Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Muhammad bin Salman interview

A dissident Saudi student in the US told me yesterday: this interview was unprecedented.  We never ever had a major top Saudi prince give such a free wheeling interview like this.  It never happened before.  He is right--and the student is opposed to Saudi rule.  Muhammad bin Salman came across as more knowledgeable and articulate than the average Saudi prince. But then again: one heard that King Salman raised his children like King Faisal: less indulgences and more emphasis on education.  Compare that to King Fahd's child rearing practices where his children grew up around casino tables. As for substance: it is quite ridiculous and unspecific.  Saudi reformers were expecting real changes in social life: like permission of female drivers and movie theaters.  That did not enter the picture and the Prince later explained that Saudi society is not ready.  But the plan as it is is fraught with contradiction: how can you speak about accountability in a government run by a royal family? How can you speak about transparency when skimming the budget for royal benefit is part of Saudi governance? How can you speak about an economy based on tourism while adhering to Wahhabi social and religious standards? and to speak of 2020 as the year when revenue from oil becomes unimportant is a pipe dream.