There is a paradox at the heart of Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman’s Vision 2030 programme. Whilst he has enacted major economic and social reforms, he has targeted political opposition and dissenting voices.
Social liberalisation – such as lifting the ban on women driving – has come in tandem with the imprisonment for those that campaigned for it.
The Trump Administration proved a steadfast partner to the Kingdom and MbS over the last four years. Yet he now faces a Biden Administration which will judge the Kingdom on its human rights record, the conflict in Yemen and MbS’s arbitrary detentions of princes. Nonetheless MbS continues to detain figures such as Saudi-American doctor Walid Fitahi and former Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayif, a close ally to the US in the ‘war on terror’.
Investors and allies are unseated by this contradiction. They understand the Kingdom’s direction of travel but the political risk caused by MbS’s unpredictable and sometimes vengeful behaviour throws up serious barriers to investment and cooperation.
This AKE Special Report reflects on these pardoxes and demonstrates how volatility in the crown prince’s actions could make it harder for the Kingdom to secure the scale of investment needed to successfully execute Vision 2030.