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The hyper-dynasty
The Guardian
December 29, 2012

Saudi Arabia`s King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud (C) arrives at a hospital in Riyadh November 19, 2010. REUTERS

Saudis are encouraged to shop and pray, but not to think. By Ian Black: After the Sheikhs: The Coming Collapse of the Gulf Monarchies by Christopher M Davidson 298pp, Hurst, pounds 29.99 The Islamic Utopia: The Illusion of Reform in Saudi Arabia by Andrew Hammond 269pp, Pluto, pounds 17.99

It is almost 40 years since the publication of Fred Halliday`s landmark book Arabia without Sultans. Now, in the wake of the Arab spring, another young British academic has written an important account of prospects for the Gulf region, calling his study After the Sheikhs. Both titles contain a strong element of wishful thinking. But Christopher Davidson takes a punt on collapse coming soon.

Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Oman form a distinct group. (Poverty-stricken republican Yemen is in a miserable category of its own.) Three of the six monarchies enjoy vast oil or gas reserves and enormous wealth; all have anachronistic political structures that have shown the strain as change has blown through the Middle East and North Africa. The rich ones have thrown money at the problem, but the underlying fractures remain.

Davidson argues that the emirs, kings and sheikhs (only Oman still has a sultan) have survived for so long because they have grafted seemingly modern institutions on to traditional power bases. Loyalty has been bought in exchange for stability and the generous provision of services - though spending cannot be sustained indefinitely at current levels. There`s no taxation and little or no representation. Deference, religion and western greed have helped keep critics at bay and the status quo in place.

Orientalist special pleading doesn`t get a look in. This is an unsentimental story of hard-nosed political calculation, conspicuous consumption (the UAE is the world`s biggest consumer of scotch), opaque budgets and sovereign wealth funds that hoover up assets such as Harrods and the Emirates Stadium. Sporting events such as Bahrain`s Formula One race and the Qatar World Cup are good for the brands - even if it means the squandering of resources. “Heart-beguiling Araby” it ain`t.

Away from the glittering skyscrapers and monster shopping malls the social consequences are grim. Rentier economies provide mostly tiny and young populations with undemanding government jobs that are a recipe for boredom, while expats from the Indian subcontinent and the Philippines do the hard graft.

Nowhere in the Gulf is there state repression on the scale of Syria or Gaddafi`s Libya, but rising expectations and the spread of social media have created new possibilities for protest. Kuwait has the highest rate of smartphone use in the world. Democracy activists in Bahrain have used Google Earth to reveal vast palaces hidden from public view. Anonymous Saudi Twitter accounts tell tales of royal corruption. Still, technology is only a tool: governments can invent catchy hashtags and royal Facebook pages as well as pay foreign advisers and lobbyists. Davidson has an alarming section on Gulf sponsorship of academic institutions in Britain and the US.

Like Mubarak or Gaddafi, the rules of some Gulf states (with the exception of tiny, fabulously rich Qatar) play that old favourite, the Islamist card, warning that they are targets of a Muslim Brotherhood conspiracy. Events in Egypt may unfortunately help them deploy that card more effectively.

Davidson catalogues the internal and external pressures that are building up - the looming crisis over Iran`s nuclear programme figures prominently among the latter. But it is not clear how soon they will trigger change or what form it will take. Unless oil and gas prices nosedive, or long-awaited American energy independence arrives faster than anticipated, his two to five-year time-frame for collapse is likely to turn out to be too short.

Zooming in on Saudi Arabia in his book The Islamic Utopia, Andrew Hammond neatly decapitates the argument that the ultra-conservative kingdom (which, it bears repeating, is named after its ruling family) is undergoing a credible reform process. Since the 9/11 attacks, which upset their cosy relationship with the US, the Saudis have claimed to be leading the fight against jihadism and to be responding (cautiously) to demands for change at home. Attention abroad focuses on eye-catching issues such as allowing women to drive - though even if that happens, he argues, it will have no impact, in a country without political parties or a parliament, on the wider issue of the right of citizens to take part in their own governance.

Outside a few “gimmicky” liberal enclaves that are beyond the reach of the morality police, ordinary Saudis are encouraged to shop and pray, but not to think. A “soporific media” does nothing to challenge a status quo in which “untold sums are off budget for defence, mosque expansion and princely usage.”

