Today the world is experiencing a potential for the greatest shift in political change since the 1989 fall of communism. While many see the unrest in the Middle East as a sudden event that is leading to the changes of leadership in various countries; this has actually been simmering for decades. The domino affect transpired by the collapse of the Tunisian government several months ago is unprecedented in its’ speed and geographical area.

The tension now observed in Saudi Arabia has been spoken by the local populace in hushed tones for many years. I was working with a young Saudi engineer in the early 80s when he disappeared one night. He was know for his public writings that were critical of the Saudi Monarchy. Several months later he surfaced. He had actually put on weight but he was extremely pale. I never heard of him writing again.

Residents of local towns in the Kingdom are critical of the opulence displayed in the construction of massive palaces that are frequented by the King or Princes maybe one week out of the year. In many cases these same residents are living in towns that are deprived of public sewage and water. This has been a major point of contention with residences of these communities.

On the other side of the spectrum is the Monarchy’s programs to provide services for the populace of Saudi Arabia. Free education from elementary school through college is provided. All hospitals and clinics provide free medical services for the Saudi citizens. A road network that was once two lane tracks through the desert is now six lane super highways. Still the citizens ae not satisfied.

It is now being reported that he Saudis are offering air conditioning and expanded services to the citizens of the country. Long known for their desire to negotiate instead of confrontation and the ability to pay for piece; it will be interesting to see if this strategy can curtail the growing desire to overthrow the monarchy and establish some type of democratic rule. One thing is certain, if civil unrest envelopes Saudi Arabia the world will be in for a period of economic uncertainty as we watch to see who will control one of the richest oil countries in the world.

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