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Benefits Vs Demands

The gov has unveiled a new plan to support citizens facing unemployment and housing shortages. The overall spending is expected to be around $35-37 billion. (The timing is noteworthy!)

The official unemployment figure is around 10% - true figure – 20 %. No matter which country you live in, the official figure of unemployment is always lower than the true % of unemployed (has to do with the way we calculate unemployment, not going into detail!)

The royal decree issued benefits listed below

- Unemployment allowances for full year to help find jobs ( this is the first time a full year allowance has been provided )
- 15 percent cost of living allowance for government employees
- University students studying abroad (on own expenses) will receive scholarships.
- SR 1 billion ($266.6 million) has been set aside to spent on social welfare rolls
- SR 14 billion ($3.7 billion) will be available for home loans.
- SR 10 million ($2.6 million) to fund sports facilities, literary clubs and licensed NGO’s
- 40 billion riyals ($10.7 billion) on housing
- Creation of a high level committee to study the situation of unemployed teachers
- A general pardon for prisoners not being able to pay off their loans
- Creation of more supervision jobs to increase accountability in government work
- Crossed off ! ( 15 million to celebrate my b’day ! )

Undoubtedly, these spending will help numerous people suffering solvable problems - but my question is if these amounts of spending were possible, then why people suffered for so many years? Why the gov didn’t announce all these spending and benefits when they created the budget few months ago? Creating supervision jobs may not increase accountability in gov, it’s the attitude of transparency that needs to be imbedded into the gov and corporate psyche.

I am not getting overly excited by each of these spending and benefits. Because without a clear context, I really cannot study how much and what way these will help. I have serious doubts especially regarding the increase in 15% allowance; we have to see its effect on ‘real income’ to understand if it’s really increasing your income.

Just a day ago, they also unveiled the “New media law” (amended version) The minister of culture and information tweeted “the new law is amended based on the opinions of youth”

The draft law earlier shocked readers; I myself read thrice to believe it was a law for new media! Most of us have nothing against creating laws to protect copyright materials, avoid defaming individuals or spreading disinformation. But the earlier law went way too far!

So by the amended law, one would not need to be 20 years of age, would not need to deliver a statement of good conduct or need a publishing permission. However, it’s still unclear whether an online news site would require gov approval to appoint an editor. Like before, there are still few clauses that are still dubious.

In my understanding, the purpose of it is to create or at least be seen as creating jobs in the new media rather than entirely curtailing freedom of expression. That’s why we have a clause that states only citizens can apply for media publishing. Of course they want to regulate news site rather than individual blogs.

These new developments are perhaps a beginning of a series of changes; I am expecting to hear some more changes in the coming months, perhaps changes that are more symbolic. Lifting the ban on women driving? Announcing a clear timing for the municipal election? Or letting woman for the first time to take part in municipal election? To further avoid propping up of alternative political parties ?

And what about prisoners held without trial, branded as “Al-qaeda”? Or rounding up of activists trying to create new political party?

A human rights activist is still detained by officials for "annoying others." since july 2010

The wise thing would be to allow alternative political parties to establish, I want to hear what they have to offer. And make an informed decision myself. Political suppression at this age, and these unstable times will only make things worse in the long term, will only loosen the grip of the current establishment in the long term. And only backfire any good the gov is trying to do, some people will not appreciate at all!

Some see all these developments as a way to ‘buy them up’ and with no genuine change. Others welcome it warmly, seeing it as a symbol of real change. Ofcourse the current King Abdullah is by far the most popular and people do have deep respect for him.

A 7000 member social network group listed out a series of demands, a total of 12 including constitutional monarchy between the king and gov, legislative elections, allowing civil society institution, impartial development and equitable distribution of wealth, a written constitution approved by the people, public freedoms and respect for human rights. This is unprecedented !

There’s also a possibility of protest taking place in Riyadh (the capital) on 11 March. Now these were planned before the gov announcement. Not sure how many people will eventually turn up and many do not think protest is an effective way to bring change. Majority support some real, quick change but some would not go far as participating in a protest.

One encouraging sign, neither the group nor the event on the social network site has been blocked!


Farona's picture

Update : the event page

Update : the event page calling for protest has now been blocked. Today ! I don't think the group discussing and demanding reform will be blocked - the kind of discussion taking place over there is enlightening and heartening to read !

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