Saudi Arabia’s Mohammed bin Salman has ascended to the position of Crown Prince on Wednesday. The prince was also named deputy prime minister and maintains his post as minister of defense.
In recent years, Prince Mohammed has become the government’s face of reform, modernization and change.
The crown prince, who was born in 1985, also served as the chief of the royal court, and chairs the powerful Council for Economic and Development Affairs.
In the kingdom, where around 60 percent of the population are under 30, the relatively-young crown prince is seen as critical in the push towards reform.
Former US President Barack Obama described him in an interview with Al Arabiya News Channel as “extremely knowledgeable, very smart” and “wise beyond his years.”
Action in Yemen
Before his appointment as Deputy Crown Prince in late April, Prince Mohammed’s powerful government positions placed him in the spotlight. Just two months into his tenure of defense minister, Saudi Arabia and its Arab allies led a coalition in Yemen.
The campaign, initially titled ‘Operation Decisive Storm,’ saw the collation bombed Iranian-backed Houthi militias and forces allied to deposed leader Ali Abdullah Saleh, in a bid to put the government of internationally recognized President Abdrabbu Mansour Hadi back in power.
Last year, the Crown Prince moved into what he has indicated is his most important role: transforming the kingdom’s economy and reducing its dependence on oil revenues.
In Jan. 2016, Prince Mohammed gave his first on-the-record interview, where he made a surprise disclosure: that the kingdom was studying a limited IPO of Aramco, the state-owned oil giant which is believed to be the world’s most valuable firm. “I believe it is in the interest of the Saudi market, and it is in the interest of Aramco,” he told the London-based Economist magazine.
He also told the magazine that the government was looking at implementing value-added tax, and would private certain sectors of the economy.
In a marathon interview with US-based news outlet Bloomberg in April 2016, Prince Mohammed discussed the kingdom’s soon-to-be unveiled National Transformation Plan, part of a sweeping package of reforms known as ‘Vision 2030.’
Prince Mohammed told Bloomberg that the kingdom would dramatically expand its Public Investment Fund, a sovereign wealth fund, to reach around $2 trillion in assets. The sale of around 5 percent of Aramco’s shares would be placed into the fund, he added.
“What is left now is to diversify investments,” the crown prince said. “So within 20 years, we will be an economy or state that doesn’t depend mainly on oil.”
A second, even longer interview with Bloomberg later that month, Prince Mohammed expanded further on his plans to transform the kingdom’s economy. The interview also highlighted the prince’s personal life – his long hours, fluency in English, love of reading books by Sun Tzu and British Winston Churchill, and choice to have just one wife.
On April 25, 2016, the Saudi government unveiled Vision 2030, including a series of developmental, economic, and social programs.
The same day, Al Arabiya News Channel aired an exclusive interview with Prince Mohammed. During the interview, the crown prince pledged to end the Saudi economy’s dependence on oil revenues by 2020.
“The kingdom can live in 2020 without any dependence on oil … the Saudi addiction to oil has disturbed development of many sectors in past years,” he told Al Arabiya News Channel’s general manager Turki Aldakhil.
Prince Mohammed also discussed measures to lift subsidies on the kingdom’s wealthy citizens and assist the country’s poor.
The measures, as part of the Saudi Vision for 2030, will be implemented on everyone, “including princes and government ministers,” Prince Mohammed said. “This is a promise.”
Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the son of King Salman, received his education at Riyadh Schools, where he ranked among the top 10 students upon graduation. He received his bachelor’s degree in law from King Saud University, where he graduated second in his class.
Before pursuing a career in public service for the kingdom, Prince Mohammed bin Salman gained international experience in corporate governance and international finance.
He began his political career as a consultant to the Experts Commission under the Saudi Cabinet.
On Dec. 15, 2009, Prince Mohammed bin Salman was appointed special advisor to then Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz, who at the time was governor of Riyadh Province. During this period, Prince Mohammed bin Salman was secretary-general of the Riyadh Competitive Council.
He was also a special advisor to the chairman of the Board for the King Abdulaziz Foundation for Research and Archives.
Prince Mohammed bin Salman then became Supervisor of Prince Salman, the Crown Prince’s Office.
In March 2013, by royal decree, Prince Mohammed bin Salman was appointed head of the Crown Prince Court with the rank of minister and special advisor to then Prince Salman. On April 25, 2014, he was appointed as a state minister and member of Cabinet.
His long history of philanthropic initiatives has also earned him many awards.
In 2011, Prince Mohammed bin Salman established the Prince Mohammed bin Salman Foundation, otherwise known as MISK, which enables young Saudis to learn, develop and progress in the fields of business, literature, culture, science and technology, and sociology.