Saudi shake-up rolls on with big reshuffle of economic posts

Sat May 7, 2016 2:11pm EDT
 
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By Angus McDowall and Katie Paul

RIYADH (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia's King Salman on Saturday replaced his veteran oil minister and restructured some big ministries in a major reshuffle apparently intended to support a wide-ranging economic reform programme unveiled last week.

The most eye-catching move was the creation of a new Energy, Industry and Natural Resources Ministry under Khaled al-Falih, chairman of the state oil company Aramco. He replaces the 80-year-old oil minister Ali al-Naimi, in charge of energy policy at the world's biggest oil exporter since 1995.

But major changes were also made to the economic leadership, with Majed al-Qusaibi named head of the new Commerce and Investment Ministry, and Ahmed al-Kholifey made governor of the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency (SAMA), the central bank.

The changes, announced in a series of royal decrees, go far beyond Salman's previous reshuffles since he became king in January last year, and also put the stamp of his son, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, author of the Vision 2030 reform programme, on the government.

Prince Mohammed's programme has been presented as a sweeping rethink of the entire way that Saudi Arabia's government and economy will function to prepare for a future that is less dependent on oil income.

Some of the most important elements of the plan, which will be fleshed out in coming weeks, involve creating a massive sovereign wealth fund, privatizing Aramco, cutting energy subsidies, expanding investment and streamlining government.

The plan also seeks to boost revenues by increasing the number of foreign pilgrims outside the main annual Haj, and encouraging Saudis to spend money at home by creating more entertainment opportunities.

  Continued...

 
Saudi King Salman delivers a brief statement as Saudi Arabia's cabinet agrees to implement a broad reform plan known as Vision 2030 in Riyadh, April 25, 2016. REUTERS/Saudi Press Agency/Handout via Reuters