The Council of Ministers

Saudi Arabia Table of Contents

The Council of Ministers, created in 1953 by King Abd al Aziz shortly before his death, was the principal executive organ of the government. The Council of Ministers had authority to issue ministerial decrees, but it had no power separate from the king, who approved all its decisions. The office of prime minister had been abolished by royal decree in 1964, but the king, in his capacity as president of the Council of Ministers, served as the de facto prime minister. The crown prince was designated the first deputy prime minister, and the next prince in the line of succession was the second deputy prime minister. In 1992 the Council of Ministers consisted of the king, the crown prince, three royal advisers who held official positions as ministers of state without portfolio, five other ministers of state, and the heads of the twenty ministries, including Minister of Defense and Aviation Amir Sultan, who also served as second deputy prime minister. The ministries included agriculture and water; commerce; communications; defense and aviation; education; finance and national economy; foreign affairs; health; higher education; industry and electricity; information; interior; justice; labor and social affairs; municipal and rural affairs; petroleum and mineral resources; pilgrimage affairs and religious trusts; planning; post, telephone, and telegraph; and public works and housing. In addition to these ministries, the Saudi Arabian National Guard, which was headed by Crown Prince Abd Allah, was similar in status to a ministry. The governors of Medina, Mecca, Riyadh, and the Eastern Province, as well as the governor of the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency (SAMA) and the head of the General Petroleum and Mineral Organization (Petromin) also held ministerial rank.

The Ministry of Interior, which was responsible for domestic security, was second in overall political influence to the Ministry of Defense and Aviation. Since 1975 Amir Nayif ibn Abd al Aziz Al Saud (born 1933), who was a full brother of King Fahd, has been minister of interior. In 1992 Nayif ranked as the fourth most powerful person in the country after Fahd, Abd Allah, and Sultan. Nayif supervised the expansion of the ministry into an organization that exercised considerable influence over the daily lives of Saudi citizens.

As crown prince under King Khalid and as king in his own right since 1982, Fahd brought into the government many talented men from families other than the ruling Al Saud. In 1992 about 75 percent of the Council of Ministers were of commoner backgrounds. Nevertheless, the key ministries of defense, foreign affairs, interior, and public works continued to be headed by Saudi princes. In addition, several of the king's younger brothers and nephews were deputy ministers in these same ministries, in effect acquiring on-the-job training to help ensure Al Saud control for another generation.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress