Riyadh (AFP) – Saudi Arabia on Monday sacked the head of its entertainment authority, state media said, amid a multi-billion dollar drive to turn the conservative kingdom into a culture and entertainment hub.
“Ahmad al-Khatib, chairman of the Saudi General Entertainment Authority has been removed from his position,” the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) tweeted, without giving a reason.
Khatib’s sacking comes in the midst of Crown prince Mohammed bin Salman’s far-reaching reforms that have ended decades-long bans on women driving and cinemas and allowed mixed-gender concerts, despite the risk of a backlash from hardliners.
In February, Saudi Arabia’s General Entertainment Authority announced it would stage more than 5,000 festivals and concerts in 2018, double the number of last year, and pump $64 billion in the sector in the coming decade.
The reform stems partly from an economic motive to boost domestic spending on entertainment as the kingdom reels from an oil slump since 2014.
Saudis currently splurge billions of dollars annually to see films and visit amusement parks in neighbouring tourist hubs like Dubai and Bahrain.
Monday’s development follows a major cabinet reshuffle earlier this month that saw a heavy focus on culture and religion, as the kingdom undergoes a major image overhaul.
This was the second significant government change since the appointment of Prince Mohammed, son of the king, as heir to the region’s most powerful throne.