(MENAFN - Arab News) The Shoura Council said yesterday that the seven-year reign of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah has been remarkable due to his efforts to build a better nation based on Islamic culture, humanitarianism and modernity, taking the Kingdom to greater heights.
Shoura Council Chairman Abdullah Al-Asheikh made the statement while congratulating King Abdullah on his seventh anniversary of accession to the Saudi throne on May 17. He said the Kingdom has made remarkable achievements during King Abdullah's reign in education, health, industry, agriculture and other sectors.
Last year, during his participation at the annual meeting of the Shoura Council, the king announced that he would give women the right to stand and vote in future municipal elections and join the consultative body as full members.
During the historic speech, the king said: "As we refuse to marginalize women in society in all roles that comply with Shariah, we have decided, after deliberation with our senior Islamic scholars, to involve women in the Shoura Council as members starting from the next term."
The Shoura chairman pointed out that the king's progressive era is to be appreciated because of his keenness to serve the people of Saudi Arabia through major reforms and developments to make the Kingdom a prosperous country based on solid economic, political, cultural and technological foundations.
Al-Asheikh said that the king is keen on offering optimum services for the welfare of the citizens. "He was a king who was concerned about the wellbeing of the people in all strata of society," the chairman said.
As a humanitarian gesture to help the citizens, the king unveiled a SR500 billion social spending package that included a monthly unemployment payment of SR2,000, a minimum wage of SR3,000, creation of 60,000 new military jobs under the Interior Ministry, and an increase in the home-building lending limit of the Real Estate Development Fund from SR300,000 to SR500,000 per loan. Half of the value of the package - SR250 billion - will be used to construct 500,000 homes to address the country's growing housing shortage.
The package includes SR300 million to support the Islamic Dawa (Call & Guidance) offices and SR200 million to support Qur'an memorization organizations. He announced a one-time cash payment of two months' salary to all government employees, including members of the military, in addition to two months worth of living stipends to Saudis studying under government scholarships.
King Abdullah also gave top priority for the development of the two holy mosques. On Aug. 19, 2011, he launched the largest expansion of the Grand Mosque in history, which will increase the mosque's capacity to more than 2.5 million worshippers. The project is estimated to cost SR80 billion, he said, adding that renovations have been made at Jamarat bridge to ease congestion and trains were introduced to facilitate free movement of pilgrims within the holy cities.
Besides his contributions to the nation, Al-Asheikh said, King Abdullah remains a prominent leader in the region as well as in the international arena because of his dynamic leadership in promoting peace through dialogue.
Al-Asheikh also commended the initiative made by the king to transform the Gulf Cooperation Council into a Gulf Union.
During yesterday's session chaired by Al-Asheikh, the council stressed that the annual report of the General Presidency of Youth Welfare should give reasons for the decline in sports activities in all regions and should also explore ways and means of improving them in subsequent years. The council also urged the presidency to organize programs to involve youths in the National Day celebrations of the Kingdom.