Saudi Arabia has fired long-serving oil minister Ali al-Naimi as it seeks to limit damage from crashing oil prices, effectively ending the career of one of the industry’s major power brokers.
Al-Naimi, 80, was named oil minister in 1995, and has long been the public face of Saudi Arabia’s energy policies.Al-Naimi had in recent months represented Saudi Arabia in talks with other major oil producers. He insisted that Saudi Arabia would not cut production in the face of falling prices and tried instead to convince other countries to freeze output at current levels.In the meantime, deputy crown prince Mohamed bin Salman made clear that Saudi Arabia will not agree to a freeze unless Iran, its main regional rival, also signed on.Last month, the prince announced an ambitious plan to diversify and become one of the 15 biggest economies in the world.
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He will be replaced by Khalid al-Falih, the chairman of state oil firm Saudi Aramco. The oil ministry has also been renamed the Ministry of Energy, Industry and Mining as part of a larger reorganization announced by official state media.Under his plan, Saudi Arabia wants to boost non-oil revenues sixfold to $266 billion by 2030, sell part of national oil company Aramco on the stock market, and create a $1.9 trillion public fund to invest at home and abroad.
Oil makes up 87% of Saudi Arabia’s revenue, and the collapse in world crude prices since 2014 has left the kingdom struggling. It has already cut subsidies and borrowed billions to try to balance its books.