“Conspicuously quiet” in Saudi Arabia – Nawaf Obaid
Published: April 10, 2011
“Conspicuously quiet” in Saudi Arabia Nawaf Obaid
Uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt have toppled their regimes. Unrest continues in Libya, Bahrain, Yemen, Iraq, Iran, Jordan, Algeria and Oman. Yet the host of the world’s largest energy reserves and the birthplace of Islam, Saudi Arabia, remains conspicuously quiet.
Saudi Arabia shares some characteristics that have been causes for unrest — such as high unemployment among its youth and public-sector corruption — but the kingdom has strengths its neighbors lack. Its strong economy and weak opposition are clear. Less understood in the West is another critical element: a nationalism that has been fostered by and is strongly linked to the monarchy. These qualities make it highly unlikely that the unrest in other Arab countries will spread to the kingdom.
Economically, Saudi Arabia is able to fund projects that satisfy the needs of its growing population. Record revenue from energy exports has been invested in infrastructure and social services. It has spent tens of billions the past several years on universities and other schools, hospitals, rail lines and housing developments. An additional $29.5 billion in financial benefits to poorer Saudis — including help for the unemployed — was recently announced, as were raises for public servants and efforts to mitigate inflationary pressures. Last year, the salaries of all soldiers and military officers were increased.
Nawaf Obaid is senior fellow at the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies, Riyadh.