RIYADH, Saudi Arabia, Dec 13, (Agencies): Saudi King Salman delivered a speech on Wednesday outlining his government’s priorities for the coming year, urging citizens to support economic reforms and the government’s anti-corruption drive.
In early November, the king’s son and heir, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, oversaw the unprecedented arrest of top princes, businessmen and officials allegedly involved in corruption. Many have agreed to pay undisclosed sums in exchange for their release. “We are determined to confront corruption fairly and firmly,” the king said.
The king, 81, delivered his annual 7-minute-long speech before the consultative Shura Council. Also in attendance were the crown prince and Saudi Arabia’s top cleric, Grand Mufti Abdulaziz Al Sheik. The crown prince, backed by his father, has pushed through a number of dramatic social reforms this year, including a decision to allow women to drive next year, lifting a ban on movie theaters and granting girls access to physical education and sports in public schools.
These are all moves that had been criticized in the past by the grand mufti and other ultraconservative Saudi clerics. King Salman emphasized in his speech that Saudi Arabia will not contradict the principles of its faith as it “moves forward on the path of development and modernization.” His speech comes as the country prepares to distribute cash assistance to low-income families as part of a new welfare system ahead of more subsidy cuts to drive down government costs in the face of sustained lower oil prices.