Following 20 years of service, Saudi Arabia has fired its powerful Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources, Ali al-Naimi. Recognised as one of the oil industry’s most powerful figures, Al-Naimi was often seen as having the ability to singlehandedly control Saudi output and, by extension, the global price of the commodity.
He played a vital role in Saudi Arabia maintaining high levels of production in the face of the gradual and sustained fall in oil prices that started in 2014. However, his dismissal being part of the decision to reverse this policy seems unlikely, as his successor, Khalid al-Falih, is already a member of the inner circle of oil decision making in the country, as well as being chairman of state firm Saudi Arabian Oil Co.
Al-Naimi was often seen as having the ability to singlehandedly control Saudi output and, by extension, the global price of the commodity
Speaking to the The Wall Street Journal, Jason Bordoff, Director of Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy, said: “Khalid al-Falih has been a key part of the team making these decisions for many years”, and therefore his appointment “represents a continuation of the path they’ve been on.”
At 80 years old, Al-Naimi had already hinted at his wish to retire in the near future. The minister’s dismissal from his role – which he has held since 1995 – also comes amid a wider ministerial reshuffle. His own ministry has also been restructured to become the Ministry of Energy, Industry and Mineral Resources. The broadening of the ministries portfolio should allow Saudi Arabia to better coordinate a joint strategy on both domestic energy and oil exports.