King Salman of Saudi Arabia has reinstated bonuses and special allowances for civil servants and military personnel that had been cut in September 2016 as part of austerity measures when oil revenues were low.
The king also named his son Prince Khalid as new ambassador to Washington.
King Salman’s decrees saw a new national security centre created under the Royal Court.
Photo Getty Images
He also ordered two months extra salary be paid to frontline military personnel taking part in Saudi-led operations in Yemen.
Prince Khalid is a fighter pilot who has trained in the US and carried out air strikes against ISIS in Syria.
The decree said the pay cuts for ministers and government employees – the first in Saudi Arabia, where about two-thirds of working Saudis are employed in the public sector – had been in response to falling oil prices, which sank to a low of $28 a barrel in January 2017.
The oil price has since risen to about $52 a barrel and ministers said budgetary performance had been better than expected in Q1 of 2017.
Under the cuts, ministers had their salaries reduced by 20% and housing and car allowances for members of the advisory Shura Council were cut by 15%.
Wage increases for lower-ranking civil servants were suspended, and overtime payments and annual leave capped.
Salaries and allowances accounted for 45% of government spending in 2015, or $128 billion, and contributed to a record budget deficit of $98 billion.
Saudi Arabia’s veteran oil minister Ali al-Naimi has been removed by King Salman as part of a broad government overhaul.
Ali al-Naimi has been replaced after more than 20 years in the role by former health minister Khaled al-Falih.
Saudi Arabia – the world’s largest crude exporter – unveiled major economic reforms in April, aimed at ending the country’s dependence on oil.
In 2015, about 70% of Saudi Arabia’s revenues came from oil, but it has been hit hard by falling prices.
The Saudi government shake-up, announced in a royal decree, sees a number of ministries merged and others, such as the ministry of electricity and water, scrapped altogether.
A public body for entertainment is being created, and another for culture.
King Salman’s son Prince Mohammad directs Saudi Arabia’s economic policy, and Ali al-Naimi’s removal is an indication that he wants tighter control over the commodity.
Khaled al-Falih has spent more than 30 years working at state oil giant Aramco, most recently serving as chairman.
He will take charge of a new department managing energy, industry and mineral resources.
Years of oil profits have allowed the Saudi government to offer generous benefits and subsidies to its citizens.
However, with another huge budget deficit forecast in 2016, last month saw the approval of wide reforms including plans to create the world’s biggest sovereign wealth fund and widen the participation of women in the workforce.
Many of the changes announced by King Salman in this overhaul focus on areas where reforms have been promised.
A bridge linking Saudi Arabia to Egypt will be built over the Red Sea, King Salman has announced.
In a statement, King Salman of Saudi Arabia says the bridge would boost commerce between the two allies.
The royal made the announcement on April 8 during the second day of his visit to Cairo.
Photo Getty Images
Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries have supported Egypt with billions of dollars since President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi took power in 2013 following mass street protests.
Saudi Arabia regards Egypt as a crucial partner in efforts to build a bloc of friendly Sunni Muslim states as a bulwark against growing regional influence of Shia-led Iran.
King Salman’s visit comes amid recent strains in the relationship, with Abdul Fattah al-Sisi taking a less hard-line stance against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Riyadh seeking more support from Cairo for its war against rebels in Yemen.
Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi said the bridge would be named after the Saudi king.
“I agreed with my brother his Excellency President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi to build a bridge connecting the two countries” King Salman said.
“This historic step to connect the two continents, Africa and Asia, is a qualitative transformation that will increase trade between the two continents to unprecedented levels” he added.
President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi said it marked “a new chapter on the road of Arab joint action”.
A Red Sea bridge linking Saudi Arabia and Egypt has been proposed several times before but has failed to become a reality.
Previous estimates for the bridge project suggested a cost of around $3-4 billion, but no further information has yet been released for the latest plan.
King Salman is currently on a five-day visit to Egypt, where he is expected to announce more trade and co-operation agreements.
Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Al Saud, a Self-proclaimed “Warren Buffett of Arabia” was born in 1955. He is the nephew of King Salman of Saudi Arabia.
A business magnate and investor, Prince Alwaleed studied at Menlo College and Syracuse University in the US.
He is the founder of Kingdom Holding Company, a Riyadh-based publicly traded conglomerate.
His first contract was to advise a Korean company building an officers’ club at a Riyadh military academy. Later chose to invest the profits in local real estate.
Prince Alwaleed invested $590 million in struggling Citibank (now Citigroup) in 1991; stake is now worth billions.
He has stakes in Disney, 21st Century Fox, News Corp, Apple, GM, Twitter, and a string of hotel chains and luxury hotels, including New York’s Plaza Hotel and the George V in Paris.
