Too Centralized?

One of the courses I’m taking this summer is Pharmacy Law. The current law was issued few years ago to replace the first law that regulated the profession of pharmacy in Saudi Arabia which has been used since the 1960’s. There is no such thing as a perfect law, and this one is no exception. My professor has repeatedly criticized it throughout the classes, pointing out many of its loopholes and shortcomings.

While many of the law’s problems lie in the details, one major flaw stands out because it is not limited to the pharmacy law but rather universal and is directly related to how our government is functioning.

Many (all?) laws regulating different professions in the country are issued by a single authority that is the Council of Ministers, chaired by the King. Saudi Arabia is a huge country, and this centralized approach of governing is overwhelming to the Council of Ministers which has to approve every little detail in a very wide variety of laws and regulations. Even a tiny change in one article of a preexistent law takes years to be approved and implemented. Keep in mind that we don’t even have a parliament which could stop the government from doing whatever they want to do. Yet, the process remains slow, and this slowness is bad for people and bad for business.

The government should consider moving some from their responsibilities to other entities such as civil society organizations and independent government bodies. Unfortunately, we severely lack such institutions in our country.

Saudi Arabia has recently passed a new law for regulation of civil society organizations. The new law has received a lukewarm response, but hopes remain high that it would propel the creation of new organizations and bodies. However, the concept of civil society is closely connected to democratic systems. Considering the current political situation in the country, it is debatable if civil society can flourish here and lead to significant changes.

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