Hammond combines dense, informed analysis with the rare experience of working as a journalist in “one of the world`s most unusual and enigmatic countries in the most interesting of times” - not easy even for a fluent Arabic speaker. But in a critical appraisal of how the Saudis manage the movements and logistics of the annual hajj, he also describes his own “humbling” experience of the beauty and simplicity of “the Meccan dream of one common humanity”.

But he sees clearly: the Al Saud, he concludes, “are happy to entrap all those who will expend mental energy on their realm in the intricacies of internal debates, Islamists versus liberals, progressive princes versus retrograde clerics and hawks, the Kremlinology of who`s in and who`s out, who`s up and who`s down. But it`s largely a ruse to distract attention from the more fundamental issue of the arbitrary and massive powers of a hyper-dynasty haunted by fear of losing it all.”

© Copyright 2012. The Guardian. All rights reserved.

Saudi monarchy is Un-Islamic!
Saeed Qureshi
The Frontier Post
December 01, 2012

Those who believe that Saudi Arabia has an Islamic system of the government are either mistaken or ill-informed. It is outright a monarchy or kingdom that runs counter to the concept of an Islamic state. Even its name is “Kingdom of Saudi Arabia” missing the world Islamic as we can find in the official name of Pakistan and some other countries. Islam ordains that a caliph as head of an Islamic government is to be chosen by the pious community notables.

A caliph or head of Islamic state is obligated to administer the state affairs with a group of consultants having immaculate character. That system if magnified comes closer to the democratic form of governance of the present times. Religiously, Saudi government is a family dynasty and professes a typical Wahabi or Salafi brand of Islam.

The Islamic State of Medina founded by prophet Hazrat Muhammad (SAW) and later carried forward by four of his illustrious successors offers a veritable and original model of Islam. It survived only for 29 years. Thereafter, it was converted into hereditary monarchy although the head of state was still called a Caliph.

The personal lives of prophet and his associates were austere, simple and embodiment of self-abnegation. They wore simple dresses, ate simple food and did not amass money. They were accountable to the common folks. They dispensed justice in true sense. They were accountable to the community. They drew stipend from the Baitul Mal (treasury) hardly enough for their barest minimum living.

The Islamic authoritarian empire that began with the death of the fourth Rashidun caliph Hazrat Ali in 221AD cleared the way for the rival Muawiyah to lay the foundation of the dynasty (662-743) of Umayyad clan. The Umayyads were succeeded by Abbasids (750-861) and later by a string of other similar Islamic empires (868-1924). But essentially most of these regimes professing to be Islamic were oppressive brutal, family dynasties that survived as long they could hold on to power by sword and military muscle.

The Umayyads converted the pristine Khilafat-e- Rashida into hereditary succession or a form of government that was akin to the Byzantine, Roman or Persian empires. Such autocratic Islamic empires continued for several hundred years in some form or the other.

The last Ottoman Islamic Empire (1517-1924) also ruled over most of the Arab lands including Saudi Arabia. The end of the Ottoman Empire and abolishment of the sultanate and caliphate in March 1924 in modern Turkey founded by Kamal Ataturk marked the end of the religio-political Islamic empires that had begun with Umayyad absolutist dynasty in 622 AD.

The story of Saudi Arabia, however, is different and needs elaboration. The first Saudi state was established in the year 1744 (1157 A.H.) following an alliance between Imam Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahab (religious reformer) and Prince Muhammad ibn Saud (the ruler). Thereafter the Saudi dynasty decreed the observance of Wahabi or Salafi creed of Islam in Saudi Arabia.

Under this Islamic system, such practices believed to be anti-Tauhid (God`s oneness) were abolished and that abolishment is still rigidly enforced in Saudi Arabia. These practices inter alia are seeking solicitation from saints, mystic, deities and spirits against sufferings and bad luck etc. This doctrine prohibits various customs such as visiting and venerating tombs, monuments, graveyards and special mosques. It also decrees it a sin to sanctify trees, caves, stones and similar other places.

In line with the Wahabi theology, the Saudi government has leveled off ancient graveyards where the companions of the prophets and other Islamic icons were buried. The kissing or touching of the outer wall or grill of the prophet`s tomb is forbidden. The diverse customs and traditions that are observed by various Sunni sects as Chishtia, Qadria, Naqshbandia etc and also the mainstream Shia branch, are sternly disallowed as being Unislamic.

