King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz delivered the keynote address yesterday at the inauguration of the annual session of the Majlis Al-Shura (Consultative Council). His speech addressed a variety of issues, including employment, education, counterterrorism, women's rights, economic policies, oil prices, the Arab-Israeli conflict and humanitarian aid. The audience included members of the Saudi royal family, foreign diplomats, ministers and senior government officials.
On foreign policy, King Abdullah stated, "At the international level, our position is clear and based on friendship and promotion of peace among peoples and nations." He also said that Saudi Arabia would continue to promote dialogue and tolerance in an effort to eliminate hatred.
He emphasized the government's commitment to its citizens through a series of programs, including an initiative to create more than 200,000 jobs in the education sector and $311 million in emergency aid for distribution to social security benefactors, among them orphans and people with special needs.
The current budget, at approximately $144 billion, is the largest in the Kingdom's history, said King Abdullah. He stressed the government's efforts to promote education through an increased education budget of $36.5 billion. He also underlined the inauguration of the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology and other new universities, which raised the number of higher education facilities in the Kingdom to 25. King Abdullah also discussed the government's efforts to empower women through the establishment of facilities and programs, including Princess Nora bint Abdulrahman University, which is managed entirely by women.
King Abdullah thanked all of the brave soldiers who fought against foreign infiltrators along the southern border. He also said the government will donate 10,000 housing units to people displaced by the war. King Abdullah emphasized that the Kingdom is still a leader in the ongoing efforts to combat terrorism and extremism around the world. He added that the similarities between the goals of Kingdom and those of the international community. "We have the same objectives - to spread security, peace, counter terrorism and corruption in all its forms, and establish principles of development, progress, prosperity and civilization."
The Kingdom will continue to maintain its moderate economic policies, which have helped shield it from some of the damage of the financial crisis. King Abdullah said, "Saudi Arabia sought in the wake of the global financial and economic crisis to minimize the impact of the crisis on the stability of oil markets and on the interests of producing and consuming countries alike." The past year's regulatory reforms have helped diversify the national economy and allowed for numerous new industrial development projects, such as those in Jubail and Yanbu.
King Abdullah concluded by emphasizing the critical role he expects the Majlis Al-Shura to play in arriving at critical government decisions in the coming months.
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