Days after the International Monetary Fund gave a warning that Saudi Arabia may become bankrupt by 2020 if the government maintains its current policies, comes a report that a family revolt could bring down the House of Saud.
Quoting a dissident prince, London newspaper Independent said eight of the 12 surviving sons of Saudi Arabia’s founding monarch King Ibn Saud are planning to replace King Salman, 79, the country’s ailing ruler, with his 73-year-old brother Prince Ahmed bin Abdulaziz, a former interior minister.
According to the prince, who cannot be named for security reasons, such a leadership change is also favored by the kingdom’s religious leaders called the Ulama.
“The Ulama and religious people prefer Prince Ahmed – not all of them, but 75%,” said the prince, himself a grandson of King Ibn Saud.
In September, the prince had written letters to the royal family seeking a leadership change over falling oil prices, lapses in managing Mecca that resulted in a stampede at Mina killing at least 2,200 haj pilgrims and the proxy war in Yemen.
In his letter, he also said the uneasiness in the royal family started after King Salam appointed his favorite son, Mohammed bin Salman, 30, to the novel post of Deputy Crown Prince in April.
“Either the King will leave Saudi Arabia, like King Saud, and he will be very respected inside and outside the country,” the prince told The Independent.
“Alternatively, Prince Ahmed will become Crown Prince, but with control of and responsibility for the whole country – the economy, oil, armed forces, national guard, interior ministry, secret service, in fact everything from A to Z.”
In 1964, King Saud was deposed after a long power struggle, when the majority of senior royal family members and the Kingdom’s religious establishment spoke with one voice and withdrew their support.
There are concerns over King Salman’s faculties – he is reported to be suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.
Prince Mohammed has become so powerful that all papers and phone calls to King Salman pass through him
On the other hand, Prince Ahmed, the man most favoured by the royal family to take over the throne, wants to bring in positive changes like freedom of thought, judicial reforms and release of all political prisoners who do not have any terror links, the dissident prince said.
According to him, Ahmed is healthy, religious and leads a clean life. He holds a Master’s degree in political science and loves nature.
The Saudi embassy in London did not respond to a request by the newspaper for comment on the views expressed by the dissident prince.
Earlier this week, the International Monetary Fund warned that Saudi Arabia may run out of financial assets within the next five years if the government maintains its current policies, warns the International Monetary Fund.
Saudi Arabia is expected to run a budget deficit of 21.6 percent in 2015 and 19.4 percent in 2016, according the IMF’s latest regional economic outlook .
The country needs to adjust spending, the IMF urged.
The IMF outlined two key factors shaping the region’s outlook. They are spreading and deepening regional conflicts and slumping oil prices.
The conflicts have given rise to large numbers of displaced people and refugees, on a scale not seen since the early 1990s, according to the report.
“Achieving fiscal sustainability over the medium-term will be especially challenging given the need to create jobs for the more than 10 million people anticipated to be looking for work by 2020 in the region’s oil exporting countries,” IMF Middle East and Central Asia Department Director Masood Ahmed told journalists after the report’s unveiling in Dubai.
According to the research, many experts suggest low oil prices will remain in place for the foreseeable future.
“For the region’s oil exporters, the fall in prices has led to large fall in revenue, amounting to a staggering $360 billion this year alone,” Masood Ahmed said.