clear-cut” message to “one and all” that nobody is above board.
“Whether you are a minister or a bureaucrat or whatever, you won’t be spared if you do anything wrong,” he said.
“The message wasn’t just for the sacked minister, but for all ministers of the new era of accountability and openness.”
Al-Shehri said it was unprecedented for such a decision to be announced on public television. “The people of this country now know that such favoritism won’t be acceptable. This is a good sign.”
He said the overwhelming welcome that the decision received on social media was indicative of people’s craving for good and transparent governance.
Al-Araj had in the past stirred controversy when he appeared on an MBC television show and said Saudis are lazy and the productivity of civil servants in the Kingdom on a workday does not exceed an hour.
The Saudi National Anti-Corruption Commission (Nazaha) had found that he assigned his son Abdullah to a job for a monthly salary of SR21,600 ($5,750) shortly after he became a minister.
Al-Araj was replaced on Saturday by Essam bin Saeed.
Social media users delighted in the announcement. “He deserved it,” said one Twitter user.
Using an Arabic hashtag that translates “#Trial of the minister of civil service,” another Twitter user tagged the former minister and tweeted: “You aren’t minister anymore, you can change your profile.”
Users expressed their gratitude to King Salman, with one Twitter user writing that “decrees like this will deter other corrupt ministers.”
Other social media users said no individual is above the law. “(There is) no more immunity for a minister… serving people is above all or you’ll be held accountable and tried. A beautiful step, goodbye to power and authority.”
Another Twitter user said: “Justice is the most powerful tool. It touches and satisfies everyone. No one crosses the lines and (violates) the rules of the government.”
Officials, scholars and academics also lauded the royal decrees, saying they will have a positive impact on Saudi society.
Finance Minister Mohammed Al-Jadaan said the decree restoring government employees’ benefits will boost purchasing power, encourage investment and put inflation at a suitable rate, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.
The government will continue its economic reform program and increase non-oil revenues in the framework of Vision 2030, he added. Najran Gov. Prince Juluwi bin Abdulaziz bin Musaid said the decrees embody the closeness of citizens to King Salman’s heart.
The rector of Baha University, Dr. Nabil bin Abdulqadir Koshk, said the decrees are proof of the king’s keenness to provide the means for a good life for all citizens, who are a strong pillar of the country’s development.
The rector of Najran University, Dr. Mohammed bin Ibrahim Al-Hasan, said the decrees affirm the strength of the Kingdom’s economy.
The appointment of new, young names to senior government posts will contribute to the realization of Vision 2030, he added.
In Makkah, the rector of Um Al-Qura University, Dr. Bakri Assas, said the decrees represent the king’s far-sighted vision for a brighter future for the nation.
Makkah Mayor Dr. Osama Al-Barr said the decrees address the requirements of the modern era in light of rapid global developments.