Business, Economics and Jobs

Can the Saudi king buy peace?


A picture shows the front pages of Saudi newspapers featuring a story on the return of King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz in the Saudi capital Riyadh on Feb. 23, 2011 as he flew out of Morocco and headed home after recovering from back surgery.


Fayez Nuraldine

There's been a fascinating move out of Saudi Arabia today.

King Abdullah announced a series of benefits ranging from aid to young, unemployed people to new funding to help offset high inflation. The goodies — which made no mention of political reform — add up to about $10.7 billion.

What makes this economic strategy so interesting, of course, is the unrest that's now spreading throughout the Middle East. With Tunisia and Egypt already fallen, Libya in flames, and Saudi's neighbor Bahrain under pressure, King Abdullah is taking aim at some of the underlying issues that have fed anger regionwide.

It's young, unemployed people, after all, that tend to protest. And inflation — particularly rising food prices — has been a key theme in protests throughout history. 

At its crudest level (pun intended), Abdullah is essentially saying: "Hey, Saudi people, don't look over there at Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia. Look over here! Benefits!"