King Salman of Saudi Arabia has announced a major cabinet reshuffle, a week after he acceded to the throne. The chief of intelligence and the head of the national security council have both been replaced. Other top officials, including the ministers of defence, oil, and foreign affairs, have kept their jobs. The governor of Mecca and the governor of the capital Riyadh were replaced as were several senior religious officials.
The new appointments came a week after King Salman acceded to the throne following the death of late King Abdullah and further cements his hold on power, with a sweeping shakeup that saw two sons of the late King Abdullah fired, and the heads of intelligence and other key agencies replaced alongside a cabinet shuffle.
Top officials from the Ports Authority, the National Anti-Corruption Commission and the Kingdom’s police were among those let go.
King Salman also reached out directly to his subjects. One of his more than 30 decrees ordered “two months’ basic salary to all Saudi government civil and military employees,” the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) said. Students and pensioners got similar bonuses. He asked that his subjects “remember him in their prayers”.
General Khalid bin Ali bin Abdullah Al Humaidan became the new intelligence chief, holding cabinet rank. The change comes after authorities in the Kingdom last year blamed suspects linked to an extremist group for shooting and wounding a foreign national.
A separate decree said Prince Bandar bin Sultan, a nephew of late King Abdullah, had been removed from his posts as Secretary General of the National Security Council and adviser to the King . The sometimes controversial Prince Bandar was the Kingdom’s ambassador to the United States for 22 years until 2005 before moving to Saudi Arabia’s Security Council.
King Salman named a 31-member cabinet whose new faces include the ministers for culture and information, social affairs, civil service, and communications and information technology, among others. Oil Minister Ali Al Naimi, Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al Faisal, and Finance Minister Ibrahim Al Assaf stayed in the cabinet.
King Salman merged the ministries of higher education and education, naming Azzam bin Mohammed Al Dakheel to head the super-ministry. The move is in line with Saudi efforts to improve its basic education system. The kingdom has built more universities as it seeks to diversify its oil-dependent economy.
Another decree replaced the chief of the country’s stock market regulator, ahead of a mid-year target for opening the Arab world’s largest bourse to foreign investors.
Hours after Abdullah died on 23 January, Salman appointed his son, Prince Mohammed bin Salman, as defence minister.
The Deputy Crown Prince, Second Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior Mohammed bin Nayef bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, became second in line to the throne, while Crown Prince Muqrin bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, was elevated to king-in-waiting.