Tawfig bin Fawzan AlRabiah
|Minister of Health|
|Assumed office |
7 May 2016
|Prime Minister||Salman of Saudi Arabia|
|Preceded by||Khalid A. Al-Falih|
|Minister of Commerce and Industry|
13 December 2011 – 7 May 2016
|Prime Minister||Abdullah of Saudi Arabia (2011–2015)|
Salman of Saudi Arabia (2015–present)
|Preceded by||Abdullah Zainel Alireza|
|Succeeded by||Majid bin Abdullah Al Qasabi|
|Alma mater||King Saud University|
The University of Pittsburgh
Dr. Tawfig F. AlRabiah (Arabic: توفيق بن فوزان الربيعة) (born 26 October 1965) is the current Minister of Health for Saudi Arabia. He also notably served as the Minister for Commerce & Industry from 2011 to 2015. While in his first Ministerial role, he focused on transforming the way businesses interact with the Government of Saudi Arabia. This led to fairer and tighter regulations for businesses, while also making it easier for businesses to register and interact with the government. This often focused on streamlined digital processes, which in some cases completely transformed entire government departments.
In 2016, AlRabiah became the Minister of Health. As part of the Saudi Vision 2030, Saudi Arabia wanted to completely reform their national healthcare offering once Alrabiah took office. Since he started in the position, he has revolutionized the way the Saudi people interact with the medical system. Numerous steps have been made to add and/or improve services, so they are more accessible and more efficient. Examples include national health insurance, nationwide medical computer systems, and additional medical offerings. More informal healthcare is now offered in Saudi Arabia, which has seen dramatic increases in the health of the Saudi people.
Aside from additional services, AlRabiah has implemented healthcare standards more in line with high GDP countries. This has meant more recordings of performance and comparisons of how hospitals and other services perform.
Early life and education
AlRabiah was born in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on 26 October 1965. He studied in Saudi Arabia during the 1980s. In 1986, AlRabiah graduated from the College of Business at the King Saud University, which is often abbreviated to KSU. While at KSU, AlRabiah majored in the field of Quantitative Methods. After completing his Bachelor's degree, he worked for a short period as a teaching assistant between 1986 and 1987.
AlRabiah then moved to the United States in the late 1980s to study further. While in the US, he studied at the University of Pittsburgh, where he attained his first masters degree in Information Science in 1990. He continued to study in the United States into the late 1990s, remaining at the University of Pittsburgh during this period. AlRabiah received his second masters degree in computer science in 1995. After attaining two masters degrees, he was a teaching fellow for a year while studying a PhD in Computer Science. He graduated in 1999.
Following a decade of education in the United States, AlRabiah returned to Saudi Arabia. After nearly 12 years away from King Saud University, he returned to KSU and worked as an Assistant Professor between 1999 and 2002.
Over a period of two decades, AlRabiah published 16 papers in peer reviewed journals.
Early career and Director General (2002-2011)
In 2002, AlRabiah began his first major role as part of the government of Saudi Arabia. His first position was with the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority as its Director General. SAGIA was only formed in 2000, meaning AlRabiah implemented many of the projects in use today. As Director General, he was responsible for the Information and Communications Technology Sector for SAGIA. As part of the role, he introduced various multinational corporations to the Saudi Arabian market. As part of a wider SAGIA initiative, he was involved in the 10 x 10 program, introduced by the Governor. The aim of the program was to transform the Kingdom into one of the top 10 countries in a variety of areas. During this period, the World Bank changed Saudi Arabia's investment attractiveness rating from 67 in 2005 to 16 in 2009 across all countries.
After spending five years in the role with SAGIA, AlRabiah moved to become Director General for Saudi Authority for Industrial Cities and Technology Zones (MODON). The aim was to dramatically improve cities in the Kingdom, in a similar way to how AlRabiah had introduced new businesses to the Saudi Arabian market.
