Saudi Arabia’s subtle change of energy policymaker line-up since the accession of new King Salman in late January appears to give the monarch’s inner circle a firmer hand on the kingdom’s oil strategy than previous rulers have enjoyed.
The most notable change was the promotion of the king’s son Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, long a member of the No. 1 crude exporter’s OPEC delegation, to the role of deputy oil minister from assistant oil minister, a post he had held for many years.
On the same day, King Salman formed a new body replacing the Supreme Petroleum Council and appointed another son, Prince Mohammed bin Salman, to head the new Supreme Council for Economic Development.
There are no indications that those moves will lead to changes in the fundamental way the kingdom makes its oil decisions or diminish the influence of veteran oil minister Ali al-Naimi.
However, the king is clearly laying the ground for a generational shift in how Riyadh develops its energy and economic strategies.
“This would ensure that, whether it is a domestic policy through Prince Mohammed and the economic council or international oil policy through Prince Abdulaziz, it is still very closely guided by the king himself,” said Sadad al-Husseini, a former senior executive at state oil giant Saudi Aramco and now an energy consultant.