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Saudi crown prince consolidates oil sector control

A new committee will manage all hydrocarbons-related affairs

The Saudi cabinet has reviewed and accepted recommendations from the Council of Economic and Development Affairs for the creation of a body to oversee the oil and gas sectors, according to a brief official statement.

The new Higher Committee for Hydrocarbons will be headed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. This means that he now has yet another institution associated with the Saudi economy under his belt.

The crown prince already chairs the supreme council of the state energy giant, Saudi Aramco and the Council of Economic and Development Affairs that recommended the setting up of the latest committee.

According to the official announcement, the new body "will be the responsible agency for all hydrocarbon issues and all matters relating to them". The members of the committee will include the energy, industry and mineral resources minister Khalid al-Falih, as well as the ministers of trade and investment, finance, and economy and planning-along with two other ministers to be appointed by royal decree.

Mohammed bin Salman, in his role as Saudi Arabia's economic supremo, is the architect of Vision 2030. One of the key aims of this highly ambitious plan is to gradually end the kingdom's reliance on oil—or "addiction to oil" as the crown prince described it when he launched his plan in 2016.

As part of these efforts MBS, as he is known, seems intent on ending the privileged and untouchable status enjoyed for decades by the energy sector in general and Saudi Aramco in particular.

The formation of the new hydrocarbons committee implies that future decisions relating to oil and gas affairs in the kingdom will be taken in coordination with other ministries focussing on broad economic development. In this way, the hydrocarbons sector will be required to act in step with the crown prince's vision of reducing the importance of oil in Saudi Arabia's future.

Another goal of Vision 2030 is to boost investment in the Saudi private sector. One of the aims of the hydrocarbons committee could be to ensure that the oil and gas sectors play their part in boosting the non-state economy.

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