Considered Westernized and progressive on most issues, Prince Alwaleed champions women’s rights as most of his staff are women. He has financed the training of Hanadi Zakaria al-Hindi to become the first Saudi woman commercial airline pilot and has stated on her graduation that he is “in full support of Saudi ladies working in all fields”.
He owns a 371-room, 42,700 sq m (460,000 sq ft) palace in Riyadh, a Boeing 747-400 and an A380, and an 85m super yacht.
Prince Alwaleed established Alwaleed Bin Talal Foundations across world to offer valuable humanitarian, educational and social assistance.
The first wife of Prince Alwaleed was Dalal bint Saud, a daughter of King Saud. They have two children: Reem and Khalid. They later divorced. His second wife was a young woman Ameera al-Taweel, but later divorced.
In an interview recently, Prince Alwaleed had said: “Yes, I announce it through Okaz/Saudi Gazette for the first time. I have officially separated from Princess Ameera Al-Taweel, but she remains a person that I have all respect for.”
Prince Alwaleed bin Talal of Saudi Arabia has announced he will donate his $32 billion personal fortune to philantropy.
The 60-year-old nephew of King Salman is one of the world’s richest people.
Prince Alwaleed said he had been inspired by the Gates Foundation, set up by Bill and Melinda Gates in 1997.
The money would be used to “foster cultural understanding”, “empower women”, and “provide vital disaster relief”, among other things, he said.
Bill Gates praised the decision, calling it an “inspiration to all of us working in philanthropy around the world”.
Prince Alwaleed is at number 34 on the Forbes list of the world’s richest people.
The money will go to the prince’s charitable organization, Alwaleed Philanthropies, to which he has already donated $3.5 billion.
Prince Alwaleed, who does not hold an official government position, is chairman of investment firm Kingdom Holding Company.
The company owns stakes in hotels The Four Seasons, Fairmont and Raffles, as well as News Corp, Citigroup, Twitter and Apple.
“This is very much separate from my ownership in Kingdom Holding,” he said at the announcement.
“Philanthropy is a personal responsibility, which I embarked upon more than three decades ago and is an intrinsic part of my Islamic faith,” he added in a statement.
Prince Alwaleed said he hoped the gift would “help build bridges to foster cultural understanding, develop communities, empower women, enable youth, provide vital disaster relief and create a more tolerant and accepting world”.
His announcement comes during the holy month of Ramadan, when Muslims are encouraged to give charity and help the needy.
Prince Alwaleed said the donation would take place over several years and would be overseen by a board of trustees, which he will head.
Gulf leaders have announced they will not attend the summit of US and allied Arab states at Camp David later this week.
Their substitution with more junior leaders is being seen as a rebuff to President Barack Obama’s negotiations with Iran over its nuclear ambitions.
King Salman of Saudi Arabia announced on May 10 that he would not attend.
The White House, which has not publicly commented, previewed King Salman’s visit as recently as May 8.
The talks, which will now be largely attended by leaders at the ministerial level, were designed to reassure the Arab allies of US support on a number of issues including talks with Iran and instability in several Arab states.
The official reason for the Saudi leader’s absence is that the summit coincides with a humanitarian cease-fire in Yemen, where a Saudi-led alliance is battling Shiite Houthi rebels.
President Barack Obama had planned to meet with King Salman on May 13 – the day before the summit was supposed to take place at Camp David, near Washington.
Leading the Saudi delegation now will be Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, who also serves as the country’s interior minister.
King Salman’s son, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is Saudi Arabia’s defense minister, will also be in the delegation.
Separately, the tiny island kingdom of Bahrain, whose leadership has close ties to the Saudis, said that it would be sending its crown prince, Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa, to the meeting.
Bahrain plays host to the US Navy’s 5th Fleet, which is Washington’s main maritime counterbalance to Iran, and is in charge of US operations around the Arabian Peninsula and northern Indian Ocean.
The Sultan of Oman and the President of the United Arab Emirates are both known to be very ill, and do not travel for non-medical purposes – and were not expected to attend.
The Kuwaiti emir, Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, will attend the summit and has already arrived in the Washington area.
Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, is expected to attend as well.
The Saudi king will likely call President Barack Obama on May 11 to talk about his decision not to attend the summit, the New York Times reported citing an anonymous White House official.
King Salman, who came to power in January, has not travelled outside of Saudi Arabia since assuming the throne.
King Salman of Saudi Arabia has announced a major cabinet reshuffle that puts in place a new generation to succeed him as head of the kingdom.
The new king has appointed his nephew, Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, as Crown Prince, replacing Prince Moqrin bin Abdul Aziz.
His son, Mohammed bin Salman, believed to be in his early 30s, has been made deputy crown prince.
King Salman, 78, came to the throne in January 2015 after the death of his half-brother Abdullah.
Photo Getty Images
King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz, who was thought to be aged about 90, had been on the throne since 2005 and Saudi Arabia’s de facto leader for the 10 years before that.
