Saudi king Salman sacks ministers in major cabinet rejig
Saudi King Salman announced a series of changes in the government on Saturday, sacking some ministers in a major cabinet reshuffle.
In a royal decree, King Salman reformed the ministries of energy, oil, water, transport, commerce, social affairs, health and pilgrimage and replaced ministers in charge of their portfolios.
A decree was also issued by the monarch for setting up a new recreation and culture commission.
However, the most notable change of the portfolios was sacking the long-serving oil minister Ali al-Naimi. He was replaced by Khaled al-Faleh, who acted previously as the health minister. Faleh takes on the portfolio of energy, industry and mineral resources.
Naimi is one of the most powerful figures within the OPEC (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries). He served more than 20 years in the post of oil minister. Many say he was at odds with Salman’s son, Prince Mohammed, a man in his early 30s who reportedly has the final say on many issues in the kingdom.
Other ministries also saw modifications to name and missions, with ministries of labor and social affairs merging to form a single entity while the ministry of water and electricity was totally abandoned. The name of ministry of pilgrimage, which was previously known as Hajj, was changed to include the Umrah, an off-season pilgrimage less important than the main Hajj ritual.
A royal statement issued earlier in the day said the changes in the cabinet were based on some “integrated strategy and several expert studies,” adding that the reforms were meant to enable the kingdom continue its “growth and development process.” It said the new ministries and bodies will be better able to serve the interests of Saudi Arabia and its citizens. It also wished health and good luck for King Salman who ordered the reforms.
The overhaul comes amid efforts by Saudi Arabia to shore up its finances as the kingdom has struggled year after year with budget deficits as a result of a slump in oil prices.
The Saudi regime is also engaged in a deadly campaign against its southern neighbor, Yemen. The war has further drained Saudi Arabia’s vast financial resources.