Wednesday, February 16, 2011

What young Saudis want

Rulers who can deliver.
The many risks to the al Saud family's rule can be summed up in one sentence: The gap between aged rulers and youthful subjects grows dramatically as the information gap between rulers and ruled shrinks. The average age of the kingdom's trio of ruling princes is 83, yet 60% of Saudis are under 18 years of age. Thanks to satellite television, the Internet and social media, the young now are well aware of government corruption—and that 40% of Saudis live in poverty and nearly 70% can't afford a home. These Saudis are living Third World lives, suffering from poor education and unable to find jobs in a private sector where 90% of all employees are imported non-Saudis. Through new media the young compare their circumstances unfavorably with those in nearby Gulf sheikhdoms and the West.
Over the years, the royal family—now numbering nearly 7,000 princes—has come to pervade every corner of Saudi life, but it has lost public respect in the process. Almost every Saudi business, key ministry and mayoralty is headed, or figure-headed, by a prince. A royal family that once was relatively unified when decisions were made by a handful of senior brothers now is so large and fractured that different branches pursue conflicting agendas.
Still, most ordinary Saudis do not crave democracy. They fear that traditional tribal divisions, coupled with a lack of social and political organizations, would lead to mayhem—or to even greater domination by the conservative religious establishment that is well-organized through the kingdom's 70,000 mosques. If in Egypt the Muslim Brotherhood is considered a potential threat, its Saudi equivalent already dominates Saudi society.

What Saudis hunger for are standard services provided by far less wealthy governments: good education, jobs, decent health care. They also want to be able to speak honestly about the political and economic issues that affect their lives. Yet when a professor of religion at Imam University dared in November to suggest on the Internet that Saudis be permitted to take public their private discussions on succession, he was jailed.
Read it all in the Wall Street Journal.

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11:14 AM  

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