The long slump in the price of oil is eviscerating the economy. Neighboring countries are plagued by violence and extremism. Saudi Arabia’s air force has been raining death and destruction on Yemen for 19 months, with no end in sight. The kingdom’s regional struggle with Iran shapes every decision in international affairs. Inside the country, the Islamic State has been recruiting so intently that the police have established a direct emergency phone number, 990, for families to call when they think one of their sons is about to go to Syria to join up. Social media outlets are alive with complaints, mostly anonymous, about the way the ruling family is managing the country.
This is not to say that Saudi Arabia is politically unstable or faces any immediate crisis. Saudis are generally patient people, and they abhor disorder. But in the aggregate, the government is facing stern tests of its ability to manage the country as power passes from one generation of the Al-Saud family to the next. The economic slump is the most pressing issue…
In the past, a drop in the price of oil was eventually followed by a turnaround, enabling the government to wait out the slump, insulate the population from hardship, and maintain the undisciplined spending that has been a fixture of Saudi life since the 1940s. This time, the government said it would be different: economic policy would not be driven by the price of oil. The people would do more to support themselves and the state would do less. The government has cut salaries and bonuses of the public-sector employees who dominate the work force, cancelled billions of dollars worth of construction and service contracts, and announced plans to levy a value-added tax next year on a population long accustomed to life without taxes. But Saudi Arabia’s decision at the recent meeting of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries to drive up the price of oil by cutting production sent a strong signal that the cash crunch may force some revision of this new policy.
The kingdom has simultaneously embarked on an ambitious plan to restructure its economy from top to bottom, building a new foundation on private enterprise, foreign investment, capital accumulation, and greatly increased productivity in its labor force, including women. In theory, at least, the sinecure government job is out as the primary engine of employment; private enterprise, hard work and competence are in…
The program, known as Vision 2030, may be politically risky because it would change the fundamental relationship between the rulers and ruled. The people of Saudi Arabia have long accepted the national bargain imposed by the founding king, Abdul Aziz al-Saud, in which they are disenfranchised but acquiesce in political powerlessness because the state provides them with security and a comfortable life. Now they are being asked to do more for themselves while the government does less, regardless of the price of oil. In effect, Vision 2030 proclaims that Saudi Arabia will cease to be a classic “rentier state,” living off the wealth that comes out of the ground.
A good read on Saudi Arabia’s apparent plans to more closely follow the China model: economic liberalization without accompanying political liberalization.
For the super-rich Bond villains of the world, OPA (Open Platform for Architecture) have produced this concept for a cliffside home straight out of James Bond. Overlooking the Aegean Sea, this residence of concrete and glass makes little impact on the landscape besides a rooftop pool (which casts incredible ripples through its glass bottom into the interior spaces) and a set of steps. Follow the steps downward and you’re faced with a full-height, full-width wall of glass providing amazing views out to sea.
As would be expected from a brutalist concrete home, the interior features of Casa Brutale are minimal and spacious, all set below the most fantastic light show from the swimming pool above.
Albus Dumbledore had got to his feet. He was beaming at the students, his arms opened wide, as if nothing could have pleased him more than to see them all there. ‘Welcome!’ he said. 'Welcome to a new year at Hogwarts!’