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Saudi reform plan, extra step of austerity: Analyst

(L-R) Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, Saudi King Salman, and Saudi Arabia's Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman stand together after Saudi Arabia's cabinet agrees to implement a broad reform plan known as Vision 2030 in Riyadh. (Photo by Reuters)

Press TV has interviewed Ali al-Ahmed, director of the Institute for the [Persian] Gulf Affairs (IGA) in Washington, to discuss Saudi Arabia’s reform plan that is predicted to introduce tough belt-tightening measures.

A rough transcription of the interview appears below.


Press TV: How do you think these austerity measures, let’s put it that way, [at] the end of the day they are austerity measures being implemented and entertained by the Saudi officials, how would they possibly have any sort of social ramification?

Ahmed: Well the country has been really going through a lot of austerity measures. Since the beginning, the people of Saudi Arabia have never gotten more than 40 percent of the oil revenue so they have not benefited more than that. The rest, over maybe 60 percent of the oil revenue has been usurped by the ruling Al Saud and their friends. They shared a lot of that money with Western governments, with Western powers who have supported and ensured the survival of the ruling Al Saud. So this is just an extra step of austerity and economic limitations on the population.

Press TV: And in terms of those social ramifications that I asked, are there going to be any public unrest, whatsoever, in your analysis?

Ahmed: I think economic distress always produces social upheaval. That is something that all political scientists agree upon. The issue here is what type of social upheavals, how large they are and I think in that country we will see significant social upheaval against the government, a corrupt government, totalitarian government that has usurped the power, the sovereignty of the country but you cannot really exactly tell the amount of the impact of these social upheavals but I think there will be significant social upheavals.

Press TV: Now in terms of the roots and causes of the budget deficit that we spoke about, what else can you tell us about the details of the roots and the root causes and the core issues that brought that about in terms of the consequences that this budget deficit of 100 billion dollars is going to have for the Saudi kingdom in terms of the proxy wars that it is waging in the area, in Iraq and in Syria, and the direct war that it is waging at the moment against the Yemeni people, let’s not forget about the petrol or petroleum war that it is waging against Iran?  

Ahmed: Absolutely. The issue here is the structure of the regime itself. As they say in political science absolute power corrupts absolutely, the Saudi monarchy controls every facet of the economy, of the government so that reads corruption, that is significant corruption and without removing that system, this significant corruption will continue and the economic upheaval will continue.

This is in addition to the Saudi continuous wars. There is not only the current war. The Saudi monarchy has been waging wars against its neighbors and against the Muslim world and across the globe even as far as in Tunisia and Malaysia for decades now and using the money of that country to support these wars that have no goals, whatsoever, giving Malaysia or the Malaysian prime minister around 700 million dollars ... to limit the growth of Shia Islam in Malaysia that is a useless target for 700 million dollars but that is the Saudi mentality and the wars that they are waging across the globe.

Press TV: To what extent do you think this budget deficit of 100 billion is going to bring about a behavior change in the regime in terms of its geopolitical stances and positions including the wars?

Ahmed: Well there are signs that there [are] some changes and some reflection. Recently few days ago the Saudi newspaper al-Watan released a report about what the Saudi Crown Prince, the interior minister was saying about the fact that Saudi Arabia needs to rethink its polices but that new story was removed ... from the newspaper and blamed on Iranian hackers.

But this is real that they are thinking that we have made huge mistakes, we have made huge gambles with our oil wars and the wars that we are waging against the Yemeni people and against the Iraqi and Syrian and Egyptian people, so they may think or rethink, they are very pragmatic, so they may think their policy but it might be also too late because the demands of the population in the country are much later than 20 years ago for example.

So I think they might not be able to satisfy the growing need and demand of the people especially the young people who want to be equal with their neighbors and their colleagues across the globe.  

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