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Friday, 4 October 2013

Let Them Eat Cakes

As has been mentioned before, the control of the national wealth in the hands of the Royal Families in the Oil rich Arab countries, has increasingly led to abuses. One example is the purchasing and financing of football teams around the world, using what should be 'public money'. For example; Manchester City (Manchester City’s owner Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, is part of the Abu Dhabi United Group that purchased the club. He is also deputy Prime Minister of United Arab Emirates and has a wealth of $31 billion), Malaga (Sheikh Al Thani), Paris St Germain (Qatar Investment Authority - no football club makes an investment profit!),  Spanish La Liga side Getafe (is owned by Dubai’s Royal Emirates Group), Nottingham Forest (Kuwait’s Al-Hasawi family)  even Sheffield United (Prince Abdullah bin Mosaad bin Abdulaziz Al Saud (50%).... ALL paid for by the local royals, using national oil money, which rightfully (in a democratic system) should be state funds.

Another example of this royal abuse is that there are now at least 15,000 members of the Royal House of Saud (mostly on an allowance from the King), but all on the public purse, but with the majority of the power and wealth possessed by an elite group of about 2,000.

The 'Al Saud' family consider the Kingdom in its physical entirety as a part of the 'family wealth' i.e. that it, and all its inhabitants are a 'family asset' ... this view is shared by the other ruling families of the region (in much the same way as Louis the XIV in France, and Charles I in England believed in the 'divine rights of Kings'). So that its estimated that as much as 40% of the Kingdom's annual budget was blown by members of the family during the reign of the late King Fahd.

Conservative estimates of the net Saudi royal worth is at well over $1.4 trillion, and they continue to practise the co-mingling of personal and state funds (derived from taking lucrative government positions, huge land allocations, preferences for award of major contracts to themselves, cash handouts and astronomical monthly allowances, and even direct allotments of crude oil to sell in the open market, all billed to the national exchequer), and this this wealth redistribution to themselves has allowed many senior princes and princesses to accumulate largely unauditable wealth, and in their turn, pay out, in cash or kind to garner influences ... noblesse oblige!

Of course the flip side of this coin is that in return for being able to plunder the state treasuries, these leaders provide everything for their citizens .... this kind of worked in the 1960's and 1970's, when the ransacking still left ample funds to bribe the local populations with zero taxes, well paid state jobs, and cradle to grave welfare system (for citizens, not guest workers).

But the population boom that a lot of wealthy bored men with multiple wives created (the Saudi population went from around seven million in the 1970's, to almost 30 million in 2012, and the other states in that region saw similar rises), has exceeded the capacity of these states to both provide all the comforts that the common man expected, and still allow the reckless spending of the royals on themselves to continue in the same manner.

Complaints about the behaviour of the Princes and Princesses is growing, and social media campaigns under the banner of hashtags such #our_salary_does_not_meet_our_needs have demanded that more money be given to Saudi citizens via higher wages / subsidies .... indeed so popular was this campaign that 17 million tweets carrying the hashtag were posted in the campaign's first two weeks in July, which led to it becoming the 16th most popular hashtag in any language.

Another social media campaign saw a picture circulated on Twitter, which underlined the point about Saudi money being misspent on foreigners. It showed a Saudi couple with a baby living in squalor in a caravan, with the caption: "Saudi Arabia gives Egypt $5 billion. Don't they deserve it more?" The rage is fuelled by foreign news reports that an unnamed Saudi prince, had donated $500,000 to a US charity, simply in return for 15 minutes with the American actress Kristen Stewart.

All of this is compounded by a lack of affordable housing for the burgeoning young population, which not only hinders job growth, but many see as breaking of the 'contract' that allows the royals to treat all state assets as their own. One Twitter user asked: "What National Day (23rd September), when my nation is drowning in debt, all the princes are in Switzerland and we're paying bills? It's the fault of those who allow them to play with our money and our petrol."

The Royals are not responding well, but are responding typically, one Government official said these campaigns were "a front for sedition" while another suggested that with 'health insurance for all and the proper allocation of housing allowances', "all calls for increases in salaries would dissolve into a vast sea of satisfaction and contentment".

The lessons of history are very rarely learnt by rulers, and even less so by the absolute monarchies of the Arab world - despite the turmoil on their borders as regimes collapse (and which ironically, the Saudi royals are funding e.g. the Jihadists in Syria), they stubbornly cling to the idea that 'the kingdom is living in peace and stability amid the struggles that some countries are facing'. A quick look at the history of Bourbon France, or Tsarist Russia should be setting alarm bells ringing.

Saudis Singing While Arab World Burns

Royalist France for example aided the successful US rebellion against the British, completed by 1783, thus opening up the age of 'Republican' politics, which resulted in the deposing of the royal house of France in a bloody revolution in 1787. Famously, the French Royals also believed that all their subjects accepted that they were in a 'kingdom living in peace and stability amid the struggles that some countries are facing', usually troubles instigated by the French themselves ... and when asked what could be done for those without bread, one royal famously said 'Let them eat cakes'.

5 comments:

  1. She didn't say "Let them eat cakes" but, generally speaking the Royal of Europe in the 17th and 18th century's believed in divine rights. The Arab raiders we let rule the Ottoman Empire believe much the same.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for the comment. I realise its probably a misquote, but its passed into popular lore, and made my point, whether she said it or not.

      Delete
    2. It certainly made your point and was very well chosen as it fits the subject perfectly. Were I better versed in the Arab diet I would have liked to offer a cultural equivalent.
      That they are plundering their nations' wealth is one thing but they are also, along with industrialised nations, squandering the Earth's wealth of stored energy reserves which are irreplaceable.

      Delete
    3. Actually, I should have called it "Let Them Eat Dates" ..... damn, missed a good pun there LOL.

      Delete
    4. Better late than never, good one.

      Delete

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