C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MUSCAT 001185
DEPT FOR INR/B, NEA/ARPI
E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/26/2015
TAGS: PINR PGOV MU
SUBJECT: BIO: RAJIHA BINT ABDUL AMER BIN ALI, MINISTER OF
REF: A. STATE 137596
Â¶B. 04 MUSCAT 999
Classified By: Ambassador Richard L. Baltimore III.
Reason: 1.4 (b,d)
Â¶1. (C) Per ref A, the requested information on Oman's female
Minister of Tourism is provided below, keyed to ref A para 3
format. Much of this information was provided previously in
Â¶2. (U) Rajiha bint Abdul Amer bin Ali, Minister of Tourism
Â¶A. (U) Born: April 12, 1953; Mutrah, Muscat, Oman.
Â¶B. (SBU) Personal and Career Data
-- Married to Murtadha bin Hassan bin Ali, chairman of the
Economic Committee of the appointed Majlis al-Dawla and a
prominent businessman. She has one son in his final
undergraduate year at Syracuse University, New York, who
would like to enroll in an MBA program in the U.S. or other
Western country. The elder of her two daughters is a teacher
in Oman (educated abroad, lived for a time in Holland), while
the younger daughter graduated Sultan Qaboos University
Medical School in May 2005 and plans to pursue specialized
medical training abroad, possibly in the U.S.
-- Education: Undergraduate degree in Mathematics in Iraq.
As of June 2004, she was working on a Ph.D. from Exeter
-- Languages, other: A native speaker of Arabic, Minister
Rajiha has strong English-language skills.
-- Career Data: She got her start in 1972 as a statistician
with the Whitehead Consultant Group, which had been
contracted to establish the Statistical Unit for the
then-Center for Economic Development. She then served as the
head of statistical services in the Sultanate as Director
General in the Development Council, the precursor to the
Ministry of Development, until 1988 before being elevated to
Under Secretary for Planning Affairs at the Technical
Secretariat of the Council. In 1994, she was appointed Under
Secretary for Statistics and Data at the Ministry of
Development; after the merger of the Ministries of
Development and Economy, she became in 1997 Under Secretary
for Development Affairs at the Ministry of National Economy.
She was appointed Minister for Tourism upon creation of that
new ministry on July 9, 2004. Among her other duties, she
chairs the social investment committee of the Oman Society
for Petroleum Services (OPAL); and was Rapporteur of the
National IT Committee, which promotes e-government. She has
also been a board member of the Sultan Qaboos University, of
The Wave tourism project, the National Road Safety Committee
and the Kuwait-based Arab Planning Institute.
Â¶C. (C) Religious Sect
-- She is Shia, and has family origins believed to trace to
Iraq via Bahrain. According to her secular husband, she is
fairly religious, as are her children.
Â¶D. (C) Influence on Country Leaders
-- Minister Rajiha enjoys a close working relationship with
the powerful Minister of National Economy, Ahmed Abd al-Nabi
Macki, as well as with Minister of Commerce and Industry
Maqbool Sultan (both of whom are also Shia). Her husband was
appointed by the Sultan to the State Council, where he chairs
the Economic Committee. The two have bantered in the company
of Embassy officers on their opposing views about the
usefulness of the consultative State Council. Her husband is
an outspoken businessman who occasionally writes opinion
pieces in the national and regional press.
Â¶E. (C) Reason for Appointment
-- Rajiha told the Ambassador that her appointment as Oman's
third female minister came as a complete surprise to her.
As one of the few female Under Secretaries in the government
at the time, however, and having a solid professional
reputation, her selection as a minister was, in retrospect, a
natural choice. She told the media after her appointment,
"When I was informed about the Royal Decree appointing me in
a ministerial capacity, I had mixed feelings. I was excited,
of course... (at) the same time, I was aware of the
responsibilities and challenges.... Certainly the
appointment reflects the emphasis placed by His Majesty the
Sultan on supporting and encouraging Omani women to step
forward and fully enjoy the rights extended to them and
contribute wholly to the development of the country."
Â¶F. (C) Views on the Sultan, His Policies, and on the U.S.
-- Both Rajiha and her husband have maintained very close
relations with the Embassy through the years. She is
responsive to Embassy requests, was pleased to participate
with the Ambassador on a one-week Rule of Law Forum tour of
Washington, New York and Dallas in 2004, and is complimentary
of our Free Trade Agreement negotiations as well as of the
Middle East Partnership Initiative. In her former position,
she expressed interest in micro-business programs for
low-income women, e-legislation, joint ventures to promote
exports, dry farming, water conservation, and fisheries
--Her husband has business dealings with U.S. companies, and
served on the inaugural board of the Muscat American Business
Council in 2004-05. She is fond of the U.S., particularly
New York City, and was pleased that her children were able to
study and have business internships there. She and her
husband have hosted Embassy staff to an annual dinner,
usually around Ramadan, for the past several years. They
both made a brief appearance at the Deputy Chief of Mission's
2004 Christmas party.
-- In our many opportunities for informal chats with her, she
has expressed only positive opinions on the Sultan and his
policies, though her husband tends to be more critical. She
has expressed frustration with government officials, however,
including for latent gender bias and old-fashioned attitudes.
Â¶G. (C) Grooming for Ministerial Position
-- Rajiha has enjoyed responsible positions in the government
from the earliest years of the current Sultan's reign. Her
close working relationship with National Economy Minister
Macki likely also played a role in her elevation to
Â¶H. (C) Her Views on Timing of Her Appointment
-- See Section E above.
Â¶I. (C) Goals and Aspirations
-- Rajiha's entire career has been focused on development
issues, and that is the approach she continues to take at the
helm of the Tourism Ministry. She sees tourism as just
another means for spurring human resource development, as
well as for extending key infrastructure (transportation,
telecommunications, commercial and service outlets) to more
areas of the country. Given the priority that the Sultan has
accorded to increasing tourism's share of GDP, it is unlikely
that Rajiha might be transferred to another cabinet position
in the next several years in order to give her ample time to
get the new ministry established and large tourist
infrastructure projects well on track. She is a positive
influence on modernization issues (such as e-government) and
Â¶J. (C) Meetings with U.S. Officials
-- Rajiha has a poised but relaxed rapport with USG
officials, whether it be in Oman or on travel to the U.S.
She is not gregarious, but does have a quiet sense of humor
and a favorable disposition toward the U.S.
Â¶K. (C) Religious Conservatives
-- Given the religious diversity in Oman, conservative
attitudes toward women in high office are more of a social
rather than religious phenomenon. She acknowledges that many
Omani males feel threatened by the competition in the
workplace that women increasingly represent, and that
prevailing attitudes still place a premium on women's
commitments to their family above careers. But those
conservative currents in Omani society are not perceived as a