The Saudi king’s decision to promote his son Mohammed bin Salman to crown prince will have tremendous effects on the future of the country
Article: The King of Saudi Arabia, Salman Al-Saud, on July 21st appointed his son Mohammed bin Salman to the position of the crown prince of the country. The new prince, whose name was seldom known to the Saudi public until recently, has already shaken up considerable debate amongst those contemplating the future of Saudi Arabia.
The young Saudi replaced his cousin Mohammad bin Najaf as crown prince – a reputable security expert that directed the country during the fight against ISIS as well as commanded the 2015 military intervention in Yemen. Compared to his relative, this other Mohammad seems inexperienced and not ready yet to lead his country, especially at a time when Saudi Arabia is threatened geopolitically by many of its neighbors. With that said Mohammed bin Salman seems ambitious in his pursuits as crown prince, as exemplified by his past initiatives involving isolating Qatar, engaging with regional rival Iran, and most notably his announcement of the Vision 2030 initiative.
Saudi Vision 2030
The main objective of Mohammed’s vision 2030 is to cut Saudi Arabia’s dependence on oil. The Arab country makes up 90% of its export earnings from its petroleum. In addition, it accounts for 40% of its GDP and 87% of budget revenues. To do this Vision 2030 must primarily invest in other resources in the country, most notably outlined in the vision itself are gold, phosphate, uranium and what Mohammed has termed “the ambition of our people and the potential of our younger generation”. The foreword to the vision is admittedly ambitious and promises “a thriving country in which all citizens can fulfill their dreams, hopes and ambitions”. Alas with non-oil resources only accounting for 29% of Saudi revenue, any move to restrain Saudi’s dependence on petroleum comes at a cost to its economy.
Mohammed’s economic objectives are principally outlined in the vision and include a transformation of the oil company Aramco into an international conglomerate and the progression of the Saudi Public Investment Fund into “the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund”. Furthermore, Mohammed hopes to reach Vision 2030’s objectives by among other things: restructuring councils in the government, privatizing selected companies, and creating partnerships between other countries to secure trading agreements with them.
The crown prince himself
Indeed, with Vision 2030 tied so closely to the new crown prince, many Saudi’s may feel a sense of optimism for the future. Mohammed has cultivated a persona for himself that separates his princeship from those that came before him. That distinction is his figure ship as a modern Saudi and a voice for a new generation in the country. His focus on the young people of Saudi Arabia and on opening a new chapter in the country’s direction plays a big role in cementing his popularity amongst the Saudi people. With that said, Mohammed must build upon Vision 2030’s aspirations and seeks its accomplishments actively; as the program is inherently tied to him, and its failure will largely be a failure of his administration. The internal power struggle in the country has favored Mohammed bin Salmanthis time. His promotion to crown prince has indeed empowered him further; but without concrete steps being taken in his role as crown prince, the possibility of deposition and replacement is feasible. The young prince must show himself as a figure of change and progression in Saudi Arabia— if not, his appointment will mean nothing.