Saudi Arabia and the other oil-rich kingdoms of the Gulf are emerging as bankers of counter-revolution, dispensing aid to governments, investing in business, making charitable donations and selling subsidized oil to countries under pressure from Arab Spring street protests and sagging economies.
Jordan, whose king is fending off calls for democracy, is the latest beneficiary of the largesse. On Monday, it received a $1 billion check from Saudi Arabia to cover its budget deficit and help prop up its economy. The donation brings total aid to Jordan this year to $1.4 billion and more is likely to come, including selling it oil at reduced prices, the Amman-based daily Al Arab Al-Yawm reported today.
“Saudi Arabia and the GCC as a whole want to insulate themselves from the secular and tribal and sectarian forces that are being unleashed by the revolt,” Theodore Karasik, director for research at the Dubai-based Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis, told The Media Line. “They are watching with extreme caution in their near abroad because of the impact it has on their own states.”
Jordan’s King Abdullah is a prime candidate for aid. A moderate, pro-Western monarch, he has been buffeted by protests. Meanwhile, Jordan’s economy is sinking. Tourism and construction, two mainstays of the economy, are contracting and unemployment rose above 13% in the second quarter. Inflation is accelerating and gas imports from Egypt needed to power generating plants have been repeatedly interrupted.
Saudi aid has enabled the government to contain its budget deficit even as it has increased subsidies to pacify the population.