Saudi Arabia Must Empower Women If it Truly Wants to Move Forward

Source: Time

Mar 08, 2017
Bremmer is a foreign affairs columnist and editor-at-large at TIME. He is the president of Eurasia Group, a political-risk consultancy, and a Global Research Professor at New York University. His most recent book is Superpower: Three Choices for America’s Role in the World

 

What does Saudi Arabia need? Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman knows the answer. If his country is to become an economically dynamic, politically stable nation, it must relieve the kingdom’s dependence on energy exports, adapt to a world of accelerating technological change, prepare Saudi citizens to excel in 21st century jobs, and empower many more women to participate.

Vision isn’t enough, however, and the likely future king’s reform plans will probably come up short on social change. There has been progress; last year, for example, the religious police had their powers of arrest curbed. But a bid to unleash the talent of Saudi women is still headed the wrong way up a one-way street. As much of the world marks International Women’s Day today, March 8, the Saudi workplace remains a remote destination for too many women.

Vision 2030 aims to increase the percentage of women in the workforce from 22% to 30%. Yet bin Salman continues to support the unofficial ban on women driving automobiles. That’s probably political pragmatism, as the kingdom’s conservatives push back hard on social reform, particularly those that involve women’s rights. Even in an authoritarian state, politics remains the art of the possible. But this often-contradictory approach toward reform makes it impossible to modernize the kingdom’s economy.

This is an old story. In 2017, Saudi political stability still depends on a pact between Saudi royals and the kingdom’s conservative clerics. The ruling family subsidizes clerics and lets them preach as they choose; the clerics, in turn, support the royals’ political legitimacy. Royals challenge religious conservatives at their peril.

Read more

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.