Thursday, December 13, 2007

Saudi Arabia's economic liberalization

by Erlend Paasche from ISN Security Watch (Switzerland)

Dr Steffen Hertog of Princeton University, an expert on Saudi Arabia, takes a more cautious stance, stressing the need to differentiate between different aspects of the economy when discussing the relative success of Saudi economic reforms ... However one chooses to assess the success of Saudi economic liberalization, the country's accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) last year is an important breakthrough, propelling the Saudi state into international economic competition and expanding its market for petrochemical exports. Dr F Gregory Gause of the University of Vermont, another expert on Saudi Arabia, said joining the WTO should help the kingdom improve financial transparency, but may not have a broad enough impact on shadowy practices. "[I]t is so hard to get real data [on corruption]. The anecdotal data is that there have been efforts from the top to curb the more egregious corrupt behavior. But there is a whole range of behaviors by politically connected Saudis in the economic realm that those who live in more transparent economies would consider corrupt. I doubt they are going to change."

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