Saudi Arabia’s Belt-Tightening Amid COVID-19 Risks Domestic Discontent

Muslim worshippers walk outside the Grand Mosque after noon prayers in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, March 7, 2020 (AP photo by Amr Nabil).
Muslim worshippers walk outside the Grand Mosque after noon prayers in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, March 7, 2020 (AP photo by Amr Nabil).
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Saudi Arabia announced harsh new austerity measures last week, including the suspension of a cost of living allowance for public workers and the tripling of its value added tax, from 5 percent to 15 percent. While the new policies are intended to plug a gaping hole in state finances amid the coronavirus pandemic and after a historic collapse in oil prices, they are risky for an absolute monarchy that has worked to guarantee affluent lifestyles for its citizens in exchange for their obedience. The government’s response appears to place a disproportionately heavy burden on everyday Saudis rather than the political […]

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