Implementing the Wahabi Islam may not be objectionable because, paradoxically, in Iran there is Shia faith that is markedly opposed to the beliefs of various denominations falling under the Sunni category. Rather to uphold the concept of Tauhid is plausible and that is what Islam stands for against idolatry and human shamans (spiritual healers).

Islam exhorts that the Muslims around the world, irrespective of their region, color or ethnicity are one nation with God as the head. In Saudi Arabia there is acute distrust and discrimination about the Muslims from other countries. No external Muslim can settle in Saudi Arabia. The prevailing Saudi political system is repugnant and violation of Islamic faith in terms of being dictatorial and authoritarian. This system suppresses human rights and dignity and discards a civil society.

It concentrates power and wealth in a few hands. In this system there is no accountability through courts and national institutions. In Saudi Arabia, the royal family, sheikhs or heads of tribes are above law. The caliph was answerable in the state of Medina. Now he is a monarch and to criticize him or the royal family is a crime. The freedom of expression is unheard in Saudi Arabia and it is stifled forcefully.

The House of Saud is the ruling royal family of Saudi Arabia for nearly three centuries. The major portion of oil income that runs into billions every year is distributed among the royal family members. Almost all the royal members are literally sitting on mounds of wealth. They have their private banks, their private jets, luxury villas and palaces in fun cities around the world.

Their lavish, regal and extravagant life style defies description and looks like a sheer mockery of the sublime teachings of Islam as practiced by the founder and early disciples.

Saudi Arabia, the abode of Islam has been turned into feudal, tribal and family fiefdom. No one can oppose this loathsome system of monarchy that survives on the accumulation of national wealth in private hands and servitude of its citizens. The land, wealth and resources of Saudi Arabia belong to the people and not 15000 members of the royal family with 2000 as the elite and notables among them.

The religious scholars in other Muslim countries decry the Un-Islamic practices and sinful way of life in their societies but do not censure the Saudi rulers who have usurped power, pelf and wealth and at the same time call themselves as the custodians of Islam or the two mosques.

It is a sheer travesty of Islam that judges the faithful by the level of piety and rectitude and not by their social, political and financial standing. Saudi imperial lords have kept the society backward and enslaved so that there is no challenge to their dynastic hold on power.

The Saudi people live under an orthodox and oppressive system that stifles freedom of expression, blocks modern education and emancipation of women. The conservatism and obscurantism has engulfed that society. The people cannot agitate or protest due to fear of state brutality or else because of lack of realization that they live in subjugation. They cannot form associations for the protections of their rights.

During Khilafat-e-Rashida the ordinary Muslims were free to question the caliphs for their anomalies. Such a question was asked from the second caliph Hazrat Umar by a commoner about the larger size of sheet he was wearing. The ruling royal Saudi family is above any censure of their policies and ownership of national assets and oil revenues.

I shall reproduce below a compelling quotation from Wikipedia that so vividly portrays the mammoth wealth owned by the Royal family members.

“The sharing of family wealth has been a critical component in maintaining the semblance of a united front within the royal family. An essential part of family wealth is the Kingdom in its physical entirety, which the Al Saud views as a totally owned family asset. Whether through the co-mingling of personal and state funds from lucrative government positions, huge land allocations, direct allotments of crude oil to sell in the open market, segmental controls in the economy, special preferences for the award of major contracts, outright cash handouts, and astronomical monthly allowances-all billed to the national exchequer-all told, the financial impact may have exceeded 40% of the Kingdom`s annual budget during the reign of King Fahd. Over decades of oil revenue-generated expansion, estimates of royal net worth is at well over $1.4 trillion. This method of wealth distribution has allowed many of the senior princes and princesses to accumulate largely un-auditable wealth and, in turn, pay out, in cash or kind, to lesser royals and commoners, and thereby gaining political influence through their own largesse.”

In a nutshell the Saudi kingdom is Islamic in name but in practice is clannish dictatorship. The Saudi rulers are averse to democratic institutions, detest religious pluralism, abhor civil society, bar mass education, suppress dissent and keep the society socially and intellectually retrogressive. It is patriarchal government that is at the helm without elections, parliament, independent judiciary and free media.

As Islam enjoins, it has no elected Majlis-Shoora consisting of acknowledged pious and austere people. It looks like a medieval dynasty still embedded in the tribal mold. Saudi Arabia is alienated from it s own people and the rest of the world for not being an enlightened modern Islamic state.

