Subtitles section Play video Print subtitles We told you in a previous video about how Saudi Arabia wants to leave behind, once and for all, its addiction to oil, and become a nation similar to Dubai or Abu Dhabi. In this video, we’re going to look at this country in more depth in order to get an idea of how this mission to get free from oil is going. The thing is there is a specific name, a leader behind this ambitious plan. Do you know who this person is? Well, for those of you who don't, the person who is turning everything upside down is Mohamed Bin Salman. But a name alone doesn't explain much, so now you might be wondering: Who is this man really? What are his intentions? And what exactly is he trying to do? Well, these are the questions we are going to be answering in today’s Visual Politik video… So let’s get going shall we? THE PRINCE OF CHANGE He might be only a little more than 30 years old, but Mohamed Bin Salman is already one of the most powerful people in the world and he controls more money than we could ever possibly count. Formally, he is Minister of Defense, Deputy Crown Prince, Second Deputy Prime Minister, Chief of the Royal Court and Chair of the Council for Economic and Development Affairs... So what does all of that mean? Well, it kind of means that Mohamed Bin Salman is in control of everything… He's got complete control over the country’s oil, over the massive financial reserves that have been accumulated over the years and, also, over Saudi Arabia’s massive defence budget. So, today, the power of the prince is practically total. And, hey, this isn't something normal. Never has such a young man had so much power before. Up until now, the norm was for the country to be controlled by seniors of 80 years or more who were very reluctant for any kind of change. But all of a sudden, change is underfoot, because what Mohammed Bin Salman is trying to do with Saudi Arabia is to turn it into a new United Arab Emirates, a country which the prince has an enormous amount of admiration for. Later, we are going to see just how he is doing this, but for now, you need to bear something in mind: The youth of the country cheer Bin Salman as the savior of the Kingdom. And this is a country where half of its population is less than 25 years old so, well, that is pretty important. But, now you might be wondering: Where does this man come from? How can such a young man have so much power? Well… he is the son of the current King. But wait a second before you exclaim: “Well! Of course he is!” You do need to know that being the son of the king in Saudi Arabia wasn't such an important thing, in fact, for now, Bin Salman is not even the heir of the Saudi throne... THE BATTLE OVER THE THRONE Salman bin Abdulaziz is the king of Saudi Arabia, he is the son of the man who is considered the founder of the country: Abdulaziz Bin Saud. Well, since Saud died in 1953, the kingdom has been inherited by brother after brother. AUDIO: (Abdulaziz Bin Saud had 17 known wives and it is calculated that he also had around 32 sons. So there were quite a few potential heirs). The thing is that, when the current king, who is believed to be the 25th son, reached power a few years ago in 2015, the first thing he did was to change the laws of succession. Even though some of his brothers are still alive, he has decided to put the new generations in charge of the succession. To do this, he decided to appoint his nephew, Mohammed Bin Nayef, who is closer to Washington than others, and he has been in charge for security in the last years, as well as the secret services and the fight against fundamentalism. However, it seems like young Mohammed Bin Salman, the main character in this video, is not very happy about that, and it seems that he is taking aim at the throne… He wants to become the future king of Saudi Arabia. So, his eagerness for reforms could be explained as an attempt to gain popularity. That is what most analysts think. And it does make sense. The fall of the prices in oil has given Mohammed Bin Salman the opportunity to aim for the throne, which is something his father obviously supports. If Saudi Vision 2030 starts showing good results, Bin Salman will be in a better position to ask for a reward, and become, potentially, the new heir to the throne. However, there are a few problems on the road ahead, both for Bin Salman as well as for the country. On the one hand, there are problems inside the royal family: Bin Salman has made a lot of enemies who accuse him of being power hungry. On the other hand, his father, the current king, is quite old (81) and he seems to have some memory issues. So this means there are two possible scenarios ahead: If the current king lives for many more years, the prince, Bin Salman will be able to consolidate his power. However, if the king doesn’t live so long, the current heir, Bin Salman’s cousin, could become the new king and wish goodbye both to the prince and his Saudi Vision 2030 vision. But that is how these monarchies work… But I am sure that some of you are thinking by now: Well, this is all fascinating