WASHINGTON, United States, Feb 28 – Saudi Arabia’s crown prince says the anti-corruption drive launched late last year is the “shock therapy” his kingdom needs to root out widespread graft.
“You have a body that has cancer everywhere, the cancer of corruption. You need to have chemo, the shock of chemo or the cancer will eat the body,” Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told the Washington Post in an interview published Tuesday night.
“The kingdom couldn’t meet budget targets without halting this looting,” he said.
In the latest move for change, a dramatic shake-up announced in royal decrees late Monday saw top brass, including the chief of staff and heads of the ground forces and air defence, replaced and a broad defence reform plan approved. The government bureaucracy is also to be overhauled.
The crown prince said the shake-up announced by his ageing father, King Salman, was aimed at installing “high energy” people who could achieve modernization targets. “We want to work with believers,” the crown prince told the US paper.
The changing of the military guard came just a month shy of the third anniversary of the launch of a Saudi-led intervention to fight Iran-backed Huthi rebels in Yemen.
Prince Mohammed has been the main driver of the once-staid kingdom’s more aggressive regional push since he took over as defence minister in early 2015.
But despite a multi-billion dollar military campaign, the coalition has failed to defeat the Huthis in a conflict that the United Nations says has created the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
The war’s failures have exposed the limitations of Saudi Arabia’s military might and accelerated the need to reform what is seen as a sclerotic military establishment.