King Salman has pushed aside allies of the late monarch such as his half-brother Moqrin bin Abdul Aziz, who was Crown Prince.
The rise of Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, 55, and Mohammed bin Salman means a new generation is now in line to lead the kingdom for the first time.
The appointment of Prince Mohammed bin Nayef is likely to be welcomed by the United States, with whom he has a close relationship.
The kingdom’s veteran security chief, he is known for his strong stance against Islamist militants and narrowly survived an assassination attempt by al-Qaeda in 2009.
The new deputy Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, has enjoyed a meteoric rise within the Saudi leadership.
He was appointed defense minister in January, and in the last month has been overseeing the Saudi-led operation in Yemen.
In other appointments, the world’s longest-serving Foreign Minister Saud el Faysal – who has been in his job since 1975 – has been replaced by the Saudi ambassador to the US Adel Jubeir, who is not a member of the royal family.
King Salman has been pushing a more assertive, muscular foreign policy to push back against Saudi Arabia’s regional rival Iran with the new appointments reinforcing that trend.
President Barack Obama is visiting Saudi Arabia’s new King Abdullah after the death of King Abdullah.
Barack Obama cut short a trip to India to make time for the visit.
The president is being accompanied by prominent Republican officials, including former Secretaries of State James Baker and Condoleezza Rice.
Saudi Arabia is a key US ally in a region riven by war and rivalries.
Barack Obama had been due to visit the Taj Mahal in India on January 27, but had to cancel to allow for the four-hour visit to Riyadh.
In an interview with CNN before he left India, Barack Obama suggested he would be unlikely to raise the case of Saudi blogger Raif Badawi, who was sentenced to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in prison last May for “insulting Islam through electronic channels” and “going beyond the realm of obedience”.
Barack Obama’s visit would focus on “paying respects to King Abdullah, who in his own fashion represented some modest reform efforts within the kingdom”, the president added.
On human rights, Barack Obama said: “We have maintained a sustained dialogue with the Saudis and with all the other countries we work with. What I have found effective is to apply steady, consistent pressure, even as we are getting business done that needs to get done.”
“And oftentimes that makes some of our allies uncomfortable. It makes them frustrated, sometimes we have to balance our need to speak to them about human rights issues with immediate concerns that we have in terms of countering terrorism or dealing with regional stability.”
Also among the 30-strong US delegation are CIA director John Brennan, John McCain, the Republican chairman of the powerful Senate Armed Services Committee, and Republican former National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft.
Saudi Arabia is among the US-led coalition of Western and Arab nations conducting air strikes against Islamic State (ISIS) in Syria and Iraq.
World leaders gather in Saudi Arabia to pay their respects in person after the death of King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud on January 23.
French President Francois Hollande and UK’s PM David Cameron will be in Riyadh. The US delegation is led by Vice-President Joe Biden.
King Abdullah died Friday at 1 AM, aged 90. He was buried in an unmarked grave in Riyadh after Friday prayers.
King Salman, 79, pledged continuity after his accession to the throne.
He also moved swiftly to appoint heirs and ministers, including one prince from the ruling dynasty’s third generation.
On January 24, Joe Biden, David Cameron and Francois Hollande will take part in official ceremonies in the Saudi capital.
Iran will be represented by Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.
King Abdullah died on Friday, weeks after being admitted to hospital with a lung infection, and he was buried later that day.
Within hours of acceding to the throne, King Salman vowed to maintain the same policies as his predecessors.
“We will continue adhering to the correct policies which Saudi Arabia has followed since its establishment,” he said.
He named another of King Abdullah’s half-brothers, Muqrin, as the new crown prince.
Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef was appointed deputy crown prince, making him second in line to the throne and in effect smoothing the line of succession for years to come.
Prince Mohammed bin Nayef is a grandson of King Abdulaziz, usually referred to as Ibn Saud, the founder of modern Saudi Arabia. The crown has so far passed between Ibn Saud’s sons, but few are still alive.
King Abdullah came to the throne in 2005 but had already been Saudi Arabia’s de-facto leader for 10 years because his predecessor, King Fahd, had been debilitated by a stroke.
Abdullah had suffered frequent bouts of ill health in recent years, and King Salman had recently taken on the ailing monarch’s responsibilities.
King Salman of Saudi Arabia has appointed his nephew, Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, as deputy crown prince.
The powerful interior minister has become the second in line to the throne after Crown Prince Muqrin.
The announcement of the deputy crown prince’s appointment on January 23, following the death of King Abdullah, quiets further speculation over future succession in the kingdom. It paves the way for the deputy crown prince to become the first grandson of Abdulaziz ibn Saud, the founder of modern Saudi Arabia, to succeed to the throne.
Crown Prince Muqrin bin Abdulaziz, age 69, is next in line after King Salman.
