Saudi Arabia is a country attempting to change as it moves away from being so reliant on oil revenues. The country has traditionally been very conservative in its outlook but a new generation of leaders is looking to transform the country.
The tensions unsettling the Saudi royal family became clear in September, when Joseph Westphal, the U.S. ambassador to Riyadh, flew to Jiddah to meet Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, nominally the heir to the throne. But when he arrived, he was told that the deputy crown prince, a brash 30-year-old named Mohammed bin Salman, wanted to see him urgently.
The ambassador was redirected. The United States and the crown prince swallowed the embarrassment.
Palace intrigue is a staple of monarchies, but it is impossible to overstate how out of character such a generational power play was for the desert kingdom. Robert Lacey, in his classic 1981 book, “The Kingdom,” described the tradition of deference that has held the Saudi royal family together through feast and famine: “Deference to elders is one of the Al-Saud’s inviolable ground rules, the best corset they know to discipline the outward thrust of so many assembled appetites.”
Not anymore: Starting in January 2015 with the accession of King Salman, Saudi Arabia has been shaken by the bold reform campaign of his son, known at home and abroad by his initials, MBS. By outmaneuvering and sometimes defying his elders, the young deputy crown prince has turned the politics of this conservative, sometimes sclerotic monarchy upside down.
MBS is the kind of prince that Machiavelli might conjure. He’s a big, fast-talking young man who dominates a room with the raw, instinctive energy of a natural leader. But his hardball tactics have offended some Saudis — especially his rebuffs of Mohammed bin Nayef, his elder at 56 and his nominal superior. In addition to detouring the U.S. ambassador, MBS is said to have engineered the firing of the crown prince’s closest aide in September.
Saudi Arabia’s grand vision for the future includes becoming less reliant on oil based revenues. To help with this process the younger generation of royals are looking to change the image of the Kingdom in order to attract foreign direct investment. Saudi reforms are being put in place in order to increase the attraction to the outside world across a whole range of business areas such as tourism, manufacturing, financial services, transportation and more.
Saudi reforms are imperative in order to increase the number of jobs for the growing younger generations. There is a changing demographic in the kingdom due to the baby boom over the last 20-30 years with many of the younger generation feeling disenfranchised. A new generation of upcoming Saudi leaders are looking to the West for new investment opportunities and they are being encouraged by the reaction of young Saudis on social media and elsewhere.
(Reuters) – The powerful young prince behind modernizing reforms in Saudi Arabia presents himself as the champion of his nation’s plugged-in youth, and his visit to Silicon Valley this week sought to bolster that image.
The 31-year-old Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has unabashedly pitched his “Vision 2030” reforms at the 70% of the staid Islamic kingdom’s people younger than him, promising to unlock their “talent, potential and dedication.”
He has also tried to overcome Western stereotypes of Saudis, meeting foreign media to sell his vision of market-oriented reforms and a transformation of the kingdom’s society. Pictures of the denim-clad prince in Silicon Valley served both purposes.
His modernizing message has strongly resonated on social media with younger Saudis, whose concerns sometimes seemed misunderstood or ignored by older royals, and where hashtags referencing the prince receive large volumes of traffic.
“The Saudi youth and the government are finally speaking the same language,” said Manal al-Sharif, a banker and mother of two teenage girls in Jeddah.
Saudi Prince Aims For Silicon Valley Appeal to Gleam at Home
A successful restructure of the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund (PIF) would represent a great opportunity for Saudi Arabia to have a positive impact not only the region, but also the world, according to a London Business School strategy expert.