Arab Spring. Attempt at paradigm 2

By Torgeir Fjærtoft

In my previous blog input I maintained that to establish viable successor regime to the toppled dictators, the new power holders must initiate regional economic integration to create the employment necessary for social and political stability. Empowering people without improving their lives will undermine the empowerment because the continued frustration and rage can only be controlled by force.

So far, of the affected or vulnerable countries in the region only Saudi Arabia has responded to the Arab Spring by an economic program in the form of boosting internal transfers of oil income.  The Saudi intention is to contain internal ramifications of the regional popular uprising by improving people’s lives without empowering them.

As an oil producer with liquid assets abroad Saudi Arabia has a domestic freedom of maneuver that the new regimes following the Arab Spring have yet to acquire, be they oil producers or not. The regime in Riyadh can therefore be seen as a case study of the reverse end of the evolving Arab Spring, which has started with empowerment and needs to develop an effective economic policy. In the current context, an economic policy addressing the most pressing social problems would need three components: distribution, employment and production.  Saudi Arabia has succeeded as oil producer in terms of volume and income but failed to create commensurate employment. Economists, prone to reduce complex, multi-determined problems to simple equations, call for reversal of internal transfers, reduction in public sector employment, economic diversification by investments in new sectors, and competition. However, these are not options available to Saudi decision-makers at the moment.

What outside observers invariably fail to see is that the monarchy steeped in its ancient traditions is in its essence also a social contract. This basically tribal political culture is in one sense also modern.  Power, though in name absolute, is actually the function of elaborate transactions. Like in a Western welfare state, political support is earned by providing for constituents who judge their leaders by the yardsticks of their own lives. At the same time, power is also the function of the ability to negotiate a modicum of consensus within the elite, which means compromise, balancing opposing demands. These two constraints, people’s welfare and elite consensus, delineate the freedom of maneuver for the Saudi decision-makers, also now. Attempts to transcend these constraints will jeopardize the political stability.

There are two known cases when reductions in internal transfers had serious political ramifications. In the first instance, when in 1956 credit dried up, the extended royal family mobilized to prevent King Saud from establishing his own dynasty, leading to the current collective royal leadership model. In the second instance, the fall in oil prices in the 1980’s led to the Sahwa opposition in the early 1990’s. The Sahwa movement was precipitated in no small degree by reducing the number of public sector positions among the clerical graduates denied the presumed promise of secure employment.

Like in all societies, frustrated young men seek alternative ideologies and faiths with rejection as the common denominator. In Saudi Arabia the elite has throughout the history of the official Wahabist doctrine compromised by cooperating with external powers, first with the Ottomans, then the British and today with the US. Compromise, however necessary or wise, makes the official ideology vulnerable to domestic opposition groups, such as the Sahwa, who may reclaim it in a purer form. An additional vulnerability is the Shia minority surrounding the oil fields. Relations range from tenuous to tense.

By our Western standards, Saudi Arabia falls short, and we would like the Arab Spring as a democratic movement to take hold there as it did in Egypt. For this purpose we may accept a period of instability over the current stability. However, we may err in assuming that the alternative to the current stability is a higher degree of democracy, respect for human rights and the empowerment of ordinary people, including women and minorities. The alternatives could be worse than the current imperfections.  Changes could have other consequences than those intended by the initiators. One consequence of the Libyan uprising against Khadafy has been the flow of frustrated men and arms to terrorist movements in the region.

Destabilization of Saudi Arabia, as pivotal oil producer indispensable to the global economic stability and full of arms, could prove infinitely worse. If the Saudi decision-makers were to follow the advice of most economists, such a scenario would under the current circumstances be much more likely than stable economic growth and democratization.

8 Responses to “Arab Spring. Attempt at paradigm 2”

  1. 1 Website July 2, 2013 at 18:57

    I will instantly understand your current rss feed when i can not to discover the e-mail request url as well as publication program. Accomplish you may have any kind of? Nicely let me identify to ensure I can subscribe. Many thanks.

  2. 2 Beryl February 11, 2014 at 10:08

    In fact, you can actually irritate people by doing this because they
    will often perceive your message board or forum comments as spam.
    You also want to make sure that you have a blog
    that people want to visit.

  3. 3 Tri Cities Appraiser March 6, 2014 at 04:12

    Thank you for every other great article. The place else may
    just anyone get that type of information in such an ideal way of
    writing? I’ve a presentation subsequent week, and I’m at the search for such info.

  4. 4 r15 yamaha launching March 19, 2014 at 06:01

    Hi! I’m at work surfing around your blog from my new iphone!
    Just wanted to say I love reading through your blog and look forward to all your posts!
    Keep up the outstanding work!

  5. 5 Howard May 28, 2014 at 14:17

    Complain amerian proxy servers about this comment125.
    It is possible to forward downloadeed messages to
    other locations or remote recipients from POP3servers or received by SMTP server.

    Whhen you visit a site. If you tick this tick box
    will deny all traffic through that network card that will perform these duties
    tick this tick box.

  6. 6 Jacksonville Houses For Rent May 29, 2014 at 21:28

    Excellent blog right here! Additionally your website a lot up fast!

    What web host are you using? Can I get your associate link on your host?
    I want my website loaded up as fast as yours lol

  7. 7 lex luthor drop of doom May 30, 2014 at 02:21

    I do believe all the ideas you have introduced for your post.
    They’re really convincing and can certainly work.
    Nonetheless, the posts are too short for novices. Could you please
    lengthen them a little from subsequent time? Thanks for the post.

  1. 1 specialized road bike Trackback on December 16, 2014 at 11:46

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: