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AlRiyadh Newspaper Interviews Jafar Alshayeb over the Municipal Councils in Saudi Arabia
AlRiyadh newspaper - 16/05/2007 - 03:56 am

Jafar Alshayeb is the Chairman of Qatif Municipal Council, a social activist who was born in Tarout, Saudi Arabia. He studied engineering and financial management, and worked in several private companies and foundations. He is a member in many human rights commissions, as well as private social and cultural societies.

Alshayeb was eager to serve the society therefore he nominated himself as a candidate for the municipal council presidency since Saudi Arabia adopted the municipal elections in 2005. He believes that this project is the bases of a new phase in our contemporary history where citizens are holding the responsibility of making decisions over social developments and education issues. Moreover, he believes that municipal services is very important to citizens because they are the mainstay of needed services therefore they must be improved and enhanced to highly benefit from these developmental plans.

Role of the Municipal Council
Alshayeb stated that the role of the municipal councils is regulatory and supervisory, and not executive. Generally, there is an improvement in the performance of the municipal system like reorganizing projects priorities according to the needs of citizens and regions, speeding up the implementation of citizens’ demands. He mentioned that members of the municipal councils needed a long time to understand the work and problems, then, setting practical plans to solve those problems. However, the Municipal Council in Qatif is known for making many initiatives in overcoming difficulties despite the great barriers such as the attachment of Qatif municipality’s budget with the municipality of the Eastern Province as well as the poor coordination with the concerned executive bodies.

He indicated that Qatif Municipal Council tries to accomplish the demands of citizens even though not all of those demands within the field of the municipal work. Qatif citizens express their love to their home nation and region which they want it to compete with other Saudi regions in development and progress because it has a great historical and cultural heritage. The Municipal Council board is always grateful to the citizens’ effective interactions which contribute in developing the region through supporting the Council initiatives like Beautiful Qatif Campaign.

Qatif Municipality’s Budget
Qatif municipality used to have its independent budget for many years before it was included to the Municipality of the Eastern Province, even more; there were several local municipalities in Qatif region detached administratively and financially. So, when the resolution of forming Qatif Municipal Council was issued in 2004, it was a motive to establish a financially and administratively independent municipality according to the regulations and official panels. However, it was difficult to separate the budget from Eastern Province Municipality because of the procedural obstacles which hindered the municipal work during all this period. Now, the project of separating the budget is in its last phase; therefore, the Municipal Council has set a plan for a budget that coincides with the needs of the region’s cities and towns.

 Projects of the Municipal Council
The Municipal Council considers the tin and shanty houses phenomenon one of the most important issues because they show the poor conditions of their residents. These houses do not protect people from the summer’s heat or the winter’s cold and rain, besides it distort the image of our country which is visited by thousands of people from all over the world.

We all responsible for this situation and there is no reasonable justification for delaying the implementation of an appropriate charitable housing project, and although the charitable societies in the region are dealing with this problem with their limited potentials, but it needs an initiative that address it comprehensively.

 The Crown Prince, HRH Prince Sultan bin AbdulAziz Al Saud, visited the region and denoted to build a cultural center in Qatif. This center will include various halls for culture, arts and heritage as well as lectures and seminars. The Municipal Council was so pleased with this great news and offered its help in finding the suitable site for this project.

 Alshayeb stated that the municipality is holding the responsibility of preserving and properly investing the heritage sites like Tarout Castle, Dareen Port, Jawan Cemeteries and Alkhamees Market, etc. Qatif, also, he added, celebrates many cultural, social and heritage festivals as Aldoukhalah annual festival.

 Moreover, Qatif is located by the coast which attracts the tourists, and that requires providing suitable touristic services; like restaurants, hotels and entertaining centers. In this regard, the municipality plays a significant role in planning and investing those sites, and it continuously enhances the services. It, also, coordinated with the Supreme Commission for Tourism in order to develop and activate the regional tourism.

 He, also, indicated that governmental bodies are now implementing many projects which resulted in traffic problems and that, consequently, suspend executing the significant needs for citizens. Therefore, the Municipal Council receives many complaints over the contractors' delay and their non-compliance with safety procedures as well as poor quality of their works.

Many of these issues were presented in the Council which made decisions and recommendations in order to coordinate the projects with different governmental services agencies and consider the constraints and procedures.

Althulatha Cultural Forum and Preserving Culture
Alshayeb mentioned that he, personally, sponsors Althulatha Cultural Forum since 2000 and there is no relation between the municipality and the Forum's activity. The Forum aims to stimulate the civil cultural activity, and promote dialogue between the intellectuals of our region with others from all over the Kingdom. It, also, looks for reinforcing tolerance principles through such meetings in which everyone is capable of expressing his opinions and anticipations freely.

The Forum's meetings are held every Tuesday and they are attended by many intellectuals of different tendencies and orientations. Sometimes officials participate in these meetings to inform citizens about activities and achievements of their departments.

Encouraging cultural activities and sports is one of the municipality's responsibilities. Although these activities are the responsibility of other official bodies, but, lately, the municipality's role was limited on offering licenses for providing suitable lands and locations for such activities.

He stated that he hopes that Qatif municipality plays a distinctive role in stimulating cultural, social and heritage events and activities, as that results in significant advantages for the society through sponsoring artistic competitions.

Conclusion
 Alshayeb hopes that the region witnesses a significant development in municipal, cultural and touristic fields, and that all concerned parties cooperate for achieving an ambitious developmental plan that would make Saudi Arabia one of the developed countries. He, also, looks for offering the Saudi society's individuals with suitable opportunities and potentials to achieve their anticipations.

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