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Saudi King Fires Utilities Minister Amid Outrage Over Price Hikes

by VOA News April 24, 2016

King Salman of Saudi Arabia has fired the country's water and electricity minister following massive public backlash over a price hike on utilities.

The move Saturday comes less than six months after the government cut subsidies on water, electricity and other utilities.

Abdullah al-Hussayen will be replaced by Abdel Rahman al-Fadhli, Saudi Arabia's current agriculture minister.

The Saudi government announced the steep cut in utility subsidies in December as oil prices dropped around the world and it needed to rein in spending.

Anger at rising water prices

As prices of water began to rise, Saudis became increasingly vocal on social media about their displeasure, and the Consumer Protection Association asked the government to rethink its decision.

In March, Hussayen responded to the public outcry by instructing citizens to get permits and dig their own wells to offset the rising water bills. Earlier this month, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman called the ministry's decision to raise utilities prices "unsatisfactory."

"Now, we are working diligently on reforms within the water ministry so that things will be in accordance with the agreed plan," he said in an interview with Bloomberg, though he did not provide further details.

The oil-dependent country is attempting to diversify its economy, which currently relies on oil for about 70 percent of state revenues, and Prince Mohammed is set to announce plans for a post-oil future during an event Monday.

Some material for this report came from AFP.

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