Traditionally, the House of Saud was ruled by a conservative gerontocracy that kicked many pressing issues down the road in order to avoid upsetting the status quo. Under the new, thirty-two year-old crown prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS), Saudi is finally tackling many of these issues, such as countering religious extremism, empowering women, and reforming economic subsidies, head-on. MbS’s “charm offensive” is designed to tell the US that the Kingdom is open for business. He wants to encourage American investment and personally connect with titans of industry and finance. FTSE Russell’s decision to grant Saudi Arabia emerging market status is an example of this break with the past; the crown prince instituted the regulations necessary to earn this status, something the Saudi bureaucracy should have done ten-to-fifteen years ago. The crown prince has begun tempering the religious establishment and softening the influence of the Kingdom’s religious right on daily life. This is a process that will take some time. MbS’s reforms have local support but there is also resistance from some in the royal family, the religious class, and the business community. He has, so far, been able to overwhelm this resistance and “steamroll” his reforms through.

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