Chapter 10: Saudi Arabias centralized political structure: prospects and challenges
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When King Salman ascended to the throne in 2015, he began centralizing the country's political structure by dismantling the power-sharing dynamic that had long characterized Saudi Arabia's form of governance. The power-sharing dynamic that once allowed members of the royal family and business elites access to power and state contracts ended with a purge in 2017. Curbing the powers of the religious police and cracking down on religious scholars has succeeded in reducing potential pushback from the religious establishment in opposition to the leadership's modernization plans. On the other hand, the kingdom's ambitious plan for a post-oil economy has allowed it to introduce changes that are impacting the economic and social lives of Saudis. The rentier state system which granted citizens access to subsidized services and employment in the public sector is no longer sustainable. As a result, the Saudi leadership moved ahead with introducing value-added tax in 2018, despite earlier assurances that it would not do so. The centralization of political structure allowed the state to implement bold decisions that would have been otherwise hindered by the traditional bureaucracy maintained by former monarchs. By dismantling the power-sharing dynamic and moving towards absolute centralization, the Saudi leadership has been able to transform Saudi Arabia within a short time. The outcome of this centralization, however, has affected the royal family, the religious establishment, the business elite, and the social contract between the state and its citizens, setting the country on a path toward growing regional competition and domestic uncertainty.

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