Decentralisation in Saudi Arabia : the role of the new system of Provincial Councils with special reference to Riyadh province
The recent rapid socio-economic development in Saudi Arabia has significantly affected the administrative systems at local, regional and national levels. The administrative system in Saudi Arabia went through several stages starting with the administrative system before the unification of the Kingdom, Omara system, Regional system and the new Provincial System. The issue of decentralisation and its role in enhancing developmental efforts through the processes of delegated authorities is very crucial nowadys. The present thesis examines the policies of decentralisation, the decision-making process and developmental issues in the context of the various administrative systems in Saudi Arabia. After a historical investigation for the various administrative systems in Saudi Arabia, the thesis concentrates on the new Provincial System, and its role in raising the level of the administrative functions and socio-economic development particularly in the Riyadh province. The formation of the provincial councils, as a cornerstone of the new Provincial System, can be considered as a tool for the application of decentralised policies, and a step forward towards citizen's participation in the socio-economic development of their provinces, governorates, districts and localities. The present study discusses the various aspects pertaining to Riyadh Provincial Council, its composition, members, duties and responsibilities. The study also discusses the functions of the specialised committees, and their role in speeding-up the decision-making process of the Provincial Councils. This research, which is based on a sample survey, concludes that the new administrative system of Provincial Councils played an important role in improving and promoting the quality of performance in government organs, specially when compared with the earlier administrative systems such as the "Omara System" and the "Regional System". The empirical study shows that most of the respondents believe that the new Provincial System may broaden the base of public participation, specially in regards to the issues of local development. The present study shows that the formation of the Provincial Councils is a step forward towards decentralisation in Saudi Arabia, and the inclusion of various professionals namely, scientists, engineers, physicians, administrators, businessmen and academicians into the Provincial Councils has broadened the structure of the council. However, the present study shows that the role of the Provincial Council is a consultative one, and there is no intention to expand its role to legislative issues, at least for the time being.