Saudi Arabia: A Dying Ancient Regime By Kebour Ghenna

Monday, 25 November 2013 08:15
 By Kebour GhennaCapital Ethiopia 

The House of Saud (Read ‘The House of Satan’) is desperate.

You know, that moment when you read something, and then immediately have to re-read it because you cannot believe it is true? A rich kingdom attacking defenseless workers and forcing them out!
What caught my eye in the news media was the sad saga of the 20,000 or so migrant Ethiopians (and thousands of others) targeted for heavy handed expulsion by the world’s top oil exporter. Many were abused, dehumanized, kicked and punched, some were even lynched.
For what?
For being poor?

Migrant workers residing unlawfully in Saudi Arabia are not – and never have been – criminals. They have for the most part been hired and exploited by Saudis. Now I don’t insist that ‘illegals’ should flout the law of the country with impunity, but the image of even one man being lynched because he or she is ‘illegal’ or undocumented should make us all nauseous. When individuals and nations start acting like wild beasts in complete disregard to the accepted norms of human values and ethical principles, surely, it impacts us all whether we acknowledge it or not.
Anyway, deporting these migrants will not resolve the social and economic problems that plague the Saudi regime. I have no insights, but everybody knows that this so-called fight against illegal workers is bullshit. The ‘Problem’ is not really about illegal workers, but rather about the fundamental anti-democratic nature of Saudi society and economy. The rulers have created a time bomb running their crony capitalism and decades of privileged kleptomania. That time bomb is exploding in slow motion, first in the form of the problem of ‘illegals,’ and secondly in the form of increasing unemployed and restive national populations.
Well, those young migrant Ethiopians are now on their way back from Saudi Arabia: Hurrah to the Government of Ethiopia for taking the swift and right decision of repatriating them. Still, the government should strongly condemn the acts of violence, and request the Government of Saudi Arabia to protect its citizens. Though undocumented, these Ethiopians have rights too. At the same time the government should also expedite the repatriation process. It should not just make an effort, but make it happen.
Going back to my initial thought of what’s wrong with the Saudi Kingdom? And did someone shout: REVOLUTION?
Saudi Arabia, arguably the most backward, oppressive of all countries in the world, cannot be excluded from the profound changes sweeping through the Arab world. It cannot avoid the historic tide of revolution which will eventually throw out the country’s pre-medieval system of governance and social life.
I am not predicting anything. Besides, revolution is not a predictable outcome. But one thing we can all be sure of is that change is inevitable; and if the King and princes insist on resisting it, they will be shooting themselves in the legs and fighting back a lost battle, which might delay change for a while, but cannot stop the end of the pre-medieval system of governance and social life.
Despite its wealth, we know the House of Saud is unable to address the burgeoning problem of high unemployment, a corrupt bureaucracy, a crippled economy, a weak education system, and a society full of poorly educated, narrow-minded, violence-prone men who are steeped in the religious absolutism that the regime itself promoted for 20 years, principally to re-establish its Islamic religious credentials. Today, some 60% of Saudi’s citizens are under the age of 20, and the unemployment rate for young adults is nearly 40%. These young people want to be given the opportunity to better themselves and their country, but instead they cannot find work and live on government handouts.
Adding fuel to the fire, the gap between rich and poor Saudis has grown even as possibilities for economic and social advancement have stalled. And yet Saudi’s population has skyrocketed in the last half century. In 1972 the country had 6 million inhabitants; today there are 28 million Saudi Arabians. Oil incomes have climbed too, but not nearly apace.   As such the government has been struggling to keep the population appeased with fewer dollars per head every year.
What is happening now in Saudi Arabia is merely symptomatic of the looming social problems that are stemming from this general model of slave labour across the region. Up to a point this model has served the autocratic rulers well. Cheap labour provided comfort to many millions of Saudis, so much so, the Saudi society is today very much dependent on hiring cheap illegal migrant workers. That’s one reason why half the workforce is comprised of foreign nationals. But are illegal workers taking jobs from the Saudis? The reality is that most Saudi won’t take the kind of jobs ‘illegals’ choose to take for the meagre wages offered. To make matters worse, business in Saudi would rather hire expatriates than Saudis. The education system apparently does not produce the skills the economy needs.
No, the problem is not about ‘illegals’, but about corruption, oppression, medieval political institutions. The problem is about a degenerate, dangerous and doomed monarchy that is bankrupting the country. The problem is a backward regime which failed and still fails to offer any promising vision to its youth. This cannot continue indefinitely. God himself will ultimately put a stop to this state of affairs.
If history is relevant and is seen as a source of learning and warning, undeniably the House of Saud will definitely vanish. But what happens next?
Remember, religion is the only social structure in Saudi Arabia. There are no political parties, unions, or social organizations, aside from a few charities run by members of the royal family. When the House of Saud fails, the only candidates ready to step up would be the Islamists: would I (would you) bet on Saudi Arabia? No thanks!