Talks of Reform

Elizabeth Dickinson, reporting for Abu Dhabi-based The National, on Saudi reforms:

During his seven years on the throne, King Abdullah has developed a reputation as a moderate reformer, a tenor set just days after he assumed power. Saudi Arabia joined the World Trade Organization in 2005 — a move that had required years of economic and labour reforms, much of it shepherded by the then Crown Prince Abdullah.

More changes came in 2009 and 2010, when he shuffled the country’s leadership to include several new, reform-minded ministers, including the first female deputy minister of education, and reined in the country’s religious establishment by limiting to a few those who could issue fatwas. He has made numerous pledges to contain the power of the religious police.

There is certainly a lot of talk about reform in Saudi Arabia, but talking about reform is one thing and actually doing it is quite another. The government understandably likes to talk about reform because that’s what both their population and the outside world wants to hear. But what happens when the government fails to deliver on the promises of reform? Nothing, because there is no-one who can hold them accountable for their actions (or lack thereof).