Can Saudi Arabia buy its way out of revolution?

King Abdullah lavishes billions on his people in a bid to stave off unrest. Will it work?

As part of his new aid package, King Abdullah will be giving all government employees a 15 percent raise, while giving the unemployed and students new financial assistance.
(Image credit: Corbis)

In an apparent bid to avoid the sort of uprisings that have been transforming the Arab world, Saudia Arabia's King Abdullah on Wednesday promised his subjects roughly $37 billion in housing, education, social security, and other benefits. Though Saudi Arabia has so far been largely free of insurrection, the royal family is reportedly nervous that protests in the neighboring Bahrain could spill into their country. Hundreds of people have backed a Facebook campaign for a Saudi "day of rage" in March. Will the king's largesse be enough to buy peace? (Watch a report about King Abdullah's promise)

The protests are not about money: King Abdullah's spending won't solve anything, says Saudi rights activist Hassan al-Mustafa, as quoted in the Financial Times. The Saudi people want "real change," such as an elected parliament and more rights for women. That sort of evolution "will be the only guarantee of security of the kingdom."

"Saudi's $36 billion bid to beat unrest"

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Showering Saudis with cash won't hurt: Economists say that "those who have nothing riot," and "those who can afford a decent meal" don't, says Kevin Carmichael in Canada's The Globe and Mail. King Abdullah is putting that theory to the test, as is another wealthy Gulf state, Kuwait. If these oil-rich nations continue to fare better than their poorer neighbors, we'll know "social stability has a price."

"The Saudi solution to social unrest: Buy peace"

This is only a start: Saudi Arabia's "sudden largesse" might tamp down some of the population's "simmering discontent," says Peter Goodspeed in Canada's National Post. But the generational divide persists. This is a nation of unemployed, frustrated young people ruled by filthy rich "senior citizens." Abdullah will have to follow up with democratic reforms to further discourage unrest that, given the world's dependence on his oil, would resonate far beyond Saudi Arabia's borders.

"Saudis open the royal purse strings to head off trouble"

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