Martin Bunton: University of Victoria – “The Crown Prince and the Clown Prince: Saudi – US relations under Trump”

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What a history lesson of Saudi Arabia. Oil was discovered before WW1 but by the 1940/50s there was little oil money. By the 60’s oil money started to pour in and challenges of how to distribute it fairly began.  This meant huge profits for the Royal family.  They had the divine right to monarchy but also a responsibility with oil money and religion.  With no taxation there is no representation for the peoples. The problem for the Royal family is what happens when the oil runs out. It will put tremendous pressure on the monarchy and demands for democracy.

With everyone getting paid off, they have created a welfare state and the need for workers is filled by imported workers. Ten million out of a thirty-three million population are foreign workers.  A whopping 30-40%of their budget goes to arms expenditures. Even with these investments they have to call in the US to defend them.

Muhammad bin Salman (MBS) has to prove to his family that he is taking the right steps all the time. For the first time oil is being depleted, oil prices are dropping (they need $80/barrel to break even). He is dealing with gender rights: allowing women to drive. The challenge is how to get more employment for Saudi’s without sending too many foreign workers back to their countries. In short: How does he grow the economy beyond oil? The Prince needs Trump and Trump appears to be indebted to the Prince. Iran is mixed in the middle of everything.

In response to the question of where will Saudi be if Trump is elected or defeated our Professor said he is a historian not a predictor of the future. If we learned anything, it is complicated act to balance oil monies – religion – foreign workers – friends and foes without causing a major world calamity. How confident are you that the Crown Prince and the Clown Prince will act with political responsibility?

Isn’t history grand!!

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