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Is freedom of expression on the rise in Saudi Arabia?

The decision to list 5% of Saudi Aramco’s shares has raised wide criticism from the Saudi public while sheding light on the issue of freedom of expression and disapproval in Saudi Arabia.
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Saudi state-owned Aramco on March 27 appointed Samba Capital to be the adviser on an initial public offering (IPO) that could generate $100 billion, which would be the largest IPO in history. Saudi Minister of Energy, Industrial and Mineral Resources Khalid al-Falih said Aug. 28 that the Aramco IPO is scheduled for early 2018. This shows that the Saudi government turned a blind eye to citizens who expressed their opposition to and concerns about the IPO.

The chairman of the Council of Economic and Development Affairs, Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, announced Jan. 7 the Saudi government’s decision to list 5% of Aramco’s shares. The announcement has raised wide criticism with Saudi economic experts, most prominently among them Barjas al-Barjas, the former analysis consultant at Aramco’s Strategic Planning Department. In a Jan. 17 article, he said the move by the Council of Economic and Development Affairs, chaired by Prince Mohammed, is designed to attract funds as soon as possible. He said that it is unsafe for the future of the Saudi economy and would bring greater risks.

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