King Abdullah is taking preemptive action in an attempt to quell any future unrest in Saudi Arabia by announcing $10.7 billion in pay raises, job creation and loan forgiveness. This Al-Jazeera article reports on this new initiative announced as Abdullah returned to the kingdom after 3 months away for medical treatment. As part of this plan, state employees will receive a raise of 15% and money will be made available for housing loans. While unrest is not expected to occur, the country has issues with high unemployment rates and housing. Only time will tell if these newly announced benefits can improve the life of the average Saudi.
Hisham Kassem, an Egyptian newspaper publisher and longtime human rights advocate, said of the Arab leaders, “They are definitely scared, but it’s typical how they always try to use these summits in order to secure their regimes as opposed to develop their countries.” Mr. Kassem added, “It is definitely a wake-up call, and they’re definitely terrified and they’re finally grasping.”
That quote comes from this New York Times article about the ongoing Arab League Summit. Arab states are meeting to discuss what led to revolt in Tunisia, and how to prevent the Tunisian actions from appealing to denizens of other states. It is hard to sum up the article properly, and the article is filled with great quotes, but I’ll try to give the big picture: regimes in these states generally maintain control in one of two ways: be oppressive or buy your people off with oil wealth. There appears to now be a crisis of confidence, spurred on by Tunisia and Hillary Clinton’s speech last week, where the Arab leaders are wondering if they are doing enough.
This Al Jazeera article details work at the Arab League Summit to give Arab economies a boost. The cynic in me wants to say that it is typical for the Arab League to decide something vague, like to improve their economies rather than do the opposite, but there are a few specifics to the plan.
Thamer al-Anni, an Arab League official said a special fund would be set up within weeks, after a two-year wait to operate as a bank that provides short and medium-term loans to young Arabs who want to start small businesses.
The various states are alarmed by the economic factors that drove the Tunisian revolt, and agree that no member state wants to encounter a similar fate. Less developed countries will be the focus of special programs, but citizens of all countries can expect a little TLC from their governments as a result of the Tunisians.
Article suggesting that increased competition will lead to job increases, among other economic benefits for the Middle East. The article briefly touches on Tunisia’s workforce as an exception–an interesting follow-up to Professor Prince’s lecture this past week.
The International Monetary Fund has announced components of its forecast for the Middle East. As Al Jazeera relates, job diversity is critical in improving what the IMF already predicts to be positive growth in the coming years. This comes as no surprise, as many of the Gulf states have known for a while now that they need more dynamic economies to ensure long term prosperity.