Saudi king boosts economic benefits to citizens

February 23, 2011 12:42

CAIRO — Saudi Arabia's king on Wednesday ordered billions poured into a development fund that helps Saudis buy homes, get married and start businesses, state TV reported, as the oil-rich nation warily watches the unrest spreading around the Middle East.

The measure was one of several announced by the monarch, who returned home Wednesday after a three-month absence during which he underwent medical treatment in the United States.

Abdullah ordered that 40 billion riyals, or about $10.7 billion, be injected into the country's development fund, Saudi television said. That nearly doubles the original budget of 47 billion riyals.

Other new measures include a 15 percent cost of living adjustment for government workers and a year of unemployment assistance for youth.

The steps could be meant to shore up popular support and fend off unrest, as protests hit neighboring Bahrain, the first nation in the oil-rich Gulf to experience the region's anti-government upheaval.

Much of the unrest is linked to poverty as well as demands for more political freedom.

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