The oil price and Saudi Arabia

Summary: the oil price is expected to remain low. Saudi spending is largely out of control, and the huge cash reserves will not last forever. Wars and princes are expensive.

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  1. As noted, some of the practices outlined in the Wikileaked Cable include princely land-banking (often with insider knowledge) and doles from Saudi Aramco. Elements of Pr MbS’s Vision 2030 involves placing public land into the PIF, taxing undeveloped land, as well as privatising parts of Aramco (which will thus presumably entail more transparency of Aramco outgoings.) The entire Gulf region is under pressure over the kafala “sponsorship” system, pressure likely to increase given the recent problems of workers being discharged en masse without their back-pay. When coupled with proposed increases in cost of living (through reduced subsidies), these moves may make members of cadet branches of the Al Sa’ud more dependent on direct stipends from the ruling branch, and may also make competition for the succession stiffer.
    One estimate in Dec 15 put the cost of Coalition land, air, and maritime operations over Yemen at $200 million / day, which works out at $6bn / month (although it is likely to have dropped greatly during the past few months of ceasefire.) Although no breakdown of the $200m was provided, this sum is unlikely to include the Information Operations campaign in the US, and probably doesn’t include the two bonus doles to Sa’udi soldiers in Apr 15 and Aug 16.

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