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Pockets of Poverty

When you think of poverty, countries like Saudi Arabia and United States do not come to mind, but there are pockets of poverty in both these countries. In Saudi Arabia, the guess would be that the poor people would be the expatriate people and the guess would be wrong. It seems there are poor Saudis too.

The image of Saudi Arabia abroad is of a land teaming with wealth and opportunity — the “oil-rich desert Kingdom” as the international media insist on saying. Inside the Kingdom, it is a rather different picture. Yes, there is wealth and opportunity — and massive development — but there is also poverty. The slums of south Riyadh or south Jeddah are real and shocking. It is not expatriate laborers who live in such places; it is poor Saudis. They cannot afford anything better. Nor is poverty confined to places like Qarantina in Jeddah or Suwaidi in Riyadh. There is serious rural poverty as well; as elsewhere, it manifests itself in substandard, rundown accommodation.

For many years, Saudi poverty was a taboo subject, unspoken by those who saw it as shameful and who foolishly imagined that by ignoring it, it would go away. It was Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah who, as crown prince, broke the taboo. His unprecedented visit to the slums of Suwaidi just over three years ago brought poverty into the open and with it a determination address the issue. [Poverty in the Kingdom]

During the Hurricane Katrina, the world saw the poverty in New Orleans. Here in California, which is the fifth largest economy in the world, poverty exists and one such place is Fresno (about 150 miles from Silicon Valley), which is the hearland of the California farmland.

This city at the heart of the richest farmland in the world has been poor for so long, no one can remember it otherwise. Last month, when the Brookings Institution issued a report that said a higher proportion of poor people in Fresno lived in areas of concentrated poverty than in any other major city in the country — pre-Katrina New Orleans was number two — no one here was surprised. “My goodness, that’s why I ran,” said Alan Autry, who became mayor in 2000. “I called it ‘A Tale of Two Cities.’ “[In Fresno, Tackling Poverty Moves to the Top of the Agenda]

Since Saudi Arabia runs at the King’s mercy, some direction has to come from him to eradicate povery. According to Govt. study, it would take atleast 30 years to reduce poverty to minimal levels if the spending in human services increased and people are calling for Saudi Arabia to be a more inclusive and democratic nation in the hope that it would bring prosperity to all people. But then United States is democratic and very inclusive and still the problem persists.

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