Saudi Dark Side

John Gambrell, Saudi crown prince’s carefully managed rise hides dark side, AP News, October 14, 2018

Contradiction

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — In a kingdom once ruled by an ever-aging rotation of elderly monarchs, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman stands out as the youthful face of a youthful nation. But behind the carefully calibrated public-relations campaign pushing images of the smiling prince meeting with the world’s top leaders and business executives lurks a darker side.

Last year, at age 31, Mohammed became the kingdom’s crown prince, next in line to the throne now held by his octogenarian father, King Salman. While pushing for women to drive, he has overseen the arrest of women’s rights activists. While calling for foreign investment, he has imprisoned businessmen, royals and others in a crackdown on corruption that soon resembled a shakedown of the kingdom’s most powerful people.

Through the WI Lens

The disappearance (and most likely murder) of Jamal Kashoggi in Istanbul has revealed the darker side of Saudi Crown Prince MBS. It might become a PR disaster for the Kingdom and does not augur well in terms of future investments in the country. The NEOM project in which prominent players of the hospitality and wellness industry had placed so much hope is under threat and might even possibly be doomed before it started. Planning and construction had been initiated last year with USD500 billion committed from the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia and international investors. Many of these prominent international investors (from Richard Branson to Dara Khosrowshahi, Uber’s CEO) have already pulled out, or are pulling out, of the project. Like other companies and individuals, they’ve also withdrawn from the Future Investment Initiative (FII), the upcoming conference in Riyadh called the “Davos in the Desert”.

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