FACTBOX-A look at reform in Saudi Arabia

Nov 6 (Reuters) - Here is a look at reform in Saudi Arabia

launched by King Abdullah when he was crown prince in the late

1990s to help modernise the kingdom and create more jobs.

* JUDICIARY - King Abdullah removed the head of the supreme

court, a hardline Islamic cleric, in 2009 as part of his efforts

to modernise the court system. He has set up specialised family,

commercial and criminal courts but diplomats have said the pace

of judiciary reform remains slow. In Saudi Arabia there is still

no consistent application of law, with courts in different

provinces handing out different verdicts for the same crime.

* ECONOMY - Last July, Saudi Arabia passed a long-awaited

law covering housing mortgages, largely completing a sweeping

revision of economic policy. But making sure those reforms boost

private sector growth and cut unemployment will remain a

struggle. Still under discussion is a move to open the stock

market to direct investment by foreign institutions.

* VOTING - In September 2011, King Abdullah announced that

women would be able to vote and run for office in municipal

elections in 2015, the only public vote in the country. Women

would also be appointed to the Shoura Council, which advises the

government on policy, from 2014. The government excluded women

as voters or candidates in the 2011 municipal elections.

* EDUCATION - New schools have opened for gifted girls and

there is a greater emphasis on attending university. In 1965,

the country's female literacy rate was 5 percent. The figure now

is 70 percent. Sixty percent of the college students in Saudi

Arabia are women and their employment rate has nearly tripled

from 5.4 percent. But there is still a lag between the education

rate of Saudi women and their employment rate as only 15 percent

of Saudi females are employed (2009). Women constitute many of

the students sent overseas on a massive scholarship programme.

SOCIETY - In February 2009, King Abdullah removed two

radical clerics from senior positions and appointed the first

female as a deputy in the education ministry. He launched a

national dialogue under his auspices to brainstorm challenges

facing the kingdom. But diplomats say this has done little for

the Shi'ite Muslim minority, who still complain of

discrimination in state jobs and limited religious freedoms.

Sources: Reuters/Amnesty International/HRW/http://www.cdhr.info/State


(Reporting by David Cutler, London Editorial Reference Unit;

Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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