Saudi King replaces utilities minister amid public anger

Sunday 24/04/2016
Record increase in prices

RIYADH - The king of Saudi Arabia has sacked the country's water and electricity minister, Abdullah al-Hussayen, amid public anger over price hikes, state media reported.

King Salman issued a decree on Saturday ordering his dismissal and replacement in the interim by Agriculture Minister Abdel Rahman al-Fadli, said the official SPA news agency.

His removal comes after the government reduced subsidies on electricity, water and other services.

In March, the Arab News daily reported that Hussayen had called on citizens to get permits to dig their own wells in the face of increasing complaints about high water bills.

And earlier this month the newspaper said that the advisory Shura Council "appeared unconvinced" when its members grilled Hussayen and his officials about the bills.

In December, a series of unprecedented reforms were adopted in the desert kingdom, which has been hit hard by the steep fall in global oil prices over the past two years.

Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is seen as the architect of the reforms, is to set announce on Monday a programme aimed at diversifying an economy that depends on oil for 70 percent of state revenues.

But Prince Mohammed told Bloomberg News in an interview this month that the ministry's implementation of the new water tariff was "unsatisfactory".

"Now, we are working diligently on reforms within the water ministry so that things will be in accordance with the agreed plan," the prince has said, without elaborating.