Saudi Arabia: Princes arrested after protesting austerity

Saudi King orders inflation allowance to ease cost of living after new VAT

Saudi Arabia introduces populist measure to try soften austerity policy

According to several media reports, eleven princes were imprisoned after protesting at a royal palace against the recently announced austerity measures.

News website sabq.org said the princes had gathered at the Qasr a-Hokm, a historic royal palace, demanding the cancellation of a royal decree that stopped state payment of water and electricity bills for royal family members. It said the men were being held in prison on charges of disturbing public peace and order.

The meteoric rise of 32-year-old Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the king's favored son, and his ambitious, sometimes aggressive, policies have caused rare tensions within the royal family, which for decades favored rule by consensus. The country plans to slash its generous welfare program and open energy giant Saudi Aramco to partial privatization.

The cuts continue and the subsidies for members of the royal family were reduced.

Dozens of other high-profile royal figures who were detained in 2017 during an anti-corruption drive have been detained inside a luxury hotel. Some have since reached settlements with the government. 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.

The Gulf kingdom has also intensified efforts to boost employment of its own citizens.

Saudi King Salman on January 6 ordered extra pay for government workers and soldiers this year.

Saudi Arabia's information minister on Sunday said the handouts would cost the government up to 80 billion riyals ($13.3 billion, 11 billion euros) in 2018.

About 1.18 million Saudis are employed in the government sector and there are more than 1.23 million pensioners and beneficiaries of pension payments, the central bank says.

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