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Interesting WSJ article on Saudi Arabia(4 posts)

Interesting WSJ article on Saudi ArabiaCaptain Morgan
Feb 10, 2003 8:53 AM
The country has some serious problems with debt, unemployment, and decaying infrastructure. Some bullets:

- Average per capita income is $8,000, although it is distributed very unequally
- Slavery was allowed until the 1960's
- By law, a Saudi citizen must be paid 3 times as much as a foreign worker, making unemployment further problematic
- Even with all of their social problems at home, Saudi charities spend billions of dollars every year to promote its brand of Islam overseas
- The Saudi Prince broke tradition and visited a slum, and told the poor citizens to "be optimistic and all will be fine."

I am sure these problems are the fault of the U.S.
re: Interesting WSJ article on Saudi ArabiaJon Billheimer
Feb 10, 2003 9:28 AM
Interesting commentary on a dysfunctional social/political culture.
curious; what was it like before oil discovered?DougSloan
Feb 10, 2003 9:52 AM
Is oil the only thing this country has? Curious as to what it was like before the trillions coming in from oil.

Doug
Humorous story about internal cultural insensitivity.sn69
Feb 10, 2003 10:56 AM
I've spent more than my share of time in the Arabian Gulf and Saudi. One of the things that struck me as particularly amusing was indicative of the Saudi's own collective cultural ignorance and insensitivity regarding the Bedouin people. There are about a half dozen full cities that the Saudi gov't built during the halcyon days of the oil industry's seemingly endless wealth in the 70s and 80s. These cities were ostensibly constructed to bring the Bedouin in from the desert to give them a place to live in "civilized society." Each city has/had stand-alone villas for tribal elders and people of wealth/importance, high rise condos for the "average working guy," schools, shops, infrastructure, etc. Imagine the cost....building a half dozen moderately sized cities from scratch.

Anyhow, the Bedouin were forcibly relocated into the towns, and they promptly moved thier livestock into the dwellings while they overnighted on the roofs of the buildings (a cultural standard in Bedouin society). It seemed that the "enlightened" and philanthropic Saudi gov't failed to account for the Bedouins' strong cultural ties to tradition and the land. After a few years, Bedouin began to filter back out into the desert, where they had previously lived without territorial/nation-state boundaries for a couple thousand years. Eventually, they all left, and the gov't let the cities rot.

Again, I speak from first-hand experience. Coalition force headquarters used to occupy about 25% of one of the cities. The amount of waste was staggering--there were truly enormous mountains of discarded building and construction materials haphazardly tossed into the desert and the remaining infrastructure was being left to rot.

From our limited Western scope and paradigms, Saudi Arabia seems to be a nation of alternate standards. Still, like any other country, they suffer from a great many familiar ills. The desparity between the economic classes is staggering; the rich are REALLY rich and the poor live in squalor. Unwilling slavery is technically illegal, yet third country nationals sell themselves into indentured servitude to earn money to send home (typically from Pakistan, Bhutan, Yemen, Djoubuti, Ethiopia and the Phillipines). The Saudi code of legal punishment is primitive and barbaric by our standards and it doesn't do much to deter crime, yet our support of the death penalty confounds a great many Western allies too. The spout religious piety and the Morality and Virtue Police can levy penalties including physical beatings with impunity, but the rich vacation, drink and gamble in Dubai. As Westerner Infidel, we are actually prohibited by law from looking at or talking to Saudi women, yet their women (dressed like high fashion ninjas in their black birkas with Oakley shades, Nike sneakers and Gucci handbags) will follow you around relentlessly. ...And, my memories of Saudi navy pilots in flight school, are that they were usually the biggest drinkers and partiers of the group.

It's an odd place to be certain.