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Saudi king sacks utilities minister amid anger over prices

Sacked Saudi Electricity and Water Minister Abdallah al-Hussein [AFP]

Date of publication: 24 April, 2016

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Saudi Arabia's King Salman has ordered the dismissal of the country's water and electricity minister amid escalating public anger over reduced subsidies on electricity, water and other services.

The king of Saudi Arabia has sacked the country's water and electricity minister, Abdallah al-Hussein, amid public anger over price hikes, state media reported.

King Salman issued a decree on Saturday ordering his dismissal and replacement in the interim by Agriculture Minister Abdel Rahman al-Fadli, said the official SPA news agency.

His removal comes after the government reduced subsidies on electricity, water and other services.

In March, the Arab News daily reported that Hussein had called on citizens to get permits to dig their own wells in the face of increasing complaints about high water bills.

The minister also said the majority of people would not be affected by the hike in price, which is among the cheapest in the world, and that half of consumers would not pay more than one riyal per day ($0.2).

Residential users have long enjoyed cheap water as part of lavish social welfare benefits provided by the government.

"Everyday Saudis don't know how to calculate their water consumption. This has led to huge bills, which in some cases are around 30 percent of their income," financial analyst Fahad al-Rabiah told The New Arab at the time.

"Pretty soon many people will be late to pay their bills, which will put more financial strain on the Kingdom."

The daily per capita consumption of water in Saudi Arabia stands at 380 litres, well above the global average of 160 to 180 litres per day.

The Kingdom ranks third after the United States and Canada in terms of average daily water consumption, despite the scarcity of water and the difficulty in desalinating and delivering it to consumers.

In December, a series of unprecedented reforms were adopted in the desert kingdom, which has been hit hard by the steep fall in global oil prices over the past two years.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is seen as the architect of the reforms, is to set announce on Monday a programme aimed at diversifying an economy that depends on oil for 70 percent of state revenues.

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