Millennium Post

Battleground Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia is in soup; quite contrary to a coup, a soup boiled by Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, in an effort to stabilise his control on the Saudi kingdom, which will soon be in his hands as his father King Salman, 81, abdicates the throne, later this year or early next year. The Crown Prince is being hailed as the man behind this massive move that witnessed the arrest of several princes of Saudi Arabia along with "tens" of ministers and former ministers. Knows as the land of extravaganzas, owing to its rich oil economy that has allowed for the growth of some of the most powerful individuals in the world, several influential Saudi men were swept aside by this move which is being described as an attempt to control the rampant corruption plaguing the highest circles of Saudi Arabia. Crown Prince Salman, at the young age of 32, has amassed an amount of power that far supersedes his age, providing sufficient reason for several in the royal family to raise their eyebrows. Recognised as King Salman's favourite son, the Crown Prince, in less than three years, has acquired the reins of almost every major aspect of the country's economy—whether defence, internal security, social reforms or foreign security. This had given birth to some amount of suspicion in the royal family that was apathetic to this lopsided concentration of power towards one side of the wheel only. The Crown Prince presented a departure from the old style of governance that had preserved Saudi's position as primarily an oil-producing nation. The Crown Prince's Vision 2030 calls for liberalising the Saudi economy and easing social restrictions to better recuperate in the face of falling global oil prices and a burgeoning youth population that is scavenging for fresh employment opportunities. These high profile arrests came just hours after major changes were initiated into the Saudi administrative structure as the minister in charge of Saudi national guard, Prince Mutaib bin Abdullah, a potential contender to the throne and the last legacy of erstwhile King Abdullah, was replaced. This was the only remaining domain not directly under the control of the Crown Prince since he was appointed Minister of Defence in 2015 and the King removed Prince Mohammed bin Nayef as head of the interior ministry, placing him under house arrest. Among the sweeping cases of arrests that were made the most prominent name that surfaced, whose tremors were felt all the way to California, was that of Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal. Believed to be among the top 50 richest men in the world, as listed by Forbes, the prince too found himself among those detained by the Crown Prince under allegations of corruption. Prince Alwaleed has had ties with several business titans including Bill Gates and Rupert Murdoch; he is one of the top shareholders in banking giant Citigroup, besides holding significant stakes in Twitter, Apple, Motorola, and Lyft. He also owns 45 per cent of Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts with a substantial interest in Disneyland Paris. He is also alleged to have assisted US President Donald Trump in his struggling days by buying his yacht in 1991 for $20 million and investing in his Plaza Hotel, New York. All in all, no small a name. Crown Prince Salman has been promising to revitalise the Saudi economy which has fallen into the greatest pits of corruption. The drudgery of the Saudi economy is unlike the rest of the world as it does not follow a Parliamentary system and bribes are not a mere exchange of notes, as stalled and unfinished development projects have explicated. The Crown Prince has amassed a large support within the country which has been driven to the edge by the high-handedness of the royalty and a historical dependence on oil. Many applaud his ambitious plan to modernise this extremely orthodox economy which hosts some of Islam's holiest shrines, by bringing it out of its dependency on oil. Incidentally, the King had decreed the institution of an anti-corruption unit headed by the Crown Prince, only hours before the arrests were initiated. Reports suggested that the arrested Ministers were hosted at the Ritz Carlton in Riyadh where they were expected to undergo further detention. The consequence of the arrests was still unknown as the Crown Prince does have the power to freeze assets, enquire into holdings and prevent liquidation. How the arrest of Prince Alwaleed would spell out on the global shares of his investment choices are yet unknown. As has been historically seen, with any turmoil in Saudi Arabia, oil prices witnessed an immediate global jump. The Crown Prince has plans of bringing in an IPO for Aramco, the state oil company of Saudi Arabia while also building a $500 billion mega-city powered by renewable energy to reduce the dependence of Saudi on crude oil. Crown Prince Salman has his eyes firmly affixed on his goal and corruption doesn't seem to fit in his purview.

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