Author: Dr. Abdul Ruff
Like the rulers of other countries, the Muslim rulers all over the world have a prime responsibility for making Islam humanity religion by undertaking plans to help the poor.
What is the point in having huge national wealth abundant resources, when people starve and suffer without basics facilities?
Arab nations are surging ahead with tall buildings, huge private and state wealth, but their own people do not have sufficient back ups.
Home to the world’s largest proven oil reserves, Saudi Arabia in West Asia produces more oil than any other Arab country. Saudi is competed only by Russia in oil production.
Riyadh has the largest economy in the Arab world with a GDP of $745 billion. Saudi oil revenues which accounts for 90 percent of government revenue have been falling- —fell by 9 percent, Saudi economic growth declined significantly last year. However, the rich continue to thrive.
Saudi poverty and unemployment has been a serious issue for years now and the kingdom has not taken any serious steps to reduce, if not remove completely, the poverty-unemployment levels.
Even the sharp social spending increases announced by the monarchy after the mass working class uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt failed to make a significant dent in Saudi poverty and unemployment.
Amid increasing political tensions throughout the Middle East, Saudi Arabia inclusive, Finance Ministry of Saudi kingdom announced its 2014 budget of 855 billion riyals (US$228 billion) last month.
The IMF has warned that the Saudi budget could fall into deficit by 2016. While it still has a public reserve fund of about $700 billion, the leveling-off of oil production will force it to dip into these reserves if it does not begin to slash spending.
Though the kingdom has not yet announced any cuts, the projected 2014 budget may already result in public sector salary cuts; recurring expenditures could be cut by 1.5 percent.
Arabs promote capitalism and, in doing so, also aid the imperialist forces. US diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks shed some light on income of Saudi royal family. In the 1990s, a handful of Saudi princes skimmed off the income from the sale of up to 1 million barrels of oil per day. Thousands of other members of the royal family received large stipends.
Notwithstanding vast oil wealth, an estimated one-quarter of the Saudi population lives in poverty. Between 2 million and 4 million Saudi citizens are believed to be living on less than $530 a month. Total unemployment rose from 10.5 percent in 2009 to 12.1 percent at the end of 2012.
About 70 percent of the Saudi population is younger than 30, and youth unemployment has stubbornly remained at roughly 30 percent for over a decade. Unemployment is highest among women, at 35 percent.
Liberal migration policy of Saudi kingdom has increased foreign workers in many folds year after year. Despite Saudi Arabia’s huge petrodollars from oil sales, it has long faced enormous social inequality among Saudi citizens, and between Saudi citizens and the vast number of foreign workers, largely from Asia, that now constitute one third of the population.
The 2014 budget represents an increase of only 4.3 percent over the previous year, making it the smallest increase since 2003.
Saudi does nothing to remedy high poverty and double digit unemployment as the population, which rose from 6 million in 1979 to 28 million today, continues to grow.
The Saudi kingdom’s budgetary concerns have now been compounded by fears stemming from the tactical shift of the US away from backing pro-Saudi Sunni Islamist militias in the Syrian war, and towards a US rapprochement with Iran.
With so many projects started, administrative and technical capacities of both government agencies and the private sector have been stretched to the limit and beyond. As result, hundreds, perhaps thousands, of projects are running behind schedule.
Trying to contain anger over the unfinished projects, King Abdullah has publicly admonished ministers and other officials repeatedly for leaving projects unfinished.
The Saudi government does not publish data on its income. The lack of a broader economic base threatens to undermine the kingdom’s finances.
Corruption is rampant in Mideast and even Saudi officials insist on bribes from western and other nations for clearing their “matters”. Former UK premier Tony Blair faced investigation over the bribes deal between UK and Saudi Arabia.
Social tensions—reflecting high unemployment, poverty, and escalating geopolitical and sectarian tensions throughout the Middle East—are mounting.