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Surprise from the palace

Surprise from the palace

The sudden elevation of Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, followed by the sacking of the Crown Prince Muhammad bin Nayef recently, by Saudi Arabia's monarch King Salman has come as a surprise for the Gulf region. It was, of course, quite evident that the old and ailing monarch wanted his 31-year-old favourite son to succeed him. Soon after assuming the throne on the death of his half-brother, King Abdullah, in January 2015, King Salman hogged the headlines by naming his son as the Deputy Crown Prince and also giving him unprecedented powers.

Prince Muhammad bin Nayef was reduced to an implicit figurehead. The King abolished the Crown Prince's Royal Court, which was a parallel centre of power, and as a result, only the Interior Ministry remained under Prince Muhammad bin Nayef's control. The Crown Prince had reportedly gone into a deep sulk, disappearing for months on an extended holiday to Algeria last year. After he returned, he realised that his influence had been further cut down.


Prince Muhammad bin Nayef had made his reputation as the man who crushed the incipient Al Qaeda network in the kingdom and had powerful connections within the United States security establishment during the George Bush and Barack Obama administrations. Prince Mohammed bin Salman was given charge of the Defence portfolio. He was only 29 at the time and became one of the youngest Defence Ministers the world had seen in recent times. It was under the young Prince's watch that Saudi Arabia started its disastrous military intervention in Yemen. Under his father's benign watch, he further expanded his powers by taking control of the economy, which was hit by low oil prices for three years in a row.
The West hailed him as a reformer after he announced the launch of a "Vision 2030" plan to revive the Saudi economy. Prince Mohammed bin Salman promised to partially privatise the Saudi oil behemoth Saudi Aramco, the world's biggest oil company, and to cut down on the lavish subsidies that the Saudi citizens enjoy. He also announced wage cuts for public sector workers in September last year, considering the fact that two-thirds of the Saudi workforce is in the public sector.
The unemployment rate among young Saudis is said to be rising, with some experts saying that the official rate of 12.1 per cent is not the real figure. It is said to be closer to 30 per cent. Remarkably, two-thirds of the Saudi population is also below the age of 30.

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