Saudi Arabia's Big Leap

(New York Times) Kenneth M. Pollack - Saudi Arabia announced last week that within a year it will hold elections for municipal councils. As long as the Saudis keep moving down the path toward democratization, no matter how sluggishly, it will be hard for the other countries of the region not to follow. Saudi Arabia is in desperate need of comprehensive reform. The kingdom can no longer afford the profligate ways of the royal family or the cradle-to-grave social welfare system erected during the fat years of the 1970s and 80s. The Saudi educational system is useless, emphasizing the humanities and Islamic studies at the expense of science and mathematics, and even college graduates have few marketable job skills. The result is that unemployment probably exceeds 30%, and among males in their 20s - the talent pool for terrorists and revolutionaries - it is probably even higher. The writer is director of research at the Saban Center of Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution.

2003-10-24 00:00:00

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