|code: 329992||Date: 2012/07/18 - 20:31||source: Press TV|
Interview with Zayd al-Isa, Middle East expert
Al Saud regime incapable of implementing reforms: Analyst
(Ahlul Bayt News Agency) - In an article published by the Okaz daily, Saudi journalist, Khaled al-Harbi wrote that while Saudi Arabia earns 1,500 billion riyals (around 400 billion dollars) a year, the average salary of an ordinary Saudi citizen should not be 1,500 riyals (around 400 dollars).
According to official figures released by Consultative Assembly of Saudi Arabia (Shura), about 22 percent of Saudi citizens - at least 3 million citizens - live below the poverty line.
We have conducted an interview with Zayd al-Isa, a Middle East expert in London, to further discuss the issue. What follows is an approximate transcript of the interview.
Q: Of course it is not the first time that we are hearing about the poverty conditions in Saudi Arabia and people living there, but what do you think about this latest figure 60 percent of the people there living below the poverty line?
Al-Isa: These figures are not actually surprising. They simply reinforce previous figures. They are absolutely shocking and they are totally unbelievable in one of the richest countries of the world where basically oil revenues are simply being used to line up the pockets of the royal family and those who are in support of it and actually to offer huge amounts of support and money to the hard-line, radical and extremist religious establishment to actually propagate its message of justifying and supporting the royal family and also providing them with religious justification and religious legitimacy.
The money is not being spent to actually build infrastructure in the country which has been crumbling and we have seen that clearly in Jeddah which have been submerged under water because of the inability of the sewage system to operate and we have seen widespread unemployment in the country, rampant corruption and on top of that, there is absolutely no freedoms; there are no rights; the basic rights are denied to the people and we have seen in the richest area in the world, which is the Eastern Province which is the oil rich part of the country, the overwhelming majority of the people are subjected to indiscriminate and intolerable discrimination and also unbearable abuse.
They are denied any rights; there are no jobs there; the housing is crumbling and they are not even allowed to join government institutions or take up any respectable jobs. So there is poverty and we have seen that the only option and the only method that the country or the regime is good at is actually to brutally, ruthlessly and savagely crackdown on people who are simply demanding their basic rights.
There is no reform and with the main obstacle as the regime portrays it that is Nayef gone and out of the picture, he was portrayed as an insurmountable obstacle to reform gone the regime had the chance to put its money where its mouth is and to carry out its reforms and to actually live up to the expectations of their people and they simply opt it out to carry out more brutal ruthless crackdown against the people in those areas.
Q: Referring to the protests, now of course the issue of poverty is coming on top of what is being described as they say a crackdown on the protests that have been ongoing in Saudi Arabia for months now, basically we did hear the Saudi King saying that he is going to give handouts to the people; he is going to try and give those people who have economic demands and those are some of the major demands that people are making some kind of reform.
But what are those reforms going to be about? Are they about structural reforms or they are just going to be about giving handouts to the people and is that going to work?
Al-Isa: Mainly one of the principle things that the King has done since he came back last year is actually to announce that there will be handouts and this money is simply the people’s money being given to them after being denied any major reform or any reconstruction in the country.
Now the other thing was that he has warned against any peaceful protest, threatening the people with dire reprisals and the interior ministry has announced that any peaceful protest is going to be considered as acts of terrorism and we have seen that the religious institution moved very swiftly to issue fatwas to backup the threats of the king and also to announce that those people who carry out or go out on peaceful protests are simply non-Muslims and they are defying Islam itself.
This did not deter the people. We have seen that the protests have intensified; they have escalated and they have reached even areas which have been considered to be the regime’s heartland because, as I said, the perfect excuse that Nayef has offered and he has been used as an scapegoat, although he is a hardliner and he has been described as the insurmountable hurdle to reform, have actually exposed that the whole regime is completely incapable of reforms and instead vastly determined to carry out with its brutal crackdown against those who are protesting, demanding simply their basic rights.