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The New Arab

11 Saudi princes detained for protesting austerity measures

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has steadily consolidated his grip on power [Getty]

Date of publication: 6 January, 2018

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Saudi authorities detained 11 princes who gathered at a royal palace in Riyadh in a rare protest against austerity measures that included suspending payment of their utility bills.
Eleven princes were detained by authorities in Saudi Arabia after they gathered at a royal palace in the capital Riyadh to protest austerity measures, local media reported on Saturday.

The princes gathered at the historic Qasr al-Hokom palace and demanded the cancellation of a royal decree that saw a halt to the payments of the utility bills for royal family members. 

"They were informed of the error of their demands, but they refused to leave Qasr al-Hokm," news site Sabq reported.

"A royal order was issued to the royal guards ... to intervene and they were detained and put into al-Hayer prison in preparation to put them on trial."

After the 2014 oil market crash, Saudi Arabia announced a five percent value-added tax on most goods and services which took effect at the start of this year.

The oil-rich Gulf has long been a tax-free haven for both high-income households and migrant labourers, who frequently rely on remittances to support their families back home.

Saudi Arabia introduced a series of austerity measures over the past two years to boost revenues and cut spending as the slump in world oil prices led to ballooning budget deficits. 

The kingdom posted an economic contraction in 2017 for the first time in eight years due to severe austerity measures.

The coming year's budget envisions record spending for the kingdom, a move meant to return the economy to positive growth. 

On Friday, King Salman announced a royal decree under which troops serving at the border with Yemen, where Saudi Arabia is allied with the government in a war against Houthi rebels, will receive a bonus of 5,000 riyals ($1,333, 1,108 euros). 

In a statement, King Salman also ordered a boost in stipends and benefits for citizens to cushion the impact of the economic reforms. 

The statement said the measures were based on "information provided by" Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the king's powerful son who has steadily consolidated his grip on power since his shock appointment as heir to the throne in June.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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