contents
Your weekly briefing on the state of 
humanity
SEE ALL ISSUES
EDITOR'S LETTER
Our world this week
NEWS FEATURE 1
Donald Trump the Democrat
NEWS FEATURE 2
Is the bitcoin bubble about to burst?
NEWS FEATURE 3
Israel’s house of cards
NEWS FEATURE 4
Italy: the last litmus test for European populism?
www.theguardian.com
Trump in Moscow: what happened at Miss Universe in 2013
www.middleeasteye.net
The smuggler and the refugee: Bullets, beatings and babies crying
www.bbc.co.uk
The world's least likely Girl Guides

Saudi king goes on Asian investment tour

Saudi Economy
See 6 more
Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz (L) inspects a ceremonial guard of honour during a welcoming ceremony at Parliament House in Kuala Lumpur on February 26, 2017.
MANAN VATSYAYANA/AFP/Getty Images
Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz (L) inspects a ceremonial guard of honour during a welcoming ceremony at Parliament House in Kuala Lumpur on February 26, 2017.
A ccompanied by an entourage of up to 1,500 people and 459 tons of luggage and equipment, the Saudi monarch this week kicked off his monthlong trip to Asia in Malaysia and Indonesia. A range of deals were soon signed, including one in which Saudi oil giant Aramco bought a $7 billion stake in a major refinery project in Malaysia.
“As both an investor as well as a target for investments, Saudi Arabia will increasingly turn to the Asian economies,” says Gary Grappo, a former US ambassador who was stationed in Saudi Arabia in the past, adding that Asian countries were likely to account for the biggest share of Saudi oil exports. 
The ultra-conservative kingdom last year launched Vision 2030, an economic transformation plan spearheaded by Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. At its core lie a planned reduction of Saudi Arabia’s dependency on oil and an opening to foreign capital. Market observers anticipate the partial privatisation of Saudi Aramco, in what could turn out to be the largest initial public offering in history. 
However, gaining external support for Vision 2030 is only one part of the equation, as Saudi officials acknowledge that much will hinge on approval at home. The kingdom’s “religious establishment objects to certain aspects of Vision 2030 such as the empowerment of women, sports and entertainment,” Giorgio Cafiero, co-founder of Gulf State Analytics, told The World Weekly, noting that tensions could undermine efforts to diversify the economy. 
NOTE
The modern state of Saudi Arabia has its roots in an alliance between the al-Saud family and the the ultra-conservative Wahhabi movement forged in 18th century central Arabia. The latter’s interpretation of Sunni Islam is Saudi Arabia’s official religion until today, and has spread around many parts of the Muslim world due to Saudi funding.
Ambassador Grappo told TWW the most important stop of the Asia tour will be in China in mid-March. “The Saudis see China as a growing global economic superpower and want to ensure its economic relationship with China continues,” Mr. Grappo said, while cautioning that Beijing could not - and did not wish to - replace the US as “Saudi Arabia’s most important strategic ally”. 
Asia’s economic transformation over the last 25 years might hold clues for Riyadh’s own vision, the former US diplomat concluded.
Manuel Langendorf
The World Weekly
02 March 2017 - last edited 02 March 2017