The moves by Saudi Arabia’s new king to ease the transition of power came just hours before King Abdullah’s surviving sons carried their father’s shrouded remains on a pallet atop their shoulders to his grave at Oud Cemetery in the capital Riyadh.
In keeping with the traditions of Wahhabi strand of Sunni Islam, which frowns on idolizing the dead and dramatic public expressions of grief, members of the royal family and other mourners were somber and restrained, and the grave was unmarked.
Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, 55, has been credited as the main force behind the eradication of al-Qaeda operatives inside Saudi Arabia when they waged a campaign to destabilize the kingdom between 2003 and 2006. He was appointed interior minister in November 2012.
Also on January 23, King Salman’s son, Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was named defense minister, a position the new king held until he succeeded his half-brother, King Abdullah.
In addition, Prince Mohammed bin Salman, age 34, was designated chief of the royal court, replacing Khaled Al Tuwaijri, who was removed from all his posts.
Khaled Al Tuwaijri was an influential adviser to King Abdullah.
The appointments signal the intention of the new Saudi leader to continue the government’s drive to curb dissent at home and Islamist and anti-Sunni forces abroad.
In the kingdom, they also reassert the eminence of the Sudairi Seven, made up of the seven sons of the kingdom’s founder and Hassa bint Ahmad Al Sudairi, one of his wives.
King Abdullah’s sons retained their positions, but the new royal appointments mark a reversal of the late king’s practice of elevating his sons and allies to senior positions.
All other current ministers in the cabinet, including the oil minister Ali al-Naimi, will keep their positions, King Salman said in another royal decree.
The appointment of Prince Mohammed bin Nayef as deputy crown prince resolves, at least for the moment, some of the questions that shadowed King Abdullah’s waning years. In particular, it sets forth a path for the transfer of power from the sons of the kingdom’s founder to his grandsons.
Under Saudi Arabia’s monarchy, unlike most other monarchies, the throne doesn’t pass automatically from parent to eldest child upon the death or abdication of the monarch. Saudi law stipulates only that the throne passes to the “most upright” of the sons and grandsons of the kingdom’s founder.
In 2006, the Saudi royal family established a panel designed to help future kings choose their heirs. King Abdullah and his successor, however, were excluded from its mandate.
Under the provisions of the so-called Allegiance Committee, the king’s choice for crown prince is subject to a vote by the panel. If the committee disapproves of the king’s selection, it offers an alternative candidate. If the two sides still fail to agree, the committee votes on one of the two nominees.
King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia has died weeks after he was admitted to hospital, royal officials have announced.
King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, who was said to be aged about 90, had been suffering from a lung infection.
A statement released on January 23 said the king’s 79-year-old half brother, Salman, had become king.
King Abdullah came to the throne in 2005 but had suffered frequent bouts of ill health in recent years.
King Salman had recently taken on the ailing monarch’s responsibilities.
Before the announcement, Saudi television cut to Koranic verses, which often signifies the death of a senior royal.
The late king’s half brother Muqrin, who is in his late 60s, has been named the new crown prince, the official statement said.
All three are sons of the founder of modern Saudi Arabia, King Abdulaziz, usually referred to as Ibn Saud, who died in 1953.
King Salman called on the royal family’s Allegiance Council to recognize Muqrin as his crown prince and heir.
“His Highness Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud and all members of the family and the nation mourn the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, who passed away at exactly 01:00 this morning,” the statement said.
Following tradition, King Abdullah will be buried later on Friday in an unmarked grave.
President Barack Obama expressed his personal sympathies and those of the American people, on the death of King Abdullah.
“As a leader, he was always candid and had the courage of his convictions. One of those convictions was his steadfast and passionate belief in the importance of the US-Saudi relationship as a force for stability and security in the Middle East and beyond,” he said.
Vice-President Joe Biden tweeted that he would lead a delegation to Riyadh to pay respects.
Jordan’s King Abdullah II cut short a visit to Davos, Switzerland, to travel to Saudi Arabia, as Jordan’s royal court declared 40 days of mourning.
Abdullah was the 13th of the 37 sons of King Abdulaziz. He is believed to have been born in August 1924 in Riyadh, although there is some dispute about his actual birth date.
In 1962 Abdullah was appointed commander of the Saudi National Guard, where he earned the respect and loyalty of the desert tribes.
When he came to the throne in 2005 he succeeded another half-brother, Fahd.
However, Abdullah had already been Saudi Arabia’s de-facto leader for 10 years because his predecessor had been debilitated by a stroke.
Correspondents say King Abdullah was seen as a reformer at home, albeit a slow and steady one.
He allowed mild criticism of his government in the press, and hinted that more women should be allowed to work.
King Salman spent 48 years as governor of Riyadh Province before becoming crown prince and defense minister.
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