Saudi creates new tourism, sports, investment ministries

By: AFP      Published: 07:49 PM, 25 Feb, 2020
Saudi creates new tourism, sports, investment ministries

Saudi Arabia announced on Tuesday the creation of three new ministries for tourism, sports and investment, according to royal decrees that also unveiled a sweeping cabinet reshuffle.

King Salman upgraded the government bodies overseeing the three portfolios to individual ministries, the official Saudi Press Agency reported. The announcement saw the return of veteran official Khalid al-Falih to the main political arena as investment minister.

Falih was sacked as energy minister in a major shake-up last September and replaced by Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman -- the first member of the royal family ever to take charge of the kingdom's all-important ministry.

The most recent reshuffle comes as the petro-state, reeling from low energy prices, seeks to boost investment and jobs in the key non-oil sectors of tourism, sports and entertainment. The world's top crude exporter is struggling to fund de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's ambitious Vision 2030 reform programme, as the spread of the novel coronavirus outbreak exerts pressure on oil prices.

In another significant move, the kingdom's media minister, Turki al-Shabanah, was replaced just a few months after his appointment. Saudi Arabia has sought to repair its image after the 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in its Istanbul consulate, which battered the reputation of the 33-year-old crown prince, who controls all major levers of power.

The murder tipped the kingdom into its worst diplomatic crisis since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, in which most of the hijackers were identified as Saudi nationals. Saudi Arabia is gearing up to host the G20 summit in November, an event that is set to see the leaders of the world's 20 richest nations converging on the capital Riyadh.