Balance of Power: A Saudi Prince Wants to Reinvent His Kingdom

(Bloomberg) -- It’s been a headline-grabbing week in Riyadh, even by Saudi Arabia’s recent standards.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman unveiled plans to build a city from scratch on the Red Sea coast, offering a lifestyle he said would be unmatched in the kingdom -- and even the world. It’s an outsized project in keeping with the prince’s known ambitions, from creating a sovereign wealth fund to dwarf all rivals and selling a stake in the world’s biggest oil company.

Yet the prince didn’t stop there. He vowed to crush extremism and take the conservative kingdom back to “moderate” Islam. He also included a line for oil traders, backing the extension of OPEC production cuts beyond March 2018.

The announcements stunned global bankers at an investment conference in the Saudi capital, and unsettled those still grappling with the pace of economic change in Saudi Arabia. Supporters predictably heaped praise on a bold attempt to transform the kingdom; others were quick to note how some previous mega-projects have failed.

The prince is trying to perform an unprecedented balancing act, remaking the economy as well as Saudi Arabia’s social and political fabric. Residents of his new city would enjoy freedoms unheard of in a kingdom founded on austere Islam. But it’s not yet clear he can deliver on his promises.

Balance of Power: A Saudi Prince Wants to Reinvent His Kingdom

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Global Headlines

Show of sea power | The U.S. Navy has sent three aircraft carrier strike groups to the Western Pacific for the first time in a decade, as President Donald Trump prepares to visit Asia next week. Although the Navy described the USS Theodore Roosevelt's deployment as an overlap before another carrier group leaves the region, the move is part of a bigger buildup amid North Korea tensions.

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And finally... Trump was en route to Dallas -- which holds a macabre spot in the annals of American presidential history -- when he teased the release today of the final batch of secret documents related to the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy. “The long anticipated release of the #JFKFiles will take place tomorrow. So interesting!” Trump tweeted. While not the most ardent student of history to have occupied the White House, Trump has shown a penchant for conspiracy theories, even suggesting that 2016 Republican rival Ted Cruz’s father was involved in Kennedy’s death.

Balance of Power: A Saudi Prince Wants to Reinvent His Kingdom


To contact the authors of this story: Stuart Biggs in London at, Kathleen Hunter in London at

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