Saudi Arabia Names Former Aramco Dealmaker as Economy Minister

Saudi Arabia appointed a former deal-maker for oil giant Saudi Aramco as economy and planning minister, as officials try to rally the biggest Arab economy from the dual shock of the coronavirus pandemic and last year’s oil price rout.

The new minister, Faisal Alibrahim, was named Monday in a series of royal orders. He had been vice minister of economy and planning since 2018, and was formerly head of a mergers and acquisitions group at Saudi Aramco, among other roles there. The position of economy minister had been held on an acting basis by the kingdom’s finance minister since last year.

Alibrahim takes over after coronavirus lockdowns and oil market turmoil shook the world’s largest crude exporter, causing gross domestic product to contract 4.1% in 2020. The economy is showing signs of recovery now and is expected to expand 2.9% this year, according to the International Monetary Fund.

In a local television interview last week, Crown PrinceMohammed bin Salman predicted a V-shaped rebound and said citizen unemployment -- currently at 12.6% -- could fall below 11% this year.

Prince Mohammed, the kingdom’s de facto ruler, oversees much of Saudi Arabia’s economic policy-making as he tries to diversify the kingdom away from oil. But the ministry also plays a key role.

Also in Monday’s royal orders, King Salman bin Abdulaziz promoted a woman, Eiman Al-Mutairi, to become vice minister of commerce. He removed his son Prince Sultan bin Salman as the head of the space agency, and replaced him with Abdullah Al-Swaha, the current communications and information technology minister.

Prince Sultan, the elder half-brother to Prince Mohammed, was appointed as an adviser to the king instead.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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