New Saudi Prince to Revive the Kingdom?

Mohammad Bin Salman Al Saud, Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia

 

Mohammad bin Salman, the new Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia since 21st June 2017, represents the beginning of a new era for the Arabian Peninsula. The 34-year-old prince, considered to be the power behind his father’s throne, came into power at rather delicate times as 2017 proved to strongly challenge the nation from an economic point of view.

The UNCTAD World Investment Report, published on June 7, states that the foreign direct investment (FDI) into Saudi Arabia amounted of just $1.4 billion in 2017 contrasting the $7.5billion figure of the year before and $12.2billion in 2012. Moreover, according to the 2017 UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) inward investment collapsed, consequently raising significant doubts regarding the prospects of the economic reform agenda which is currently being pursued by the Crown Prince. What is more, the CIA World Factbook states that a budget deficit of 8,3% of the GDP was recorded by the Kingdom in the same year. This deficit was financed by the means of bond sales and drawing down reserves and while its effects on the nation’s economy have not been as devastating as they sound, the Saudi Arabian economic view proves to be future oriented on the grounds of the capital spending cuts, electricity, water and petroleum subsidies reductions and the recently introduced 5% value-added tax. Interestingly enough, the Arabic nation does not only rely on their already significant national money reserves, but seeks to boost the economy by means of privatisation, taking the state-owned petroleum company, ARAMCO, as an example.

Whether or not a smart move for the nation, the Crown Prince strongly believes that the process of privatisation represents the right path, this subject possessing chief importance in the Saudi Arabia 2030 Vission. On the other hand, some  advocate that this privatisation process might require too much time and effort in order for it to help balance the national economy. The World Bank “Doing Business” 2018 report states that Saudi Arabia scored the 92nd place out of 190 world economies in terms of business making easiness.

Economy and Money, but what about the Corruption agent?

As most of you probably read the previous paragraph with a grain of salt already taking into consideration its monarchic element. Nevertheless, whether a political movement or not, the Saudi Arabian Crown Prince, MbS, is not afraid of making bold moves by playing a dangerous wild card. Following the creation of an anti-corruption commitee led by his Majesty himself, the Saudi Arabian Purge from November 2017, resulted in a significant number of eminent Saudi Arabian princes, government ministers and business people being arrested under strong accusations of corruption.

Westernisation as the next Saudi Arabian trend?

You might want to think about this for a second.

In 2017 Saudi Arabia signed a  sale deal of arms with USA, amounting to US$110 billion. The package deal included tanks, combat ships, missile defense systems, communications and cybersecurity technology. In addition, the Saudi Kingdom signed yet again another multibillion arms deal in April 2018 with the western superpower, deal which amounts to  more than $1billion dollars. Yet, a few months later, CNN reported that the bomb used by the Saudi-led coalition in a devastating attack on a school bus in Yemen was sold as part of the arm deal between the two countries.

Related image

President Donald Trump shows a chart highlighting arms sales to Saudi Arabia during a meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the Oval Office of the White House, March 20, 2018, in Washington.

 

Regardless of the fact that the young monarch’s strategies encompass his efforts to bring the Saudi Kingdom back in the limelight, they do not relate the full extent of the situation.

From one point of view, it could be argued that the privatisation sector,  the recent driving ban retraction of the women, the billion dollar arms purchase and the anti-corruption movements will consequently lead to a certain cultural exchange between the Middle East and the Western world.

But does it actually mean that? We all know that it is not that easy to shaken the Saudi ground..

Taking a closer look at the country’s strategical moves, it can be observed that while indeed in certain aspects Saudi Arabia leans more toward the Western World, specifically America, in fact the Middle East strongest power seeks support in the world largest economic power, China. If you were wondering about the reason behind why a communist superpower is collaborating with an American ally in the Middle East then you might want to continue on reading.

Having the second largest oil reserves in the world, Saudi Arabia is the main oil exporter for China, ensuring the countries growth. As more than half of China’s exports are made through the sea, China’s economic growth relies on its exports, and consequently transportation fuel.

In a manner of I help you, you help me China and Saudi Arabia decided that it is time to fructify their relationship. Thus, Saudi Arabia embraced China’s trade movement, entitled One Belt, One Road (OBOR) by being a part of one of the proposed six economic corridors.

The Middle East offers Beijing the opportunity to reshape the international system according to its vision of a multipolar, harmonious world, but also participate in the global arena. (Dr. Lin C., 2017)

Picture shows the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, collectively known as the Belt and Road initiative. (Xinhua, 2014)

 

What is more, in 2016 China published its first Arab policy paper while in 2017 the Islamic Kingdom publicly expressed its support for China with respect to the South China Sea dispute by signing the Doha Declaration.

As for what Saudi Arabia gets out of this deal, the Chinese government promised to help Saudi Arabia to achieve their 2030 vision by providing business and monetary support.

 

Should Saudi Arabia keep its title member of the UN Human Rights Council?

UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe: Secretary General Antonio Guterres meets with H.R.H. Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud, Crown Prince, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

Undoubtedly, because the Kingdom is part of the United Nations sparks intense controversy, and the fact its seat in the UN Human Rights Council expires in 2019 is just adding fuel to the fire. Regardless of some people wanting Saudi Arabia out of the UN, the Islamic Kingdom has now secured key positions on the United Nation’s three principal women’s rights bodies: UN Commission on Status of Women (2017), Executive Board of UN Women (2018), UN Committee on Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (2018).

In addition, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates donated in March 2018 $930 million to the United Nations. The almost $ 1 billion dollars is going to alleviate the suffering of millions of vulnerable people from Yemen. However, this donation came at a rather contradictory timing, as both donating countries have been linked to interfering with the Yemeni crisis for their own national interests.

Wether or not the new Saudi Crown Prince, shall manage to restore his nation’s global status is left to the interpretation of time and of course all of us. Do you portray a flourishing future for the Islamic Kingdom? Is Saudi Arabia buying its seats in the UN? Let me know what your thoughts are in the comment section below!

 

 

 

Reference List

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Israel and Saudi Arabia: From foes to potential friends. (2018). Retrieved from https://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-5269451,00.html

 

Lin, D. (2017). The Belt and Road and China’s Long-term Visions in the Middle East. ISPSW Strategy Series: Focus On Defense And International Security, (512). Retrieved from http://www.css.ethz.ch/content/dam/ethz/special-interest/gess/cis/center-for-securities-studies/resources/docs/ISPSW-512%20Lin.pdf

Naishad Kai-ren, T. (2018). Saudi Arabia’s Footprints in Southeast Asia. Retrieved from https://thediplomat.com/2017/10/saudi-arabias-footprints-in-southeast-asia/

Nima Elbagir. (2018). Bomb that killed 40 children in Yemen was supplied by US. Retrieved from https://edition.cnn.com/2018/08/17/middleeast/us-saudi-yemen-bus-strike-intl/index.html?utm_term=image&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twCNN&utm_content=2018-08-17T23:45:00

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2 Comments
  1. Many articles are hard to understand due to their poor writing: verbose style, un-methodical
    presentation of ideas, excess or lack of details in an article can make a good idea be lost for the scientific
    community.
    This article is really a wonderful one, well-documented with important information.

    • Dear Cristina, thank you very much for your comment! I hope you will stay tuned for the next articles regarding the situation in Saudi Arabia. I am preparing something special for the next time! I am looking forward to hearing your opinions on that article! Keep in touch, Diana

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