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King Salman’s Royal Decree Gives a Minor Jolt to Khalid al-Falih

In a dozen royal decrees issued by King Salman, Saudi Arabia’s government experienced a massive reshuffle on Friday, particularly for Khalid al-Falih. The Kingdom has decided to split the Ministry of Energy, Industry and Mineral Resources into two, by separating the Ministry of Energy that governs its vast oil resources.

The king named business executive Bandar al-Khorayef as the Minister of Industry and Mineral Resources. A graduate in International Agriculture from King Saud University, he has 25 years of experience in leading industrial, commercial and investment spots. Al-Khorayef is a top executive at Al-Khorayef Group, a Saudi conglomerate that expanded from agriculture and irrigation to include petroleum pumping systems.

To become fully independent from January 1, 2020, the ministry of natural resources is believed crucial to Saudi’s diversification plans of the economy away from crude. The bifurcation has tapered off the role of Khalid al-Falih as Saudi’s chief industrial decision maker.

According to the royal decree, he is now the Minister of Energy, who’ll be supervising the department. Falih has been a critical ally of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who has been guiding him on major economical decisions. The minister is also known for his role in the Arab nation’s plan to diversify.

However, after three years at the industrial and mining sector, the government shakeup has diminished Falih’s broad industrial role. Saudi officials highlighted that the move came because of his failure to indicate any progressive signs on the reform plans. Last January, the energy minister had unveiled a visionary $427 billion 10-year plan to develop the industrial sector in Saudi. According to officials, Prince Mohammed holds him responsible for the lack of advancement.

However, Khalid al-Falih still has his foot strong in other prominent positions in the Arab hierarchy, which includes— chairman at Saudi Aramco and the head of country’s delegation in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries.

While the King has redeployed ministerial powers, he also appointed Aqla al-Aqla as deputy chief, and Fahad al-Essa as the new chief of the royal court, the centre of political power in the absolute monarchy. He is a royal insider, and is believed to have close ties with the Crown Prince. Besides, Essa was formerly the head of MbS’ office at the defence ministry.

Mazen al-Kahmour was appointed as the new chairman of the national anti-corruption commission, while Awwad al-Awwad —- former information minister —- as the head of the Human Rights Commission.

Earlier this year, Saudi Arabia had announced that it concluded a major campaign on corruption in November 2017, while raising over $106 billion through settlements with princes, former officials and businessmen.

King Salman also replaced one of the highest ranking women in the government, deputy labour minister Tamader al-Rammah. He issued another royal decree, according to which a National Centre for Artificial Intelligence, while another for data management would be established.

The government shakeup in Saudi Arabia came way before a year, where the last order by the King replaced the foreign minister last December. The latest ruling has brought some of the most unexpected change, that is in Khalid al-Falih’s role and the extensive power he had. This would make it interesting to see what transformations it will bring to the Saudi economy.

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