MODON is an industrial city initiative run by the Saudi Arabia government. The term means "cities" in arabic, demonstrating its focus on city planning. From 2007 onwards, AlRabiah led the arm of government to improve a number of services across cities, while also improving working environments. This included the growth of particular markets such as SMEs, but also focusing on developing city-wide initiatives.
By the end of AlRabiah's tenure, growth in various sectors was at very high rates. It was reported that industrial growth in the manufacturing sector had grown by 50% in 2011. Overall, the expansion of MODON's strategy surpassed what had been achieved in the previous forty years, with a six-fold expansion.
Other city initiatives include the creation of MODON Lake Park, which is located near the city of Dammam. The area had been known for large industrial sites and was not seen as an area of natural beauty. The creation of the lake was part of a wider strategy to improve the industrial city of Dammam. The area was drained of sewage and waste, to create a green space and recreational park. AlRabiah's work with MODON made it the best government organization to work at four years running during his tenure. This level of organisation led to his promotion to Minister in 2012.
Minister of Commerce and Industry (2011-2015)
AlRabiah became a member of the Council of Ministers in Saudi Arabia when he was appointed Minister of Commerce and Industry in 2011. Over the next five years, AlRabiah's major achievement was the planning and execution of the National Industrial Strategy in the country. As part of this initiative, he reformed a number of regulations that reduced grey areas and made it easier for companies to operate within the Kingdom. This was also part of a wider move commercially away from the Saudi Arabia's dependency on oil.
The regulation was a major factor to increase fair and competitive standards. More competition regulations were added and also IP rights were increased. On the consumer side, a number of new consumer protection laws were added for Saudi people, which increased faith in products and services in the Kingdom.
During his tenure, he was on the council for a number of subsidiary economic councils, including Member of the Supreme Petroleum & Minerals Council, Member of the Board of Directors of General Investment Fund and Member of the General Committee for the Council of Ministers. He served on all three between 2011 and 2015.
New business regulations
As part of a wider move towards increased business regulation in the Kingdom, the Minister announced major changes for a number of regulations. The Kingdom wanted to more closely align its practices and regulations with the World Trade Organization standards and many new regulations were implemented to assist with this strategy. Companies across the Kingdom began to adopt International Financial Reporting Standards, often known as IFRS, to promote transparency. The introduction of this new system has been further developed by the new Minister and other governing bodies.
Another major regulation change in the Kingdom was the introduction of new intellectual property laws. The registration process was completely updated and implemented. The stricter laws meant that patent laws were much tighter in the country and rule breaking would be more obvious. As part of the same move, Saudi Arabia introduced a new system for trademark applications. Prior to AlRabiah's tenure, trademark applications could take up to eight months to be processed. By 2015, applications could be processed in a single day in the majority of cases. The reason for the dramatic time reduction was due to making the application digital, so many processes were streamlined. Some aspects of the process were also automated, which helped shorten the entire process. As part of the move to online applications, the traditional paper applications were quickly phased out, within two years the majority of trademark applications were completed online. Other applications such as Sole Enterprise were also streamlined using similar techniques. The system of submitting documents was also improved during this period, which included electronic submissions for industrial licensing and financial statement.
Stealth taxation was identified as a problem for consumers in Saudi Arabia by AlRabiah. In order to solve this problem, various regulations were implemented for restaurants to create a consistent tax system for services and commercial items. As part of this improvement on services, AlRabiah also implemented new regulations on products. This included new standards for plug and play and also improved standard warranties on products manufactured in the Kingdom. It was hoped this would improve the standard of manufactured products in the country. To further protect consumers, a new call centre was constructed for consumer rights to assist citizens. The enforcement of price tags was also introduced, reducing consumer issues for customers.
New plans were drawn up by AlRabiah and his team to create off-plan sales for the property. The benefits of this were that it would allow investors to buy during the construction phase, which aimed to promote further growth and larger plans would be submitted by developers.
