World Bulletin / News Desk
Saudi Arabia's King Salman empowers two of his sons for key positions after abolishing the supreme council of petroleum, as new bureaucratic streamlining takes place in the kingdom, says expert.
After ascending to the throne on Jan. 23, Saudi Arabia's new ruler, King Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud, put an end to the Supreme Council for Petroleum and Minerals on Jan. 29, which oversaw the country's oil and gas sector and national oil company Aramco.
The council had the final say on all affairs of petroleum, including policies, strategies, pricing and production volumes. It consisted of royal family members, government ministers and industry leaders from both the public and private sectors.
"King Salman's abolishment of the supreme council is part of a larger effort to streamline the Saudi bureaucracy," Dr. Florence Eid-Oakden, a chief economist of Arabia Monitor, an economic research and strategy institution in London, told The Anadolu Agency.
After the abolishment of the council, the Ministry of Petroleum and Mineral Resources was thought to remain as the only body responsible for the oversight of the oil sector and Aramco, with its Minister Ali Al-Naimi being the top official for oil oversight.
Al-Naimi has been the Minister of Petroleum since 1995, and he served as the president and chief executive officer of Aramco from 1983 to 1995. He has also been influential in leading the kingdom in the recent global oil price slump since June, vigorously advocating that Saudi Arabia not cut oil production despite the price decline.
"Al-Naimi will probably retire soon, most likely in favor of either Aramco’s Khalid Al-Falih or the King’s son Abdulaziz," said Eid-Oakden.
"It is probably less about King Salman concentrating power in the hands of Al-Naimi, than it is about empowering his family’s direct control over key ministries and bodies within the kingdom," she added.
King Salman appointed his fourth son from his first spouse, Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, as the Deputy Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources with the rank of minister on Jan. 29.
Khalid Al-Falih is Aramco's president and chief executive officer since Jan. 2009, who announced on Jan. 27 that the company plans to invest $30-$50 billion a year to maintain Saudi Arabia's crude oil production level.
The new plan comes at a time when most oil giants like ExxonMobil, Chevron, BP and Shell cut their capital expenditures for 2015 due to the oil price slump, however, the kingdom aims to gain more market share with new investments.
Eid-Oakden stressed that the petroleum council was never particularly significant, adding that "it was established in 2000 in order to create a liaison committee involving both government and private figures to discuss Saudi Arabia’s oil and gas strategies."
"In place of the council and other bodies abolished, King Salman and the Royal Court created two committees," she explained.
The two newly-established councils are the Council for Political and Security Affairs and the Council for Economic and Development Affairs.
The former will be chaired by Prince Muhammad bin Nayef, a nephew of King Salman, who is also the Minister of Interior, Deputy Crown Prince and Second Deputy Prime Minister of Saudi Arabia.
The latter will be headed by Prince Mohammad bin Salman, who is the first son of King Salman from his third spouse, and the Minister of Defense and Chief of the Royal Court.
"It appears that the latter committee will take on the responsibilities of the Council of Petroleum," Eid-Oakden concluded.