Saudi Arabia will spend $43 billion on its poorer citizens and religious institutions. Kuwaitis are getting free food for a year. Civil servants in Algeria received a 34 percent pay rise. Desert cities in the United Arab Emirates may soon enjoy uninterrupted electricity.
Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries members are poised to earn an unprecedented $1 trillion this year, according to the U.S. Energy Department, as the group’s benchmark oil measure exceeded $100 a barrel for the longest period ever. They are promising to plow record amounts into public and social programs after pro-democracy movements overthrew rulers in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya and spread to Yemen and Syria.
I think this goes to show how much entitlements are a major factor in the uprisings in the region. While a country may have one of the most oppressive authoritarian regimes in the world, like Saudi Arabia and Morocco, the citizens, by and large, are not mobilizing against their regimes. It’s mainly due to entitlements. When the regimes noticed growing dissent, they responded with the short-term solution of increasing pay of public workers, subsidizing basic commodities, or just giving handouts.
But places like Tunisia and Egypt, where the public sector became bloated and inefficient, no longer being able to sustain an exponentially growing population, entitlements were cut down, and people responded. This is, of course, in combination with a multitude of factors, like a 4-decade old regime.
But it gets down to the fact that in the majority of the region, people have been trading their civil liberties for economic welfare. Just some thoughts.
A populace that can afford to eat, educate children, & receive medical care is less likely to feel oppressed. After all basic needs are being met, & we can convince ourselves that the rest will come in time. Look at how many people in the US are still defending the Patriot Act despite no evidence that it helps catch terrorists.