All eyes are on Saudi Arabia right now, especially on Wall Street, as an upcoming planned protest there could send shockwaves through global markets. Here are some items for investors to be aware of:
1. There are actually two planned protests being organized on Facebook in Saudi Arabia – one on March 11th followed by one on March 20th.
2. Unlike what we’ve seen in Libya and in Egypt, the demands of the protesters are not quite so ambitious as to call for an overthrow of the ruling royal family. Rather, the 17,000 or so members of the Facebook group would like to see free elections for some of the higher government positions and more representation of the people.
3. The Saudi ruling class has just committed to a $37 billion bribe for their subjects and is expected to announce a cabinet shuffle – both ploys aimed at calming the populace down ahead of any protests. They have also offered a 15 percent salary hike for public employees to “offset inflation” and to release scores of people from their state-run debtors’ prison.
4. 60% of Saudi Arabia’s population of 18 million people is under 30. The official statistics say that Saudi Arabia has an 11% unemployment rate, critics scoff at the legitimacy of those numbers.
5. The two possible hotspots for democratic protest are Riyadh (4 million people) and Jeddah (2 million people). The Shia underclass, inhabitants of the oil rich Eastern Province, are also expected to hold their own demonstrations.
6. King Abdullah is said to have a personal net worth of $21 billion. He is 86 years old and his successor is 82 years old.
7. Saudi Arabia produces 8 million barrels of crude oil a day, roughly 10 percent of the world’s daily consumption. One fifth of the world’s known oil reserves sit beneath Saudi Arabian soil.
8. Crude oil futures are now trading above $100 a barrel for the first time in almost 3 years ahead of next Friday’s first Saudi Day of Rage.
9. While the protests are meant to be peaceful, organizers are alleging that Faisal Ahmed Abdul-Ahadwashas has already been shot. He was 27-years-old and one of the administrators of the Facebook group, his fellow activists say that his body has been hidden by state security.