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Saudi Arabia fires Oil Minister, hiring a Minister of Energy instead

Saudi Arabia has appointed a new minister, responsible for energy policy. He will help the country cut its dependence on oil.

Saudi Arabia is taking big steps towards post-oil era. With an unexpected decision, King Salman fired Saudi oil minister Ali al Naimi, who had held the post since 1995. The long-serving oil minister had planned the kingdom’s energy strategies for decades but he has now been replaced by Khaled al Falih, chairman of the state oil giant Saudi Aramco.

 

Cabinet reshuffle against the crisis

The oil ministry had been renamed the Ministry of Energy, Industry and Mineral Resources, which will absorb the electricity ministry as well. This change is part of a larger reorganisation that also includes the areas of water, transport, trade, social affairs, health and pilgrimage. It’s an action aimed at reviving the country’s economy that had been severely hit by a recent plunge in oil prices.  

 

Un impianto fotovoltaico in Medioriente. © Fahad Shadeed/Reuters
A PV plant in the Middle East © Fahad Shadeed/Reuters

Saudi Vision 2020

Shortly after his designation, Al Falih said Saudi Arabia will remain committed to “strengthening its position as the world’s most reliable supplier of energy”. He added that the new ministry aims to achieve the ambitious goals set in the plan recently launched by Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed. Saudi Vision 2020 is, actually, an economic revolution aimed at cutting Saudi Arabia’s dependence on oil, by creating a sovereign fund and selling part of Aramco’s shares.  

 

The dispute on oil production

It seems that Al Naimi has paid his opposition to King Salman’s decision of decreasing oil production to deal with low oil prices, an opposite strategy to the line followed earlier. The possibility of reducing production gave rise to disputes between OPEC member countries, as well as among outsiders, including Russia. Last month, Russia and Saudi Arabia failed to reach an agreement to freeze production, as Iran didn’t sign.

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