Short-term Pain, Long-term Gain

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Angus McDowall:

Saudi Arabia’s crackdown on foreign workers has thrown millions of lives into turmoil and caused rioting in big cities, but the economy should benefit in the long run as Saudi nationals fill the gaps and cut their dependence on the state.

Nearly a million foreigners have left Saudi Arabia since March, when authorities stopped turning a blind eye to visa irregularities they had tolerated for decades, and tens of thousands more have been detained in raids on offices and marketplaces that began this month.

‘Uniquely Captive Audience’

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Matt Smith reports for Reuters:

The restrictions on Saudi society, where morality police patrol public spaces to enforce approved modes of behavior, has created a uniquely captive audience for web-based news and entertainment, media experts say.

With a population of 28.3 million, Saudi Arabia is now the biggest user of YouTube per capita in the world, and according to analysts Semiocast was the eighth most active country on Twitter as of April, accounting for 2.33 percent of all tweets.

Will the Crackdown Work?

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The Economist on Saudi crackdown on undocumented foreign workers:

All this is meant to lower the kingdom’s unemployment rate, officially 13 percent but believed to be twice as high among the young. Although trimming the foreign workforce will theoretically free up jobs for locals, few Saudis seem likely to seek them, least of all those of the menial kind, which the kingdom’s 19m citizens tend to shun. Still, some economists expect longer-term benefits, as an overall rise in labour costs makes Saudis more attracted to lower-prestige and starting-level jobs, where wages have long been kept down by the abundance of foreign labour.

Saudi Bargain of Governance

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Andrew Hammond:

The forlorn hope that the Saudi ruling family would budge on this issue reveals some misunderstandings – which can be attributed to wishful thinking – about the way the system works. Governance in the country is first and foremost a bargain between the al-Saud family and the religious scholars, or ulama. There are other bargains, such as that with the Hejazi commercial elite, which was replaced by a Najdi elite after the oil boom of the 1970s; but the key alliance for ensuring the social and political peace that al-Saud needs to maintain its rule is that with the ulama.

Victims of Saudi Crackdown on Undocumented Workers

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Abdul Rahman al-Rashed:

The campaign to correct illegal workers’ status has been successful so far, but it has created victims. Some were born and have lived in Saudi Arabia for decades. Many countries across the world give citizenship to people like these. Some of them have lived in Saudi Arabia for 40 years and became Saudis, though not in the legal sense of the word. We do not know how many there are, but regardless I do not think it is a big number compared with that of contemporary violators.

Those who have lived with us and worked tirelessly should, along with their families, at least be granted the right of residency—or simple documentation acknowledging a right they have enjoyed. These residents deserve their status to be corrected because we are confronting an issue that recurs a lot in society as citizenship becomes a fait accompli.

NSA Spied on Saudis in OPEC

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Der Spiegel:

A review of the section reserved for the OPEC secretary general documented that the Saudis were using underhanded tactics, even within the organization. According to the NSA analysts, Riyadh had tried to keep an increase in oil production a secret for as long as possible.

Saudi Arabia’s OPEC governor is also on the list of individuals targeted for surveillance, for which the NSA had secured approval from the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. The documents show how careful the Americans were to suspend their surveillance when the Saudi visited the United States. But as soon as he had returned to Riyadh, the NSA analysts began infiltrating his communications once again.

Hamza Kashgari Released

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Agence France-Presse:

A Saudi journalist accused of making Tweets deemed insulting to Islam’s Prophet Mohamed was on Tuesday freed from detention after 20 months, a human rights activist said.

Hamza Kashgari fled Saudi Arabia to Malaysia in February 2012 after receiving death threats for Tweets he made on the occasion of the prophet’s birthday.