© Copyright 2012. The Frontier Post

Saudi dynasty faces generational choice
Daily Tribune
November 28, 2012

Riyadh Two royal deaths and two cabinet reshuffles in just over a year have edged Saudi Arabia`s ruling family towards a tough decision: turning to a new generation after 60 years of rule by sons of the founding patriarch.

The succession beyond King Abdullah – the fifth of Ibn Saud`s sons to reign and who is, at 89, recovering from major surgery – is a sensitive subject among the Al Saud dynasty`s hundreds of princes; but it will determine the path of the world`s top oil exporter and main Arab ally of the United States as it navigates domestic change and regional turmoil.

“In the next 10 years, there will be great changes in terms of the royal family,” said Editor-in-Chief of the local English-language newspaper the Saudi Gazette Khaled Al Maeena.

“The younger generation will play a role.” Abdullah, not seen in public since an 11-hour back operation last Saturday, has pursued cautious economic and social reforms aimed at reconciling an ultra-conservative Islamic kingdom with the demands of a modern economy and youthful population.

Doctors have said his surgery in Riyadh was successful.

The immediate line of succession is to the crown prince, Prince Salman, born in 1936 and another son of the kingdom`s founding monarch, King Abdulaziz, known as Ibn Saud, who died in 1953. But beyond Salman, there is much less clarity.

In October last year, there had appeared still to be a formidable line-up of half-brothers standing beside King Abdullah as heirs to the conservative Islamic state founded by their father in 1932 after decades of tribal warfare.

Yet 13 months later, the deaths of princes Sultan and Nayef, both of whom had been in turn the designated successor as crown prince, as well as the departures of princes Ahmed and Muqrin from senior posts, have left no obvious heir-apparent after Crown Prince Salman, who was promoted after Nayef died in June.

There is debate as to whether Prince Ahmed might remain the principal contender, but some Saudi analysts and foreign diplomats now think it a possibility that after the death of Abdullah the next crown prince will be a grandson of Ibn Saud.

“I think there is no other alternative to the next crown prince being a grandson of King Abdulaziz,” said Saudi political scientist Khalid Al Dakhil.

Consensus In a system built on the idea that consensus ensures stability, and which prizes both seniority and competence, the sprawling Al Saud clan will have to weigh the balance between the family`s many different branches.

Saudi analysts see the Al Saud as adept at managing the succession process, something a former Western ambassador to Riyadh said they would be especially anxious to do now at a time of democratic ferment, which has felled republican Arab autocrats and pressured some neighbouring monarchs.

“You can bet with the Arab Spring in the background they`ll want to take a decision they can all live with and support,” he said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

However, the generational leap may prove fraught because Ibn Saud`s grandsons – of whom there are hundreds – may fear that if they or their brothers are passed over in favour of cousins, the line of succession will set off down a different branch of the growing family tree, excluding them and their offspring forever.

“It`s very difficult to make the jump to the next generation,” said Madawi Al Rasheed, a London-based critic of the Al Saud and author of “A History of Saudi Arabia”.

“But if there are enough government positions to go around, they can keep them all happy,” Rasheed added.

The family might still chose to postpone the generational shift by elevating to the position of official successor Prince Ahmed, who resigned abruptly in November as interior minister after less than five months in the position.

“It doesn`t rule Prince Ahmed out of the equation. He`s still there,” said a Saudi analyst who spoke anonymously. “He`s still a choice to become crown prince when Salman becomes king.” Another of Ibn Saud`s sons, Prince Muqrin, lost his job as intelligence chief in July and seems less favoured, as do other surviving sons of Ibn Saud`s several wives and concubines.

Unlike typical European monarchies, there is no automatic succession from father to eldest son. Instead the kingdom`s tribal traditions dictate that a new king and senior family members select the heir they consider fittest to lead. The practice of polygamy means they can have a wide choice of sons.

For all the difficulties, little is likely to be heard in public. Any dissent among princes over the succession would only happen in private, said Saudi commentator Jamal Khashoggi.

There may be arguments behind closed doors. But, Khashoggi said: “Then it would be `Long live the King!` and `Long live the Crown Prince!`.” Grandsons King Abdullah set up a family “Allegiance Commission” in 2006 which ensures representation for different branches of Ibn Saud`s descendants and must approve or reject a new king`s choice of heir, if necessary selecting its own candidate.

The commission only comes into effect after Abdullah`s death, but analysts said it in some ways only formalised an existing process of seeking consensus on naming a crown prince.

