Khalid Al-Falih - the Saudi Investment Minister/Bloombergby Bloomberg
Saudi Arabia’s former Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih has returned to government, taking on a key new portfolio as the Kingdom seeks to win back foreign investors, according to local newswire, Saudi News Agency.
A series of royal orders created a ministry of investment and appointed Al-Falih to head it. Other royal decrees formed new ministries for tourism and sports.
Abruptly removed last year from his posts as energy minister and Saudi Aramco chairman in the lead-up to the oil giant’s initial public offering, Al-Falih’s dismissal prompted many to believe he had been sidelined.
Al-Falih was the chief architect of the deal that the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries reached with other oil producers including Russia to cut global output.
The former energy minister has a wide network of contacts around the world—a potential asset as the Kingdom struggles to attract foreign direct investment.
Drawing investment from abroad is a key part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s economic transformation plan for the world’s largest oil exporter, which calls for diversifying away from crude and building new industries like mining, tourism and entertainment.
Despite overhauling regulations and smoothing bureaucracy, however, officials have been unable to restore foreign direct investment to levels it reached a decade ago when it was about eight times higher than today.
Al-Falih’s appointment came as part of a flurry of royal orders on Tuesday afternoon. Saudi cabinet reshuffles are not uncommon, with the kingdom’s rulers often announcing a slew of appointments at the same time.
The new appointments also further consolidated responsibilities in the hands of a select few officials, some of them close advisers of Crown Prince Mohammed.