Saudi Arabia Amid Change- 95th Issue
Introduction…This blog has been documenting the shift in economic power from OPEC and its partners, to the frackers in the United States. Even at a $50 per barrel price, plus or minus, U.S. producers have cut production cost nearly in half and billions of dollars are pouring into new production.
But, in Saudi Arabia, the low energy prices have forced painful change even in what may be the world’s most conservative. Woman are joining the workforce and music can be found in the streets. Even in what may be the world’s most conservative country. The government has stripped the notorious religious police of their power and the more than 3,000 guardians of morality, who terrorized women for wearing makeup and arrested unmarried couples for walking next to each other on the street, are a rare sight these days.
But what does it mean that Saudi King, the guardian of the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, has reined in the feared moral police? And why have the fundamentalists gone silent rather than lament the loss of values?
Is the fairy tale ending?…The primary reason is the disappearance of Saudi Arabia’s fairy-tale riches. The kingdom is experiencing the deepest crisis since oil first produced in 1938. The current low prices have led to a 50% drop in revenue. In 2015, the government budget deficit ballooned to 90 million euros, and the country’s borrowing began.
In conclusion…Saudi Arabia was the pillar in the Middle Eastern order that no longer exists. This order was destroyed by the Arab Spring, and the wars in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen (neighboring states.) Now, Iran and Saudi Arabia are fighting over power in the region. These events are threatening stability in the kingdom.
Source: Susanne Koelbl, “Tasting Freedom. Saudi Arabia Experiments with Reform Amid Economic Downturn,” Spiegel Online International, 17 May 2017