February 23rd, 2011
Econintersect: Saudi Arabia has thus far been spared the type of popular discontent that has toppled presidents in Tunisia and Egypt, disrupted Yemen and Bahrain, and brought Libya to the brink of civil war. It seems that King Abdullah wants to keep it that way.
The king has announced immediate measures, including a 15% salary increase for public employees and financial aid for students and the unemployed, totalling $36 billion. He has also announced reprieves for imprisoned debtors. Follow up:
Follow up:There are problems that the $36 billion do not address. From the Financial Times:
The potential for unrest in Saudi Arabia appears to be more from political forces than from economic forces, although unemployment has been a problem, remaining above 10% in spite of economic strength from higher oil prices. From Investment Watch:
Reformists including Prince Talal bin Abdelaziz, the king’s half brother, have called for similar reforms. Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy ruled by consensus among the royal family and in alliance with an austere religious establishment that preaches obedience to the king. The country’s leading clerics have warned against the “evils” of the regional unrest which they say were incited by foreigners to foment instability in Muslim countries.
Hundreds of people have signed up to a Facebook campaign calling for a “day of rage” across Saudi Arabia on March 11, although it is not clear if any protests will materialise. Analysts said the late date suggested that activists wanted to give the government time to introduce reforms, and not a real desire to take to the streets.
“We don’t want money,” a female student from Jeddah said on her Twitter feed. “I want to know that I’ll be protected under a written constitution for the rest of my short life.”
A lawyer wrote that the Saudi people seek “dignity, reform, freedom of expression, transparency, justice, respect, wise governance, not grants’’.