A lost year in Saudi Arabia

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Apr 4th 2020

BEIRUT

THE YEAR had got off to a good start for Saudi Arabia. After a sluggish stretch the non-oil economy was growing, and officials were eager to lure new investment. The war in neighbouring Yemen seemed to be winding down. The world had largely moved on from the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a journalist dismembered by Saudi agents in 2018. And the kingdom was set to host the G20 summit in November.

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Lately, though, things have not gone to plan. Muhammad bin Salman, the crown prince and de facto ruler, locked up several princes and scores of civil servants in March. Then he started an oil-price war that sent crude to its lowest level since 2003. The plunge upset not only Russia, its target, but also friends from Abu Dhabi to Washington. And now covid-19 has frozen the Saudi economy and left it with lakes of unwanted oil. Far from being a year to charm diplomats and woo investors, 2020 may leave the kingdom in a deeper economic and diplomatic hole.

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