Prince and the promise: The 38-year-old who is bringing reforms to Saudi Arabia

by The Technical Blogs


He is all of 38 and an avid ‘Call of Duty’ player. But Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud, the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia, has his fingers firmly on the oil-rich country’s reforms too. With a full-face beard and dressed in a traditional Arab robe and sandals, he has overseen the biggest transformation in the modern history of Saudi Arabia. He has had his share of controversies too.

On Monday, the Saudi Crown Prince and Prime Minister Narendra Modi held the first Leaders’ Meeting of the Strategic Partnership Council in Delhi and discussed key issues of bilateral cooperation. In India for the G20 Summit, Mohammed bin Salman was accorded a state visit for the bilateral meeting with PM Modi.

“We will work together to create a great future for both countries,” the Crown Prince said while congratulating India for holding the G20 Summit successfully.

The future of Saudi Arabia is in his hands and age is on his side.

Mohammed bin Salman’s rise to power started after he was appointed the deputy crown prince in 2015 by his father, King Salman.

Over the last six years, Mohammed bin Salman has enacted considerable changes in his historically conservative country while solidifying his influence as the de facto ruler. He is a bachelor in law from King Saud University.

Prince Mohammed has pledged to create a more moderate Saudi Arabia and is actively courting foreign investors to back his expansive Vision 2030 plan, which aims to lessen the country’s heavy dependence on oil.

Under his leadership, Saudi Arabia has organised a film festival, operas, a Formula One Grand Prix and a professional wrestling event. The Islamic religious police have also been defanged. Cinemas have been reopened and foreign tourists are now welcome.

Prince Mohammed has loosened limitations on women’s rights, allowing them to drive, go to athletic events and concerts with males, and apply for passports without the consent of a male guardian, reflecting the ambitions of Saudi Arabia’s young population.

The $500-billion NEOM project on the Red Sea coast, which is intended to rely on solar power and be staffed by robots, is possibly his most ambitious endeavor. It is a “significant advancement for humanity”, according to the crown prince.
But Prince Mohammed has come in for a lot of criticism for jailing critics, the purge of the country’s elite and the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

In 2017, under his anti-corruption drive, over 200 members of the Saudi elite were locked in the Ritz Carlton until they handed over their assets totaling to billions of dollars.

In 2018, Washington Post columnist Khashoggi was murdered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, allegedly on the orders of the crown prince.

However, Saudi Arabia’s leadership, under Prince Mohammed, is favoured more by Muslim-majority countries than its arch-rival Iran’s.

Across 13 Islamic countries, from Morocco to Pakistan, the median approval of Saudi Arabia’s leadership (at 39%) was much higher than that of Iran’s leadership (at 14%) in 2022, according to a Gallup survey.

Despite Mohammed bin Salman’s dramatic role in shaping Saudi policy, the country’s economic strategy is built on a set of considerably more conventional and pragmatic rules than flashy futurism, according to the Washington DC-based Middle East Institute.
Riyadh’s new plan mostly depends on boosting internal markets. The goal is to raise consumer debt and lower citizens’ expectations of the government.
Saudi Arabia’s authorities seek to develop a service-based economy, American-style consumption, and a leaner government that is prepared to cut expenditure, sell off assets, and weather a decrease in the demand for oil, according to the Middle East Institute.
Prince Mohammed is also a favourite of world leaders who line up at his doors for everything from investment to weapons contracts and currency swaps to increased oil production.

Pakistan, which is going through an economic crisis, was the latest. Pakistan Army chief General Asim Munir told the country’s businessmen on September 2 that Prince Mohammed had assured him of investing $25 billion in Pakistan.

The Saudi prince is also known to be a fun-loving person with a taste for a rich lifestyle.

Prince Mohammed is reported to own a $500-million yacht, a French chateau and a $450-million Leonardo da Vinci painting. He is also popular for treating friends and relatives to lavish roast lamb meals in luxury desert camps.

Under this rich and reformist Prince Mohammed, Saudi Arabia will likely see the biggest transformation. King Salman, his father, is 87. Prince Mohammed will likely be the youngest ever to take the throne of Saudi Arabia. And the crown prince already has a firm grip on the day-to-day affairs of Saudi Arabia. He is bound to leave a deep imprint on his country.

Published On:

Sep 11, 2023


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