Simon, but why should I care about what happens in Saudi Arabia? Well, you should care, and probably more than you might think. Saudi Arabia is still the biggest oil producer and it is also the most important and influential country in the Arab world. An evolution towards openness for this country could be something very positive for the world, and for now, the planned Saudi Vision 2030 seems to be the only opportunity for the country to progress and evolve. But, now that we’ve said that, what exactly is the plan for this country? INCORRIGIBLES So far in today’s story, we have seen a handsome prince and a battle over the throne... But we need a third ingredient for this Saudi soap opera: luxury and money... Well, of all the royal families in the world, the Sauds, the royal household of Saudi Arabia might be the most addicted to money and luxury. And now you are going to see why... We have mentioned it in several videos... The fall of oil prices has jeopardised many countries and, among them, is Saudi Arabia. AUDIO: (Only in 2016, and even though many adjustments were made, the country had a deficit of more than 80 billion dollars…). And now the question becomes: What can they do in order to fix such a hole in their budget? Well, in 2016, the Saudi Government announced the country would go on a diet. So, for the first time in decades, austerity reached Saudi Arabia. AUDIO: (The government of Bin Salman started with reductions in public wages, cancelled many projects whose profitability was uncertain, reduced subsidies on gasoline, water, electricity…) This was a pretty huge shock for one of the most subsidized economies in the world. I mean, up until now, dear viewer, oil had helped to pay for everything in Saudi Arabia. However, hold on for just a minute, because that is not the whole story... AUDIO: (“Under Salman´s rule, princes still enjoy many material privileges. The subsidization system hasn't changed for the Royal Household”. Steffen Hertog, London School of Economics.) Take a look at this, the king of Saudi Arabia has ultra-luxurious palaces all over the world available to him. In Marbella in Spain, he has “ El Rocío”, a palace inspired by no less than the White House. But, I mean, it’s gotta be pretty boring to have to go to the same palace all the time right? How tiresome! So, last summer, the king built a new and gigantic palace in Tangier, Morocco. The palace has its very own hospital and, here, the king gets French seafood delivered direct from France. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4069078/Saudi-s-King-Salman-lavishes-MILLIONS-Moroccan-hideaway-including-helicopter-pads-tent-size-circus-big-top.html But hey, what’s the problem with chartering a few airplanes so the king can eat some nice lobsters, right? Oh, and when the king of Saudi Arabia travels…he travels big! AUDIO: (In his last tour around Asia, in 2016, the king travelled with 1500 people, luggage weighed 459 tons and he took with him two Mercedes-Benz S600 limos. In order to carry it all 27 planes had to be used). Yes, so it seems this is what the royal family considers austerity. And the prince Mohamed Bin Salman, our main character in today’s video, is no different: AUDIO: (During some holidays in France and at the same time the prices in oil were falling, the prince Salman saw the yacht of the Russian magnate Yuri Shefler. It was love at first sight. He sent an assistant right away in order to close the deal: Salman bought it for 550 million dollars). https://megaricos.com/2016/10/20/el-principe-saudi-mohammed-bin-salman-compro-el-mega-yate-serene-por-e500-millones/ So, now know how the family likes to live, and they are quite a big family. Some estimations indicate the Saudi royal family has around 15,000 members. The government has evaded the question of membership numbers, but even low end estimates put it at about 5,000 people. And we are talking about people who live thanks to the public budget and have all kinds of privileges: they are paid impressive salaries, they have access to hospitals which are essentially palaces with 5-star hotel services, and they do profitable business with the government. They have incredibly luxurious and rather incredible lifestyles. And that is very, very expensive. According to estimations from the US government, since transparency is not a tradition in the royal family, they spend about $2 billion every year in order to keep up these sumptuous lifestyles. AUDIO: (But some other estimations indicate the royal family takes over 1 million oil barrels a day, that is 10% of the national production.) THE PROGRESS OF SAUDI VISION 2030 Despite all of this, the transformation of Saudi Arabia planned in Vision 2030 keeps moving forward. AUDIO: (“Saudi Arabia designs a city of entertainment almost as big as Las Vegas”) - The Independent But the truth is it is moving slowly... And for the time being, Saudi Arabia is regaining better relations with the US. In fact, Donald Trump’s first international trip as the US president was to Riyadh. But yes, in order to achieve that the Saudis had to sign some big cheques.