The new man in charge of Saudi Arabia’s energy policy is Khalid al-Falih, the chairman of the state-owned oil company and former health minister.
He immediately made it clear he is a believer in low oil prices talking about “meeting existing and additional demand… backed by our current maximum sustainable capacity”.
He has replaced veteran oil minister Ali al-Naimi, the 80-year-old who held that extremely powerful position for 20 years.
Analyst Graham Griffiths with Control Risks doesn’t think there will be major policy changes: “I think Khaled al-Falih was part of the consensus that Ali al-Naimi created around Saudi Arabia’s current production policy, so I see him as a figure of continuity with Ali al-Naimi.”
His appointment is part of the Saudi government’s Vision 2030 plan – the economic reform programme unveiled by Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman who is seen as controlling energy policy even as al-Falih’s job was widened to Minister of Energy, Industry and Mineral Resources.
Graham Griffiths has thoughts on that job expansion: “I think that gives a glimpse of the kind of broader portfolio that Khaled al-Falih will have to kind of coordinate, the country’s energy policy between both the electricity sector, the oil producing sector, other sectors.”
Al-Falih’s mega-ministry will oversee the products that make up more than half of Saudi Arabia’s economy.
With job creation and economic reform the top priorities, his challenge will be cutting through the country’s tangled bureaucracy to make government more coherent and efficient.