Kemp: The Saudi Oil Enigma



Kemp: The Saudi Oil Enigma
Almost nothing is known about how Saudi Arabia's rulers reach decisions on political and economic reform, foreign policy and oil market strategy, according to Kemp.

John Kemp is a Reuters market analyst. The views expressed are his own

Reuters

LONDON, Oct 14 (Reuters) - "I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia. It is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma," Winston Churchill told his listeners in a radio broadcast in October 1939.

Much the same can be said about Saudi Arabia - one of the most compulsively secretive countries in the world at the start of the 21st century.

Almost nothing is known about how the kingdom's rulers reach decisions on political and economic reform, foreign policy and oil market strategy (or indeed about anything else).

Outsiders are strongly discouraged from enquiring into matters of long-term policy and how decisions are made.

The kingdom's rulers have a communications strategy, reaching out privately to friendly journalists, analysts and other opinion formers.

But for the most part it is deployed to shut down discussion and speculation they consider unhelpful rather than to convey or explain the context for long-term policy and strategy decisions.

In almost 20 years of writing about oil markets and the Middle East I have not come across anyone who could consistently offer a deep insight into the government's policymaking.


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