Saudi Arabia under Muhammed Bin Salman: Crisis, Reform, or Stagnation?
This discussion paper aims to analyse the limitations of Mohammed bin Salman’s reforms by historically examining the modernisation process in Saudi Arabia and the potential trajectories of the current project of transformation.
Modernisation has been a huge issue for the Saudi monarchs for years, and many reform projects have been initiated, most of which have remained ineffective and superficial. Crown Prince Muhammed bin Salman labelled himself as a reformer and came with the same promises in the form of Vision 2030 in early 2016. Vision 2030 promised further projects which would diversify the economy, “Saudisation” in the Kingdom’s employment sector, and social liberalisation in Saudi society. Although the Kingdom made progress in some of these in the following period, many projects have fallen behind schedule, and the aim of diversifying the Saudi economy has been impeded. He has also seen to have been behind a number of regional crises, and crackdowns against activists and potential rivals within and outside the royal family. Ultimately, just like his predecessors, Muhammed bin Salman used the language of reform mainly as a means of concentrating power in his hands, instead of enacting substantial changes in the Kingdom. This discussion paper aims to analyse the limitations of Muhammed bin Salman’s reforms by historically examining the modernisation process in Saudi Arabia and the potential trajectories of the current project of transformation.