The choice of a veteran oil industry executive as Saudi Arabia's new oil minister could signal more pragmatic policies from the world's No.1 exporter of crude. The new minister is Ali al Naimi, currently president of Saudi Aramco, the national oil company that was once dominated by Mobil, Exxon, Texaco, and Chevron. Naimi is a well-regarded career oil man who is expected to be more independent of OPEC and pursue more aggressive, company-oriented policies than his predecessor, Hisham Nazer, a technocrat who has been oil minister since 1987.
Nazer oversaw the increase in Saudi oil pumping capacity to 10 million barrels a day. The Saudis are not likely to increase their production much above the present roughly 8 million. But Saudi Aramco, which recently cut refining deals in Greece and China, will probably gear up for further international expansion under Naimi. In another important change, Muhammad Ali Aba al-Khail, the long-serving Finance Minister, is also stepping down. He will be replaced by Suleiman bin Abdel Aziz al Sulaim, who has been Commerce Minister.