Under AlRabiah's leadership, various new organisations were formed under the umbrella of the Ministry. In 2007, The Saudi Export Development Authority was formed to develop the export market. Other business-related organisations were formed during AlRabiah's tenure including, Small and Medium Enterprise SME Authority, Business-to-Business Credit Bureau (Bayan) and Thiqah for IT solutions. Finally, he also launched a non-profit ASAS to maintain and manage industrial cities.
Minister of Health (2016-present)
After five years in the role, AlRabiah became the Saudi Arabian Minister of Health in 2016. Since 2011, AlRabiah has played a major part in the formation and strategic planning for Saudi Arabia's futuristic project, Saudi Vision 2030. As a member of the Council of Ministers, he assisted in the panel of decision-makers, initially focusing on commerce between 2011 and 2016. Once he moved into the role of Health Minister, he became more focused on reforming healthcare in the Kingdom. As part of Saudi Vision 2030, the Crown Prince and other major members of the royal family supported suggestions of transforming the current healthcare offering. AlRabiah's role as Health Minister meant he oversaw the strategy for the restructuring of the entire healthcare system in Saudi Arabia. This included the decentralization of hospitals and other health services into twenty separate districts across the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The individual clusters or districts evenly provide medical assistance to around one million Saudi citizens.
Focus on improved technology
As part of the restructuring, AlRabiah and other members of the Department of Health announced the creation of a national health insurance agency. The move was welcomed in the Kingdom as Saudi Arabia would be one of the first countries in the Middle East to offer national health insurance for its people. The government made the official announcement in late 2018, with the Saudi financial newspaper Argaam suggesting that the healthcare sector would be regulated by a central body, while medical services would be independently provided. The article by Argaam suggested that the development of its healthcare will have a focus on digital innovations, according to a quote from AlRabiah at a healthcare conference in Riyadh.
The Kingdom's new focus on innovative digital services led to the creation of Saudi eHealth Analytics, abbreviated to Seha. A new platform is a digital tool which allows Saudi citizens to connect to a physician digitally. The main method of connection is through a smartphone, where face-to-face discussions can take place remotely between patient and physician. Following discussions or medical consultations, electronic prescriptions can also be raised, if required. As part of the same strategic developments, the 937 healthcare number was expanded, which allowed healthcare professionals to speak with citizens with health issues over the phone. The development of the 937 number was a huge success and in 2017 reached a million annual medical calls for the first time. The satisfaction rating grew by nearly 25% of all the calls processed. By late 2018, the call centre was processing 80,000 calls a week.
The call centre can also process and book appointments with a medical professional should it be required, which can be now done digitally since the introduction of a centralized booking system, known as Mawed. The system can also be used for referrals for the first time, so physicians can refer patients to a hospital for a specific reason using the system. The most notable thing about this isn't the technology, but that it is provided free of charges to Saudi Arabian citizens. When compared to US services, many similar offerings are privatized and operated by for-profit companies, such as WebMD.
As Minister of Health, AlRabiah wanted to create competition between the various medical services and hospitals. This vision resulted in the creation of a Kingdom-wide project known as “Ada’a.” The new national system focused more heavily on key performance indicators for individual services and hospitals, which in turn identified problems, while creating friendly competition between the various services. This is not too dissimilar to NHS league tables in the United Kingdom. According to the regional press, once the new system was implemented, waiting times and other indicators improved dramatically over a short period of time.
AlRabiah has also spoken about his focus on AI technology and how it could transform the Kingdom's healthcare system in the medium to long-term. Trials and developments have indicated it could be one of the pioneering countries in medical AI, with the involvement of companies such as Siemens. This also included the signing of a contract with Babylon Health in the United Kingdom.
New medical centres and centralised systems
AlRabiah has achieved a number of major milestones during his tenure. He oversaw the development and establishment of the Saudi Center for Disease Prevention and Control, often abbreviated to CDC. The Council of Ministers made the announcement in 2013, following internal discussions and became the first centralized disease facility of its kind in Saudi Arabia. The aim of the facility would be to conduct research and practical experiments to aid the overall health of the Kingdom, but also boost the country's health sector. In April 2018, the World Health Organization announced that two Saudi Arabian cities had received the classification of a Healthy city, as part of the WHO Healthy Cities Program. The cities were Diriyah and Jalajil.
