Amid pandemic, Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman challenges Saudi Arabia's old order

Edited By: Gravitas desk WION
New Delhi Published: Dec 16, 2020, 10:24 PM(IST)

In this handout picture provided by the Saudi Royal Palace on September 30, 2018 Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman gestures during his meeting with the Emir of Kuwait at the Bayan Palace in Kuwait City. Photograph:( AFP )

Story highlights

In 2016, MBS announced his vision 2030. He sought to restructure, diversify and privatise the Kingdom's economy.

The Saudi dream was fuelled by oil, however, now the oil market has been drying up and terrorism has become a big challenge.

There is also a change in the geopolitical landscape with the Arab world normalising ties with Israel and at home, there is a leadership transition.

Crown prince Mohammad bin Salman is changing the power structure in the al Saud, or the house of Saud. He has been challenging the old order while appointing a new generation of princes to key positions including his own sibling Abdulaziz bin Salman and Khalid bin Salman.

Saudi Arabia has been witnessing change on many levels and the challenge before Riyadh is how it adapts to this change. Mohammad bin Salman became Saudi Arabia's minister of defence in 2015. In 2017, he was appointed the crown prince. His rise has been defined by change and established by a purge also a series of reforms and risky gambles.

MBS wanted to bring the Kingdom closer to the world, so he allowed women to drive, opened the Kingdom's doors to concerts and movie theatres.

The crown prince also curtailed the power of the religious police. Saudis were no longer regulated by strict gender segregation rules. Riyadh allowed women to obtain a passport and travel abroad without the permission of a male relative and open businesses.

In 2016, MBS announced his vision 2030. He sought to restructure, diversify and privatise the Kingdom's economy. The crown prince kick-started the development of non-oil revenues. The move helped cushion the pandemic's impact a little.

In 2020, Riyadh moved ahead with its economic reforms. Saudi Arabia's sovereign fund invested $1.3 billion in India. The reforms continued on the domestic front too. Earlier this year, Riyadh banned flogging as a punishment. It has also done away with the death penalty for crimes committed by minors and recently revised textbooks to make them more tolerant.

It has also facilitated major diplomatic changes in the region. In the middle of the pandemic, four Arab countries normalised ties with Israel - the UAE, Bahrain, Sudan and Morroco. The deals could not have happened without Saudi Arabia's backing.

Under MBS, Saudi Arabia is changing and dramatically, some of the reforms have been pushed by the crown prince and the rest has been forced by the pandemic.

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