Kingdom Tower in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.
As pointed out in the last article mentioned below, few articles on Saudi Arabia are going for the idea that the current wave of high-profile arrests is really about fighting corruption. There is a far deeper effort. Here are my comments on a number of articles from the last few days. Sort it out for yourself.
11/6/17 – Karen House at Wall Street Journal – The Strategy Behind the Saudi Strife – Article provides a more nuanced background on the arrests. One entertaining point, which I mentioned in earlier post, is that with the widespread malfeasance, misfeasance, and flat-out corruption, every Prince and every official is vulnerable to charges of corruption. I’ll guess every person with any government or business power has created massive amounts of electronic evidence.
Article speculates this is a part of the effort to modernize by MBS. Going after a huge number of corrupt senior royals, high-level businessmen, and a wide variety of government officials not only sends a very powerful message that the corrupt old days are gone but puts fear into everyone that hasn’t been arrested yet. It won’t take long for realize that they either play along and keep quite or go to jail. Article says this will have the benefit of increasing his popularity with younger people.
More importantly, consider this in relation to the dramatic efforts for social change over the last year. Granted there needs to be humongous social change to catch up with the 20th century, but there has been a dramatic amount of change in the last year. If those efforts create individual freedom, the current anti-corruption campaign makes corruption a bad thing, and the social guard rails of the religious police go away, then there might be a chance, slim though it may be, that the country could actually modernize and move beyond its deadly addiction to oil.
All these pieces fit together as a crash course in modernization, according to Ms. House’s theory in the article. The main idea is that personal freedom could lead to financial responsibility which could lead to entrepreneurialism and a vibrant, expanding economy.
11/7/17 – The Guardian – “This is a revolution”: Saudi’s absorb Crown Prince’s rush to reform – Article also makes the point that the massive arrests are part of a major effort to transform the country. The super elite, who are untouchable until last weekend, will now be removed or warned to get out-of-the-way.
Article points out the changes so far this year have been radical. The religious police have lost much of their power. More social changes on the way. Another article mentioned below says a lot of clerics and activists got arrested in September.