Following a number of reports into obesity in the Kingdom, the Minister began to introduce a number of new methods to limit the impact of obesity. The strategy by AlRabiah was named Diet and Physical Activity Strategy or DPAS for short. The problem was also tackled at the source by the Minister, who suggested a number of tax increases on unhealthy food and drink products. The aim would not only stop poorer citizens from buying unhealthy food, but also the additional tax could be used to contribute to any healthcare costs associated with obesity in the Kingdom. Other initiatives included adding calorie labels to a number of food and drink products. The Kingdom also implemented ingredient lists for some food types, which made it easier for people with health issues to shop and eat with more care. As part of a move toward healthier citizens of the Kingdom, the Minister announced that there would be an expansion in the number of clinics to treat tobacco addiction. In order to reduce the number of people taking up smoking, the Kingdom also created a number of initiatives to take a stricter view on smoking as a whole. This included a tax increase on the sale of cigarettes. The University of Massachusetts also became involved in the initiatives, signing a partnership with the Kingdom to assist in the research of the treatment of tobacco addiction.
AlRabiah played a major part in the opening of women-only gyms in the Kingdom. It had been suggested that many women in the Kingdom struggled to exercise enough, which was causing issues with obesity. The move allowed women to get involved in bodybuilding, running and swimming to maintain higher standards of health. This was also included in the wider Saudi Vision 2030 initiative.
A major health issue that occurred each year in Saudi Arabia was the health of pilgrims traveling to the country. International Health Regulations were applied to pilgrims, in line with the World Health Organization. These new guidelines and checks would be applied to 1.6 million people annually. As part of the same strategy, a new contingency and emergency planning was introduced by the Minister, with the creation of the Saudi Disaster Medical Assistance Team (S-DMAT). The newly formed relief team would be used during pilgrimage season, but could also be deployed to neighbouring countries in times of crisis.
A new commission was formed in 2016 to aid the treatment of Hepatitis C in the country. The aims of the commission are to eradicate the disease from the domestic population in the Kingdom. This also coincided with the creation of a new Saudi-made medicine that would be used to treat the virus. Wider initiatives on the treatment of disease were also implemented, with flu vaccinations becoming a focus. Between 2016 and 2018, vaccinations in the country quadrupled. The vaccinations were made possible with the launch of rural medical care in the country. Mobile primary care became a new initiative under the Minister's guidance, which meant rural citizens in the Kingdom could access health-related services more easily. The care industry in Saudi Arabia recognised that more people required home visits as part of a wider initiative to help the elderly and those less mobile. The Minister increased the number of services that could be implemented during home visits. It was estimated that 250,000 home visits were conducted by the end of 2018.
Until AlRabiah became the Minister of Health for Saudi Arabia, healthcare in schools fell under the stewardship of the Ministry of Education. It was decided by the Council of Ministers that the health of children in schools throughout the Kingdom should be managed by the Ministry of Health. In 2018, this was transferred across to the Health Ministry. Following this move, a thorough check was carried out into the processes at schools for children's health. It was decided that reform on health checks was required and subsequently implemented that all pupils in chosen grade intervals would have health checks.
As a wider move to improve health infrastructure in the Kingdom, the Minister opened a number of new Cardiac centers, both for operations and research. The new facilities totalled six by the end of 2018, with performance indicators suggesting heart operation success was up to 96%.
AlRabiah is married to Maha Mohammed Alsayari. They have five children, Mohammed, Khalid, Omar, Saud, and Sarah. Their son Saud passed away tragically in a drowning accident at the age of five in 2012.
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Abdullah Zainel Alireza
| Minister of Commerce and Industry
Majid bin Abdullah Al Qasabi
Khalid A. Al-Falih
| Minister of Health