Faisal of Saudi Arabia - King of Saudi Arabia - Modernization


Faisal embarked on a modernization project that encompassed vast parts of the kingdom and involved various public sector institutions. The pinnacle of his achievements in modernizing the Kingdom was the establishment of a judicial system, a project led and executed by an international lawyer and judge, the former Syrian Minister of Justice, Zafer Moussly. Several universities were established or expanded during his rule, and he continued to send a great number of students to foreign universities, especially in the United States. These students would later form the core of the Saudi civil service.

Many of the country's ministries, government agencies, and welfare programs were begun during Faisal's reign, and he invested heavily in infrastructure. He also introduced policies such as agricultural and industrial subsidies that were later to reach their height under his successors, Prince Khalid and Prince Fahd.

King Faisal also put down protests by Saudi workers employed by the international oil company, Aramco, in the Eastern Province, and banned the formation of labor unions in 1965. In compensation for these actions, however, Faisal introduced a far-reaching labor law with the aim of providing maximum job security for the Saudi workforce. He also introduced pension and social insurance programs for workers despite objections from some of the ulema.

Early in his rule, he issued an edict that all Saudi princes had to school their children inside the country, rather than sending them abroad; this had the effect of making it "fashionable" for upper-class families to bring their sons back to study in the Kingdom. King Faisal also introduced the country's current system of administrative regions, and laid the foundations for a modern welfare system. In 1970, he established the Ministry of Justice and inaugurated the country's first "five-year plan" for economic development.

Television broadcasts officially began in 1965. In 1966, an especially zealous nephew of Faisal attacked the newly-established headquarters of Saudi television but was killed by security personnel. The attacker was the brother of Faisal's future assassin, and the incident is the most widely-accepted motive for the murder. Despite the opposition from conservative Saudis to his reforms, however, King Faisal continued to pursue modernization while always making sure to couch his policies in Islamic terms.

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