Even if the Al Saud do elect to move down a generation at the next opportunity there is no guarantee that if Salman`s heir were to be one of his nephews, he would be a much younger man.

Mecca Governor Prince Khaled Al Faisal, one of the leading candidates among the next-generation princes and viewed as a comparative liberal, was born in 1941, making him older than either of his uncles Prince Ahmed or Prince Muqrin.

The grandson with the biggest job, however, is Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, who replaced Ahmed as interior minister this month. The post not only brings control of the kingdom`s formidable security apparatus but formal command over the regional governors, who are all themselves royal princes.

Prince Mohammed was Saudi security chief before becoming minister and earned the plaudits of foreign diplomats and King Abdullah for crushing a domestic al Qaeda wing in recent years. He is seen by local analysts as an astute politician.

At 59, he is roughly a contemporary of his cousins Prince Mohammed bin Fahd, governor of Eastern Province, and Saudi Arabian National Guard commander Prince Miteb bin Abdullah, both also seen as possible future kings.

Other prominent grandsons include Deputy Defence Minister Prince Khaled bin Sultan and Tourism Minister Prince Sultan bin Salman, son of the crown prince and the first Arab in space.

As the ruling dynasty prepares to enter uncharted territory in the years to come, Saudi Arabia`s 28 million people will be following closely the health of their rulers and any further shuffling in the responsibilities of Ibn Saud`s many heirs.

© Copyright 2012 Alayam Newspaper. All Rights Reserved.

Saudi Commentary Urges Synchronized Economic, Political Reform
Arab News Online
Monday, December 24, 2012

Commentary by Khaled al-Dakheel: “What Awaits The Kingdom After The Arab Spring?”

IF the “Arab Spring” has already transformed into a divisive historic line in the landscape of the region, this means that it has come with political variables distinct from what came before it. It has laid the foundations for a new political reality in this region. This reality is still in the making. No one for sure knows on what terms it will stabilize, when the stability will occur and whether it will be short-term or if it will hold in the long run. This is exactly what both those countries that experienced the storm of the “Spring” and those that avoided the storm have in common.

Indeed, both bear the responsibility of recognizing the changes and meeting the requirements in order to grasp the movement of change and avoid finding themselves facing a reality without having the tools to control it.

Compare the Moroccan model, which so far has succeeded in avoiding the storm, with the Syrian model, which has sunk in the maze of the storm. Firmly grasping the movement of change is the responsibility of all Arab countries without any exception. However, what concerns me here is Saudi Arabia, not only because it is my own country and one which I always care about before others, but also because it is a big country and a pivotal player in the Arab world. With its political clout and its economic and historic capabilities, Saudi Arabia is among the most qualified states to catch the movement of change. Saudi Arabia generally is an ethnically and religiously harmonious society.

The history of its emergence goes back to the middle of the 12th Hijri and 18 Gregorian century. This state was established through local dynamics, concepts and tools, both Arabic and Islamic, which means that it is a state that did not arise according to the external conditions and factors and not owing to foreign interests, but in response to local factors and interests. In addition, it is a country that has enjoyed political stability for more than 80 years since its third founding. It is currently enjoying a comfortable economic and financial status, in addition to a favorable regional and international environment. As a result, the political leadership of the Kingdom always senses the significance of its responsibility in front of this legacy, as well as the consequent responsibilities and the interests that come with that responsibility.

The Kingdom was able to overcome the political storms that swept the region since the beginning of the last century until now. However, the “Spring” storm is different in nature and size from all earlier storms and requires a different approach. The former storms were all related to regional conflicts and their international extensions. The “Spring” storm is of local origin and has local goals. It relates solely to the local political relations of each Arab country. Therefore, the most important variables that set this “Spring” in motion are related to the concept of the Arab state, its nature and its relationship with its people. Also, it is related to the rights of its people before the requirements of its foreign relations. This means that this storm seeks to put an end to the political nature of the state since its modern inception after the World War I.

This country was founded at the time on the basis of a single political principle that encompassed many elements. In essence, the relationship between the state and its people is a relationship with one direction, from the leadership to the people. This was favorable in the social and political conditions half a century ago or more. Then came the “Spring” storm to announce that circumstances had changed. It shook the old concept implying that its political validity had expired. There is no longer any argument about whether this relationship should change. The argument now should be about how this change should occur. If fixing the system before the “Spring” became a demand of the Arab world, it became an unavoidable regional reality after the “Spring.” It will not be prudent to underestimate its implications, and if the aim of change is one of them, the method of accessing this change is not the same in all the Arab countries.

