Saudi Arabia’s king, seeking to keep unrest sweeping the Arab world at bay, offered billions of dollars worth of welfare benefits, jobs and housing for his people and promised reforms.
In a brief nationally televised speech after midday Muslim prayers, King Abdullah praised his security forces for helping keep the country’s stable during recent demonstrations in the kingdom. He vowed to boost the religious police and law enforcement sector.
When he finished his address, news anchors then read a series of royal decrees. They include: increasing the minimum wage for state workers to $800 monthly, spending $66.7 billion on new housing and adding 60,000 jobs to the security and interior sector. The government also vowed an anti-corruption drive.
Earlier this month, the Saudi government banned protests, although several small demonstrations have taken place since the ban.
Also, King Abdullah has previously offered incentives to help quell the unrest. In February, he ordered a 15-percent pay raise for state workers and increased spending on a range of social programs.
The 86-year-old monarch returned to Saudi Arabia in February after spending three months abroad for medical treatment.
In November, he underwent surgery in New York for a herniated disc that was complicated by a blood clot. He had a second procedure in New York in December.