Saudi Arabia outlaws criticism of religious establishment

20 March 2011

More Saudi spending measures announced, but no reforms

Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al-Saud announced on 18 March another round of increases in government spending, but disappointed those hoping for reform by outlawing criticism of the religious establishment.

In a series of 21 royal orders announced by the king, spending plans amounting to about SR350bn ($93bn) were announced, although about SR135bn of the measures were revealed by the king a few weeks earlier.

Included in the spending measures was the establishment of the National Commission for Fighting Corruption, which will report directly to the king, and the appointment of Mohammad bin Abdullah al-Shareef as president of the organisation at the rank of minister.

In addition, the king announced a new minimum wage of SR3,000 ($800) a month, up from SR2,185, for all Saudi Arabians, and unemployment benefit of SR1,000. All public-sector employees and students will receive two months wages or allowances as a one-off gift and an extra SR250bn will be spent on building 500,000 new housing units.

Although the announcement failed to offer any hope of reform in Saudi Arabia, a cabinet reshuffle is expected to be announced in the next few weeks.

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