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Saudi Arabia announces restructure in several government bodies

Saudi Arabia's King Salman announced a major reshuffle of his government on Saturday which saw longstanding ministers replaced

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Saudi Arabia's King Salman announced a major reshuffle of his government on Saturday which saw longstanding ministers replaced and departments restructured and even split.

Among the changes was the closure of a number of councils, commissions and committees, in what appears to be an effort to streamline government with the creation of two councils: political and security affairs and another for economic affairs and development.

Salman’s veteran oil minister and the central bank governor were both replaced in the shake-up of senior positions, which came a week after the deputy crown prince announced a series of economic reforms under the banner of the Saudi Vision 2030.

The king also named a number of new ministers to run water, transport, commerce, social affairs, health and pilgrimage portfolios – as well as restructuring some ministries.

Among the most notable changes was the creation of a new energy, industry and natural resources ministry under Khaled al-Falih. He replaces Ali al-Naimi whose career – spanning three decades - as lead for the energy policy of the world’s biggest crude oil exporter started in 1995.

Falih was moved from the post of health minister for his new position.

Falih’s appointment is only likely to strengthen Riyadh’s strategy of defending its market share, rather than lead to any change in thinking, Saudi watchers and analysts say.

“The appointment of Falih has been expected for some time,” said Saddad al-Hosseini, a Saudi energy consultant.

“He has the right industrial and executive experience to lead the reorganization of the energy and electricity sectors.”

Falih has for years been considered a possible successor to Naimi, who has been appointed as an advisor to the Royal Court, who also stepped up to oil minister after heading Aramco.

Other changes saw the water and electricity ministry broken up, with the water portfolio added to a new environment, water and agriculture ministry. The management of electricity was added to the new energy ministry.

Meanwhile there have been major changes made to the kingdom’s economic leadership, with Majed al-Qasbi named head of the new Commerce and Investment Ministry, and Ahmed al-Kholifey made governor of the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency (SAMA), the central bank.

Previously the commerce minister, Tawfiq al-Rabeeah, has been appointed health minister. The transport minister is now Suleiman al-Hamdan.

The shake-up also saw the the Pilgrimage Ministry renamed the Haj and Umrah Ministry. The ministry of labor was merged with the ministry of social affairs to create a new department and a new commission for recreation and culture was created.

(With Saudi Press Agency and Reuters)