What should Saudi Arabia do in such circumstances? The excellent success of the Kingdom in dealing with the previous storms should be considered, as I mentioned, and a great achievement; however, it carries with it great responsibilities. Foremost, this success should be a source of confidence in its ability to move the concept of the state from the basis on which it was founded at the beginning of the 20th century to what it must be by now. Here again I am referring to the words of the founder, King Abdulaziz bin Abdulrahman, to the writer Amin Al-Rihani in the twenties of the last century in Riyadh: “We build as our predecessor did, and do more than what they did”

It is not possible here to deal with all the reform files, which are well-known files to the leadership of the country and are under its attention. Interest in addressing concerns of the financial and living conditions of citizens is an important and urgent step, but limiting ourselves to these concerns only will leave an impression that the Saudi people are not interested in their political rights, and accordingly, the state is not interested in those rights either. Yet it is not as it apparently seems, neither from the people nor from the government. Thus, this concern should be only the first step toward giving priority to addressing the immediate and most pressing issues, such as unemployment, housing and standard of living. This is to be followed by other steps of reform dealing with political issues, such as elections, representation, the separation of powers, activation of the Allegiance Commission, freedom of expression, the independence of the judiciary, and making all people equal before the law, etc.

The necessity of political and constitutional reform is due to the fact that the positive impact in people`s economic reforms, especially financial, is usually temporary because of the variable nature of their economic and social circumstances. Increase in salaries, for example, or secure housing projects, or the unemployment allowance and its impact on the people will diminish in one year at the most due to its association with factors such as inflation, changing lifestyles and needs, and the steady increase in the number of people, and so on. The positive impact of the political reforms, particularly the constitutional reforms, remains for decades, because these reforms, before anything else, are concerned with the promotion of the durability of the state institutions, and support the political stability in the current phase that the region is passing through. Perhaps it is clear that the economic reforms associated with the political and constitutional reforms are the best option, because it reinforces the strength of the relationship between the state and the society, and provides them with a sustainable institutional foundation, based on the fact that the state and the people are the two main parties of the equation of the political process in the community.

Of the political steps needed is the addressing of the booming bureaucratic growth in the state in recent decades, as well as the survival of a central decision in the state and the impact of this bureaucracy on the government`s performance in managing the daily affairs of the state.

The other step is activating the elite recycling system and getting rid of the phenomenon of the survival of the high-ranking officials (or at least some of them) who have been in office for decades. However, before that should come the activation of the Allegiance Commission to secure and fortify the process of the transfer of power on a solid legal basis. This is a law which is unanimously accepted in its current form and it is important to achieve this under the leadership and sponsorship of the first generation, which enjoys power, prestige and acceptance from everyone.

The third step is to begin a phased expansion of the powers of the Shoura Council, and its gradual conversion to the elected legislature authority. All these steps require constitutional amendments to open the door to separate the powers of the State and moving the Kingdom to enter a new constitutional stage integrated with the above-mentioned factors, and finally to move them to the requirements of the new phase.

The previous steps represent the constitutional and political framework for further steps to complement the initiated administrative and economic reforms, such as addressing the issue of unemployment, foreign workers, and the phenomenon of corruption.

The prevalence of this phenomenon to insofar as the king was forced to create an anti-corruption body means that the state has become for some a booty and a legal framework to achieve personal benefits, and not just legal, political and moral responsibility.

Then follows the importance of giving priority to the issue of diversification of income sources so as to put an end to the fact that became known to all, which is that after more than 60 years, oil still constitutes more than 80 percent of the Saudi national income. As a result, we have become hostage to an odd equation: State revenues are doubling, productivity is going down, unemployment rates are rising, education is falling far shorter of what is expected of it and the numbers of foreign workers are rising.

In short, a synchronized economic and political reform is the only option for the Kingdom to cope with the requirements of this stage, the completion of its development, the consolidation of the foundations upon which it was established and to support the political stability it has enjoyed over the past eight decades. The Kingdom deserves all that and more.

(Description of Source: Jedda Arab News Online in English -- Website of Saudi English-language daily; part of the Saudi Research and Publishing Group which owns Al-Sharq al-Awsat. URL:

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