Photo: (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)
The big question for oil-rich Gulf States is whether they can avoid the resource curse.This is a phenomenon where countries with a overwhelmingly valuable commodity become inefficient, as other areas of the economy fail to develop and the population comes to rely on government handouts.
Well, it looks like Saudi Arabia is succumbing.
The share of Saudi workers employed by the government increased to 90 per cent in 2010, up from 83 per cent in 2000, according to a profile in The Economist (via @steven_strauss).
Saudi Arabia also increased unemployment benefits and other handouts during the Arab Spring.
The combination of the resource curse and relatively low oil prices and geopolitical tensions is bad for the regime. Says The Economist:
Saudi Arabia’s rulers are painfully aware that, should the region’s democratic wave leave lasting change and a new order in its wake, the kingdom will stand out as a peculiar and seemingly untenable anomaly. Even if the wave recedes leaving nothing but a mess, it has undermined any assumptions of rule by divine right. At the same time the kingdom’s most important alliance, with America, may face increased pressure. The United States is no longer reliant on Saudi Arabia for more than a small fraction of its energy needs. It has pulled out of Iraq and, soon, Afghanistan. It abandoned Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak. This raises doubts about its strategic intentions.