Sheikh Saud Nasser Al-Sabah

Published September 11th, 2000 - 02:00 GMT

Sheikh Saud Nasser Al-Sabah, Kuwait’s oil minister and chairman of the board of Kuwait Petroleum Corp. (KPC), has been leading his government’s charge to allow foreign oil majors into the emirate to develop its upstream sector.  

 

In being the most public advocate of the al-Sabah family’s push to open up its oil fields to western firms, Sheikh Saud has butted heads with leading members of the Kuwaiti parliament, who are opposed to the upstream opening on nationalistic grounds and over concerns that individual members of the al-Sabah family will be personally benefiting from foreign involvement in the oil fields.  

 

Sheikh Saud was born on October 3rd, 1944 in Kuwait. In 1968, he completed his education, achieving the status of Barrister-at-Law in London, England. He joined the ministry of foreign affairs' legal department in 1969 and represented Kuwait on a number of committees throughout his career.  

 

Sheikh Saud served as ambassador to Great Britain from 1975 to 1980 while concurrently serving as a non-resident ambassador to Norway, Sweden, and Denmark.  

 

Sheikh Saud was named Kuwait’s information minister in 1992 after serving for 11 years in Washington, as Kuwait’s ambassador to the U.S. Sheikh Saud was a pivotal spokesman for Kuwait in Washington following Iraq’s invasion in 1990. Because of his lengthy service in Washington, he was able to convince his government to allow him to be the chief liaison between the al-Sabah clan and the U.S. government when he became information minister in 1992.  

 

Sheikh Saud was appointed the emirate’s oil minister by Kuwaiti Crown Prince and Prime Minister Sheikh Saad Abdullah al-Sabah in March 1998, following a collective ministerial strategy to head off a vote of no confidence that was to be held by the 50-seat national assembly over a fracas involving Sheikh Saud, the then information minister.  

 

The controversy stemmed from Islamic deputies that accused Sheikh Saud of allowing an oversight by his ministry that resulted in 168 “anti-Islamic” banned books being exhibited in Kuwait's annual book fair. Islamists within the assembly were believed to have mustered sufficient support from other parliamentarians to oust the information minister in what would have been an unprecedented government defeat.  

 

To prevent Sheikh Saud from being expelled, the cabinet resigned in mid-March 1998. Following the resignation, the emir, Sheikh Jaber al-Ahmad Al Sabah, reappointed Crown Prince Sheikh Saad as prime minister and asked him to select a new cabinet.  

 

On March 22nd, 1998 Sheikh Saad announced the new cabinet, which included Sheikh Saud, though this time as head of the oil ministry. Most of the Islamist parliamentarians were furious that Sheikh Saud had been kept in the cabinet, let alone being given one of the key portfolios to oversee.  

 

Sheikh Saud’s move to the oil ministry returned a member of the ruling family to the prime job, following an eight-year gap after Sheikh Ali Khalifa Al-Sabah was forced to resign in 1990. Sheikh Saud replaced Issa al-Mazidi in running the country’s oil industry.  

 

In becoming Kuwait’s oil minister, Sheikh Saud also took over as chairman of the KPC board and earned a seat on the Supreme Petroleum Council (SPC) -- the country's highest oil decision-making authority.  

 

Since coming to office, Shiekh Saud has shown determination to restructure KPC, which was formed in 1980 after the tiny Gulf state fully nationalized its oil industry.  

 

Even more significantly, he took an idea that had been on the backburner within the al-Sabah family – bringing in foreign companies to expand Kuwait’s crude production capacity and ensuring a Western presence that would be a buffer against Iraq – and ran with it.  

 

Backed entirely by the Kuwaiti emir, crown prince and other influential al-Sabahs, Sheikh Saud further developed the concept into what is now known as the Kuwait Project and became the leading player to see that it became a reality. The government had not since Sheikh Ali Kalifa had an oil minister that had the ability and clout to help push through such a controversial concept.  

 

It was his idea to broaden the areas in which international oil firms would be able to operate, beginning with five fields in northern Kuwait, and followed by field development in the west and south. 

 

Sheikh Saud is determined that the upstream opening will take place and his steamrolling approach has drawn much criticism from the national assembly.  

 

On February 29th, the Kuwaiti parliament dealt a severe setback to Sheikh Saud and the al-Sabah clan by putting a firm hold on the $7 billion Kuwait Project. 

 

Opposition parliamentarians were successful in getting a quickly drafted resolution passed that demanded that the government not forge any sort of deals with foreign oil firms before parliament passes a law on the issue and that it is in line with article 152 of the constitution. Despite these delays, conventional wisdom is that there will be an eventual opening of Kuwait’s prized sector.  

( oilnavigator )  

© 2000 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)

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