Back on 20th May 2017 I wrote how Saudi Arabia’s manic overspending on Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s runaway industrialisation programme, its over-the-top arms purchases, and the huge sums it is spending on its wildly over-ambitious foreign policy, are setting the scene for Saudi Arabia’s eventual bankruptcy.
I also said that the degree to which all sense of reality has been lost is shown by the extraordinary $68 million Saudi Arabia spent on welcoming US President Trump.
That sum has now been capped by the extraordinary $100 million that Saudi King Salman – the doting father of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman – is reported to be spending on his summer holiday in Tangier Morocco.
The Israeli newspaper Haaretz – exceptionally well-informed as it is about events in the Middle East – provides this description
King Salman of Saudi Arabia has a preferred vacation site – Tangier, Morocco. At the end of July he landed at the local airport, was received with pomp by the prime minister, settled into his 74-acre estate and housed his entourage in the city’s most expensive hotels.
Over 1,000 people including ministers, advisers, relatives, security people and associates landed with Salman. About 800 hotel rooms were reserved, 200 cars were leased (in addition to the vehicles the king brought with him) and the finest catering companies were brought on board. The month-long vacation is expected to cost more than $100 million.
That’s apparently the most expensive “all-inclusive package” ever. You probably shouldn’t plan a trip to Tangier this month, especially if you plan to go around by car.
It seems that the Saudi King’s spending on his holiday is so prodigious that it is actually having a discernible effect on Morocco’s economy, accounting for 1.5% of Morocco’s entire tourist revenue this year in a country where tourism at 12.5% of GDP is the second biggest sector of the economy.
A word of caution is in order. King Salman is not holidaying in Tangier by himself. As the Haaretz report shows he taking most of the Saudi court with him.
In fact the annual summer holiday of the Saudi King and his court is a regular feature spoken of in awe in Mediterranean resorts. The previous Saudi King but one – King Fahd – was also notorious for his gargantuan summer holidays, which he was in the habit of spending in his huge palace complex in Marbella Spain. King Fahd’s summer holidays in Marbella were at least as lavish as the holiday King Salman is now enjoying in Tangier.
Even King Salman’s supposedly austere predecessor King Abdullah maintained a huge summer holiday complex in Casablanca in Morocco, consisting of several mansions and two heliports in an estate spread out over 133 acres.
A particular feature of these annual summer holidays by the Saudi King and his court, which goes unmentioned by Haaretz but which has been publicly written about on earlier occasions, is that they also provide a large annual summer boost to the London escort industry, with the Saudis placing large orders for female companions for the men of the court on holiday with the King.
If King Salman’s holiday in Morocco simply continues what has become a tradition for Saudi monarchs, it nonetheless still sits strangely with the impression of modernity that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is currently trying to convey.
It is also an especially strange thing to do this year – especially when done on this scale – given that this is supposed to be for Saudi Arabia a time of austerity when because of the collapse in oil prices Saudi Arabia’s finances are under strain.
Suffice to say that Saudi Arabia is still running a large budget deficit despite the modest revival in oil prices this year, whilst Saudi Arabia’s foreign currency reserves are continuing to shrink at an extraordinary rate, falling by a third from $730 billion in 2014 to $493 billion now.
Given that the Saudis have also recently had to take action to crush violent protests against their rule – according to some reports a fully-fledged armed insurrection in the predominantly Shiite town of Awamiya had to be violently suppressed earlier this month – it also seems a needlessly provocative thing to do, all the more so as some of the protests have almost certainly been provoked by the austerity measures the Saudis have recently taken to rein in their budget deficit.
It seems however that King Salman is oblivious to all of this. Like Saudi rulers before him he apparently continues to think of his country’s wealth as essentially his family’s property, to be disposed of by him as the head of the family as he pleases.
This can however only reinforce the impression previously given by the Saudis’ over-the-top reception of President Trump, that all connection to reality is being lost.