Saudi “Day of Rage” May Fizzle on the Launching Pad

March 10, 2011

by Eric Hammer | FTMDaily Contributing Writer

TEL AVIV, Mar 10 – A so called “Day of Rage” has been scheduled for tomorrow in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The planned protest has been called for on a Facebook group which sports some 17,000 members and has sent the market for crude oil into emergency standby mode. Analysts have been standing by, waiting to see if there will be a disruption in output from the world’s largest oil exporter.

However, unlike protests that have rocked many other regimes in the Middle East and North Africa, the planned protests in Saudi Arabia are not intended to demand a toppling of the government in Riyadh but rather to demand certain reforms from the existing government.

The Saudi Arabian government has a long history of tolerating a certain amount of extremism within its borders as a way of allowing the local populace to “let off steam.” The regime has at times even gone so far as to offer state sponsorship to a number of Muslim schools called madrasas where children are indoctrinated into Wahabism, an extreme form of Islam.

In an effort to blunt the impact of the latest plans for protests, the King of Saudi Arabia has also announced a cabinet reshuffle and a $36 billion stimulus plan which analysts say really amounts to little more than a bribe for the local populace to keep them happy. Other measures the regime has announced include a planned 15% raise for public workers and the release of a number of prisoners from debtor’s prison.

Some analysts had been suggesting that the Saudi protests could push oil above $200 a barrel. However, yesterday, perhaps on news that Muammar Gaddafi was successfully beating back rebel forces, prices actually dipped slightly, retreating from a high of over $105 a barrel to $104.51 a barrel. However, the slight dip didn’t last long and, as of this writing, oil has risen again to $105.03 a barrel.

The key question that analysts have posed is whether or not Saudi youth, which forms an extremely large demographic will take part in large numbers in the planned protests. With 60% of the country’s population under 30 and official unemployment running at 11%, disenfranchised Saudi Arabian young people could easily tilt the balance toward chaos as opposed to a more moderate protest which would have a minimal impact on world oil prices.

It is, however, somewhat telling that an earlier plan, which called for the “Day of Rage” to be held on Monday fizzled when few protesters turned out to demonstrate against the regime. Organizers quickly recalibrated and made plans to move the protest back to this coming Friday, however, with one abortive protest behind them and a seeming failure, it seems likely that tomorrow’s protests will come and go without any real change taking place in Riyadh.

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