Saudi Arabia: 11 Princes protest against austerity measures, detained

On Thursday, 11 princes were arrested following a sit-in outside a palace in Riyadh against a government decision to stop paying the water and electricity bills of royals.

All the eleven princes were detained by the Saudi authorities and were sent to al-Hayer prison after they gathered at Qasr a-Hokm royal palace to object to austerity measures recently imposed on members of the royal family.

The recent arrests come amid a string of government spending cuts as Saudi Arabia, the world's largest producer of oil, pushes to diversify its economy following the 2014 drop in global oil prices. In cooperation with other security sectors, the Royal Guard provides security and protection to the king, crown prince and VIPs inside and outside the country.

Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman has been overseeing anti-corruption, austerity and social reforms programs since late a year ago, which included giving women the right to drive automobiles.

Saudi Arabia's King Salman on Saturday declared a monthly payment of 1000 riyals ($267) to his countrymen in order to lessen the impact of rising cost of living after the sudden increase in domestic gas prices and introduced Value-Added Tax.

The Saudi royal family is thought to number thousands, but the wealth and status between them can vary wildly.

In November, the government arrested dozens of influential Saudis, including princes, cabinet ministers and business tycoons, detaining them at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Riyadh, the Saudi capital. Besides cutting the aforementioned benefits for members of the royal family, the austerity program has also included doubling domestic gasoline prices and levying new taxes on most goods and services.

As compensation for the increase in living expenses, King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud ordered civil servants to receive an additional 1000 riyals per month (about 220 EUR).

The unemployment rate among Saudis aged 15 to 24 stood at 32.6 percent a year ago, according to the International Labor Organization.

  • Rogelio Becker