By Jim Kouri
The Kingdom of Bahrain joined Kuwait and Saudi Arabia in attempting to quell that nation’s civil unrest by promising the citizens economic incentives and government reforms, according to the U.S. Department of State report obtained by the National Association of Chiefs of Police this week.
The ultimate goal of these Muslim nation monarchies is to avoid increased power by terrorist groups and those susceptible to radicalization, said counterterrorism expert Warren Strang, formerly of the New York’s Intelligence Division.
For example, the Saudi’s King Abdullah promised the creation of 60,000 new law enforcement jobs at the Ministry of Interior in order to provide additional internal security as well as employment opportunities for the Arabian people.
Meanwhile in Bahrain, His Royal Highness Prime Minister Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa announced a number of large-scale construction projects to stimulate that kingdom’s economy.
The Prime Minister claimed he has already commissioned feasibility studies for a number of projects to bolster the nation’s infrastructure and return the country to economic prosperity.
“The huge development [projects] are aimed at re-energizing the national economy and ensuring [it will have more of] an edge,” Stang said. The Prime Minister instructed officials in the government to suggest a list of such projects along with their estimated costs and deadlines, he added.
“The priority should be put first and foremost on housing and infrastructure,” the Prime Minister said in a statement.
This initiative is part of a series of proposals by the government to return Bahrain to normalcy. Earlier this month the Crown Prince called on all opposition groups to enter a “National Dialogue” and explore ways to foster reform in Bahrain.
In additon, the Central Bank of Bahrain was instructed to provide more help to businesses in overcoming negative repercussions resulting from the country’s recent civil unrest.
The Prime Minister directed bank officials to co-ordinate extra measures with banks and financial institutions to help the private sector regain its pivotal role as a driving force within the national economy.
“The government is working hard for the economy to emerge stronger and surmount any negative repercussions,” Stang noted.
During a speech televised throughout the Middle East and North Africa, Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz announced a number of royal decrees, believed to be an effort to placate those opposing the current government.
This latest display of government generosity in Saudi Arabia follows a similar pattern observed in Kuwait.
These Saudi decrees will increase benefits, create new law enforcement jobs at the Ministry of Interior, provide funds for new housing projects, and expand the availability of healthcare, according to King Abdullah.
Although overshadowed by the events in Libya and Egypt, civil unrest has plagued Saudi Arabia including a violent clash in which Saudi police officers fired on protesters, many of whom were members of the Shiite minority.
The royal decrees issued by King Abdullah include:
- Payment of two-month salary to all public civil and military personnel.
- Payment of two-month stipend to all public higher education students.
- Payment of SR 2,000 ($533) per month for job-seekers at the public and private sectors.
- Increase the minimum wage in the public sector to SR 3,000 ($800) per month.
- Construction of 500,000 residential units in all regions of the Kingdom and appropriating a total amount of SR 250 billion ($66.7 billion) for that project, which will be implemented under the supervision of the General Commission for Housing.
- Raised the maximum amount of interest-free loans issued by the Real Estate Development Fund from SR 300,000 ($80,000) to SR 500,000 ($133,333) per applicant.
- Established a National Commission on Combating Corruption, and appointed Mohammad bin Abdullah Al-Shareef as its president at the rank of minister.
- Provision of SR 16 billion ($4.3 billion) to the Ministry of Health to implement and expand several medical projects in various regions.
- Raised the limit of financial assistance to private hospital from SR 50 million ($13.3 million) to SR 200 million ($53.3 million).
- Creation of 60,000 law enforcement jobs at the Ministry of Interior.
Kingdom of Kuwait
According to a Law Enforcement Examiner news story, Kuwait’s First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah announced and implemented several key initiatives for the Kuwaiti military on February 26.
He issued pardons to military service members who have been absent from duty up to 180 days, and he has spearheaded salary increases for all military personnel. In addition, he raised the age of non-Kuwaiti military personnel to 65-years old.
According to Kuwaiti government officials, these initiative are in advance of the upcoming celebrations in Kuwait this month such as the 20th anniversary of Kuwait’s liberation from Iraq by the United States and its allies.
February was also the month to celebrate the 5th anniversary of His Royal Highness the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah’s rise to power as Kuwait’s monarch. The Minister of Defense said the pardons and salary increases are part of an ambitiously positive agenda for 2011.
“Kuwait’s military is vital to our safety, strength and security,” the Defense Minister said in a press statement. “When we have opportunities to encourage our service members, we must do what we can. It is my hope that all absent service members take advantage of this opportunity for amnesty by returning to duty.”
Both the Amir and the Prime Minister avoided using the term “deserter” to describe AWOL (away without leave) members of the Kuwaiti armed services.
Kuwait’s Higher Council of Defense approved the salary increases with the urging of Sheikh Jaber. The council originally proposed an 80 percent increase, but Sheikh Jaber advocated a 100 percent pay raise.
The approved increase varies according to rank, ranging between 72 percent and 115 percent and will include all military personnel in the Army, Interior Ministry, National Guard and Fire Department.
While the Kuwaiti government is advocating kindness and generosity towards its service members, several experts in Middle East geopolitics and military affairs believe the monarchy is seeking to maintain control, loyalty and allegiance of its army, intelligence service and law enforcement officers should civil unrest occur.