Saturday, March 5, 2011

Why Are There Protests in Only Certain Middle Eastern Countries?

As far as investments, I have warned about the possibility of uprisings in Saudi Arabia.  As far as oil is concerned, Libya is small peanuts compared to Saudi Arabia.  If major protests begin in Saudi Arabia, you can look for the price of oil to double or more if oil supply disruptions are threatened there.

This is an example of where international events affect the entire planet, both short-term and long-term.  Overall, the events should be positive for liberty in the long-term.  People are tired of oppression by thug dictators and are beginning to rebel.  We can thank technology for a large part of this.

It is interesting to observe where these uprisings are occurring.  There is a theme of protests happening in Middle Eastern countries, which are mostly dictatorships.  In addition, most of these dictators get money from the U.S. government, which makes it easier for them to suppress opposition.

We shouldn't ignore the demographics of the countries that are experiencing these protests.  These are mainly poor countries where a lot of the people are living on a few dollars a day, if that.  Some of them have computers and cell phones because of the inexpensive technology industry.  But many of them are struggling just to put food on the table each day.

Saudi Arabia is different.  The Saud family are dictators and they are oppressive.  There is very little social freedom in Saudi Arabia.  But it is an oil rich country and there is a little bit of free enterprise there.  Although it is nothing like the U.S., there is somewhat of a middle class there.  In addition, there are a lot of foreigners working in Saudi Arabia.  The Saud family recently said they would spend $36 billion to help the people there.  If they were smart, they would have just offered it all in checks directly to everyone, but instead it looks like it will be more like an Obama stimulus on government programs.

Although there is certainly a possibility of revolution in Saudi Arabia, it is a different country that Egypt, Tunisia, or Libya.  There is more for people to lose there.  Sometimes when you have more wealth, you don't take as much risk because you don't want to lose what you have.

I had seen earlier stories listing several countries that could face revolution.  I saw the United Arab Emirates on this list a few times.  I don't think the people who wrote these stories thought things through.  They have obviously never been to a place like Dubai.

Dubai and other parts of the United Arab Emirates have freer markets than the U.S. and almost everywhere else.  Dubai is an example of a benevolent dictatorship.  There are still problems with social freedoms, but even here it is a far better place than Saudi Arabia.  Economically speaking, it is a booming place.  Sure it had some problems a couple of years ago, probably because of its ties to the U.S. dollar, but Dubai has a lot going for it.  Despite what many people think, it is not a wealthy country primarily due to oil.  It has a huge tourist industry and it is a great place for international businesses.  There is very little in the way of taxes and regulations.

In addition to all of this, the majority of people there are immigrants.  People go there for jobs.  These people are not going to hit the streets and protest.  They know they have a better life there than the third world country from which they came.  I see the prospects of revolution in Dubai and the rest of the U.A.E. to be low.  I don't see a revolution happening in a place that has indoor skiing.

Saudi Arabia is the wild card right now.  It could go either way.  If big protests do begin there, I hope you own some oil stocks or futures.

No comments: