The Ministry of Economy and Planning is responsible for national development, the Ministry of Interior for rule of law, order and oversight on regions and governorates development, the Ministry of Rural and Municipal Affairs, which was established in 1975 (1395 AH), is responsible for the administration of the municipalities throughout the Kingdom. Its primary functions include city and town planning, and the development and maintenance of the basic infrastructure, such as roads, town cleaning and hygiene. The Statute of Municipalities enacted by the royal order M/5 in 6/2/1397. In 1992 the Law of Provinces (Regions) was promulgated to improve provincial administrative standards and development through local authorities. Still many challenges remains. Although it focused on regional and urban development through provincial and local level decentralization of managing local change and development meeting the needs of the population and utilizing local resources and assets.
The councils have too little to say on budgeting for projects or executing them. The law divided Saudi Arabia into 13 regions each of which is headed by a prince from the royal family, each region has a Regional Council that include in it the governors in the region. The head of the regional council, the emir, is appointed by the king and has the rank of minister. Each region has a number of governorates, the total number of governorates in KSA is 118 governorates and within these governorates are 285 municipal councils. The council’s membership consists of the local heads of the sectorial ministries, the heads of government agencies, ten citizens and local civic leaders. The council maintains law and order and supervise socio-economic development. The regional and municipal councils prepare master plans.
Some authorities have special status in the Emirates of Riyadh, Mecca, Jeddah and Medina to manage their own finances and have budgets separate from the Ministry of the Interior. In Mecca and Medina, development committees conduct administrative functions, planning and development, and education and health services, among others. The central government still has the power to dissolve a local government, remove members of the local council or choose contractors to undertake local projects, which in some cases can create conflicts of interest.
In 2005 and 2011 elections for the municipal councillors were held and another round will follow in 2015 in which women were allowed to vote and run the election. Now in 2015 cities have 285 active councils. These councils have proven successful, holding more than 2471 sessions throughout the year, issuing 492 decisions, 70% of which have subsequently were executed. The total number of members was 1212, and half of them (506 members) selected by election. A total of 106 new councils were established after the previous elections. A total of 62 new municipalities established committees to act as municipal councils.
The role of local authorities (municipalities) has been revised to improve local capacities from managing day to day immediate services to managing cities from all five city prosperity dimensions. The shifts envisaged by the new Ministry of Municipality’s strategy and the propositions for a new urban vision require the enhancement of both institutional and human resources capacities. Future Saudi Cities Program addresses institutional performance-related shortcomings so that the ability of Saudi cities, their institutions as well as their policy, technical, managerial and administrative cadres are adequately strengthened to guide the process of sustainable urbanization in the Kingdom. The Future Saudi Cities Program will analyse how regulatory frameworks best address the needs of the local population. In particular it will analyse the Regions Act, the Municipalities Statute and the Building Act in order to recommend the legislative and institutional requirements for effective implementation of policies and regional and city plans.