Ghazi Algosaibi, the kingdom's longstanding ambassador to London, was appointed water minister by royal decree on 16 September. The decision paves the way for the introduction of private sector participation in the sector and the levying of higher tariffs on consumers.
'The supervision and management of the water sector including the water and sewerage departments now comes under the direct responsibility of the Water Ministry,' said a statement issued by the Royal Court. 'The ministry will work out a suitable framework for private investment in the sector covering financing, implementation, operation and maintenance of water projects.'
The new ministry was announced in summer 2001 and charged with the task of centralising decision-making and promoting deregulation in a sector that is run by a large number of regional water and sewerage bodies. The Water Ministry will incorporate each of these bodies, in addition to the water sections of the now defunct Agriculture & Water Ministry, headed by Abdullah bin Muammar.
The Saline Water Conversion Corporation (SWCC), responsible for all the kingdom's desalination, will remain independent, although Algosaibi will take over from Muammar as chairman of its board. SWCC is now preparing to tender independent water and power plants (IWPPs) in co-operation with Saudi Electricity Company(see Special Report, pages 44-46).
Once it is established, the ministry will prepare studies on the kingdom's water resources and look at ways to reduce consumption. It is expected to produce a masterplan for the sector including recommendations on tariff structures and other regulations to preserve water. The kingdom now loses some 20 per cent of water during distribution, while about 40 per cent of domestic water is used unnecessarily.
'This is a very good decision, we are very pleased to have got someone with Algosaibi's experience,' Ali al-Tokhais, deputy minister for water affairs at the Agriculture & Water Ministry, told MEED on 17 September. 'The new ministry will start running from today, although it will take some time to relocate to new offices and set up all the administration.'
Algosaibi is no stranger to government office. He has already served twice in the council of ministers, once as health minister and once as industry & electricity minister. His cousin, Khaled al-Gosaibi, was appointed planning minister on his advice. He has served as ambassador to the UK since 1992, following an eight-year stint as ambassador to Bahrain. Algosaibi's broad experience does not stop there. He has also served as dean of Riyadh University and head of the Saudi Railways Organisation. In 1999 he was nominated head of UNESCO.
In Saudi Arabia, he has a strong reputation as a poet and intellectual. He is the author of several novels, and his poetry is regularly published in the Arab press.
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