This past Sunday was the first trading day throughout the Persian Gulf region since the announcement by Gulf State foreign ministers that they were pledging $20 billion in financial aid to assist fellow Gulf States Oman and Bahrain, who have been facing civil unrest and anti-government demonstrations for the past several weeks. This boost has proved to be welcome medicine for the region, prompting a strong showing on the Gulf’s major markets. Dubai’s main market was the leader in gains with an increase of 4.3% up to 1,513 points.
Saudi Arabia Quells Mass Protest with Mass Show of Force
Another factor contributing to the improved market performance was the averted major protests which had been feared were going to appear in Saudi Arabia. But the Saudi main financial index increased by 1.5% to trade at 6,693 points. The much feared anti-government protests in Saudi Arabia were thwarted by a huge show of power and force by the Saudi security forces, thus, at least for the time being, quelling the national fervor to protest.
Oman Grants More Handouts
Helping to improve the optimistic market mood was the announcement that Oman’s ruler, Sultan Qaboos bin Said would be doubling the welfare payments to his citizens while also increasing pension payments. This is just the newest in a series of rulers offering improved financial entitlements to citizens as a result of the regional unrest which has been taking the Arab world by storm in the last few months.
More Power to the People?
The sultan has also agreed to grant lawmaking powers to the Oman council. This is a huge concession on the part of the sultan who has led Oman as a dictator for the past 40 years, with only himself and his cabinet able to create legislation. The Oman Council, until now, was only able to advice the sultan. Consisting of two parts, the elected Shura Council and the State Council, which consists of members who the sultan has himself appointed, giving legislative power to the council is a decision which came on the heels of shocking protests in Oman which left one person dead.
The concessions were met with mixed reactions on the part of the protestors, who continue to hold a vigil outside the Shura Council, some were skeptical while others were hopeful.
“It does not mean much at the moment. We will celebrate when the Shura Council is granted real powers in the running of the government,” protester Hadi Suleiman said.
Faiz al-Ashour, another protester, said: “It looks good and it shows that the protests are beginning to bear results toward meaning political reforms.”