(MENAFN - Arab News) Chairman of the Shoura Council Abdullah Al-Asheikh said in Riyadh on Friday night that the hosting of the third high-profile consultative meeting of the G20 speakers represents "international recognition" for the Shoura Council and its success in carrying out its legislative duties.
"This is also a recognition of the role of the council in the decision-making process of the Kingdom and its emerging role in the formulation of the foreign policy," said the Shoura chief.
Al-Asheikh, who previously served as minister of justice before being appointed head of the fifth Shoura Council in 2009, said: "The G20 meeting represents an opportunity to highlight the Kingdom's approach to consultation, which is part of the ruling system in Islam, followed by the state and its citizens. I am pleased to welcome the leaders and the G20 delegations of the attending states, and I wish them a pleasant stay in the Kingdom."
The Shoura chief was speaking on the occasion of the G20 speakers meeting, which kicked off its two-day run yesterday.
Referring to the participation of the Shoura Council in the previous two meetings of the G20 speakers, he said the council requested the formation of a five-member panel in the first meeting in Canada in 2010. The panel, to be composed of the representatives of five G20 countries, should be entrusted with the task of studying ideas and proposals from member states, with an objective to develop a unified program.
This unified program, he said, might eventually evolve into a charter for the G20 parliamentary meeting in future. He said the council has emerged as "a significant institution in the lawmaking process of the Kingdom."
The Shoura has recently debated important matters like citizenship laws and rejected a proposal to levy taxes on Saudi Arabia's 8 million expatriate workers, he added. Al-Asheikh said the recent decision by King Abdullah to allow women to run and vote in municipal elections and become members of the Shoura Council has huge implications for the status of women in Saudi Arabia in future. "The king's vision has provided the women with hope for what they may accomplish with their new roles," he noted.
In reply to a question about a tentative time frame when women will be inducted as full-fledged members into the Shoura Council, he said things are on track. "Even today, the Shoura Council has 12 female consultants with expertise in different areas," said Al-Asheikh, adding that these women contribute to the council's debates with their views and proposals.
He said the Shoura Council, which is seen as a weak legislative body by people outside the Kingdom, has real powers now. "It is permitted to propose draft laws and forward them to the king to pass or enforce them."
The Shoura also has the powers to interpret laws and examine annual reports referred to it by ministries and agencies. It can also aid and advise the king on policies he submits to it, along with international treaties and economic plans, he noted.
The Shoura is also authorized to review the country's annual budget, and call in ministers for questioning, he said.
About the success achieved by the Shoura Council in addressing public issues, he said the council has expanded the focus of interest to include national issues and those related to the citizens. "We receive hundreds of petitions on a daily basis bearing important notes and viewpoints to be discussed by the different panels of the Shoura Council," said Al-Asheikh, adding the council has a well-defined mechanism to address such issues.
The council has never been silent or simply waiting for what is put forward by the government or the government agencies, but rather has always taken the initiative to address issues that are important for citizens and the nation at large, he added.
To this end, he noted the council's contributions to the development of the Kingdom's education system. A number of social issues have also attracted the attention of the council's 13 special committees, resulting in several proposals being made with an aim to improve the conditions of the people, he said.