Aramco is quite simply unaffected by the Kingdom’s political and economic shortcomings. The company’s strategic importance insulates it from the power plays that serve to threaten most quasi political bodies, arguing the case that institutional independence can exist in the Saudi setting. Of course, its biggest test may yet come in the form of an emboldened Crown Prince.
Eagle Capital’s CEO is in close proximity to some of Egypt’s most influential decision makers. After a brief spell in government that ended in 2017, the extent of her pursuits became unknown; she is now emerging as a key executive in the media sphere, with elites heavily invested in her dealings.
Ahmed Al Khatib has made a name for himself after a rapid rise to prominence under King Salman. His access to happenings in Riyadh are unrivalled and there is little this middle-aged executive does not touch; even a series of controversial episodes are no longer enough to remove him from the forefront.
Control the media and you control the masses – a motto applicable to Riyadh’s power players. Although media ownership garners less attention than petrochemicals and construction in Saudi Arabia, its relevance to understanding internal dynamics must not be downplayed.
With approximately 40 years separating his eldest and youngest children, King Salman’s lineage is intriguing. A cadre of sons and grandsons are known to have acquired prestige since his coronation in 2015 but there are a series of influential business and political personalities attached to the King that fly under the radar.
As the face of wealth in Saudi Arabia and the wider Middle East, Alwaleed bin Talal is the envy of many. Connections to the power core afforded him great prestige in his rise to the top but he has since strayed from the accepted line; an act that will not be tolerated under King Salman or Crown Prince Mohammed.
Egypt’s military is known for its economic prowess, crafting arguably a strong business reputation for itself. There are indications suggesting that its commercial portfolio extends to the agriculture sector, where a host of known interests may position it as a key industry player.
Out with the official institutional parameters of Emirati politics lies the role of the majlis. The UAE’s power brokers are seeking to build reputations as inclusive leaders through popularity in the majlis, but this dynamic is more complex than it appears on the surface. The majlis is an interesting institution, with many sources suggesting this is where many business deals originate.
Recent trends suggest that Saudi Arabia’s construction sector is undergoing substantive change, despite historically being a predictable pillar of the national economy. Combined with the Crown Prince’s ‘build it and they will come’ attitude, space is clearly opening up for new actors.
Riyadh's political elite are engaging in power plays not only to overhaul the state, as they repeatedly claim, but also to safeguard the regime from a coup d'état. Although their rule may seem guaranteed, the princes in charge have used every opportunity to safeguard Saudi's military apparatus.
Mohammed bin Zayed has spent years manoeuvring loyalists into the key posts around him, which will truly bear fruit once he formally inherits the throne. Commercial actors must endeavour to understand the significance of this, as the country's open-door economic policy is largely dependent upon the Crown Prince's own longevity.
Institutional manipulation is fast becoming Salman’s hallmark in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The latest restructuring of the Ministry of Interior’s senior leadership team, combined with the creation of the Presidency of State Security, shows that no stone will be left unturned in the King’s advancement of his son.
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