King Abdullah Returns to Kingdom, Enacts Measures to Boost the Economy

Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques returns to Saudi Arabia after three months abroad.

Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah returned to Saudi Arabia on February 23, 2011 after three months abroad. King Abdullah traveled to the U.S. in late November 2010 for back surgery and then to Morocco in January for further recuperation.

Upon his return, King Abdullah enacted a number of measures aimed at expanding the economy, lowering unemployment, and increasing home ownership. Analysts estimate that the increased allocations total approximately $36 billion (SR135 billion).

In the area of home ownership, King Abdullah increased the capital of the Real Estate Development Fund by $10.67 billion (SR40 billion), which will provide more housing loans to Saudi nationals, and raised the budget of the General Housing Authority by $4 billion (SR15 billion). His Majesty also increased the capital of the Saudi Credit Bank from $2.67 billion (SR10 billion) to $8 billion (SR30 billion), which will be used to issue soft loans.

Addressing the country’s unemployment, King Abdullah established a high-level ministerial committee to determine a quick response to the growing number of graduates in the public and private sectors who are unable to find jobs. The King requested that the committee report its findings within four months.

To aid those who are currently unemployed, a part of the financial resources of the Human Resource Development Fund will be allocated to provide assistance for one year to unemployed youth. In addition, the General Organization for Social Insurance will set up a cooperative insurance program for the unemployed.

Continuing the Kingdom’s agenda to improve access to quality education, King Abdullah extended the King Abdullah Foreign Scholarship Program for another five years, noting that this will include a number of Saudis currently studying abroad. His Majesty also allocated $127 million (SR476 million) to support underprivileged students and urged authorities to allocate a percentage of seats at universities for students with minimal financial resources.

Several measures are also aimed at social welfare and improving government assistance to Saudi nationals. According to the Saudi Press Agency, King Abdullah allocated $267 million (SR1 billion) to increase the number of family members benefiting from social insurance from eight to 15. In addition, His Majesty allotted $933 million (SR3.5 billion) to help families repair houses and pay electric and water bills. King Abdullah also increased annual allocations for charitable organizations by 50 percent to reach $120 million (SR450 million). The Saudi Press Agency reported an allocation of $32 million (SR1.2 billion) to conduct vocational training courses for women.

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