Saudi Arabia is in money trouble. For real. Oil revenues are dropping, government expenditures are rising, foreign currency reserves are disappearing and oil is drying up. I discussed this a few minutes ago with host P.J. Maloney on KQV Radio in Pittsburgh.
To confront this crisis, a Saudi Arabian deputy crown prince (!) has come up with a program called Vision 2030, to try to wean his country off oil revenues. It includes partially privatizing ARAMCO, the nation’s oil industry company.
What it doesn’t do is address education, the dominance of fundamentalist clerics who have scuttled modernization up to now, the centrality of Mecca to Islam and the influence that has over the society, Saudi Arabia’s role as the leader of the Sunni Muslim world alongside its funding of militant Islamists and terrorists, and especially–women.
In crass economic terms, women represent half the potential work force. In human terms, Saudi women are not even allowed to drive, and as in the rest of the Arab world, they are considered the property of their fathers or husbands. There is no way an economy can effectively modernize itself under those conditions.
That’s the real challenge facing Saudi Arabia–and the rest of the Arab world–at a time of regional political and military turmoil. It’s a lot to sort out, and chances of success are slim.