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Saudi Crown Prince’s Past Makes His Vision a Tough Sell Abroad

His plan to open up the economy to the world may be jeopardized by his reputation.
Prince Mohammed
Prince Mohammed

Photographer: Valery Sharifulin/Tass/Getty Images

On Tahlia Street, a busy commercial boulevard in central Riyadh, a rotating digital billboard shows ads for oud fragrance, white boxer shorts, and a glittering diamond watch. Then comes an image of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman seated at a desk, with one of his latest soundbites: “Saudi Arabia plans to spend more in the next 10 years than it has in the past 300.”

The poster went up hours after the prince unveiled new steps to bolster the economy on March 30. These were the latest in a series of initiatives since the beginning of the year that have reminded Saudis who’s in charge of the kingdom. The subliminal message is that any mistakes from the past five years are firmly behind the 35-year-old prince.