A Twitter campaign launched in Saudi Arabia called “the salary doesn’t meet my needs” has taken cyberspace by storm, with at least 17 million tweets in two weeks stating dissatisfaction with the country’s economy, according to reports.
The hashtag has become the 16th most popular Twitter trend in any language, with an average of 1,214,000 tweets per day in the first two weeks since its launch in mid-July, Foreign Policy magazine reported in August.
“Our criticism isn’t a way to rebel against the government, but rather to convey the voices of the people calmly and politely,” said one Twitter user.
Such tweets “are reflecting a real distress,” another added.
A comparison between the salaries in the private and government sectors, and between those of Saudis and others in the Gulf, is a main topic of discussion.
Saudis employed by their private sector are the least paid in the Gulf Cooperation Council, which also includes Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, according to a 2013 study by the World Bank.
Saudi employees in the private sector are paid an average of 6,400 Saudi riyals ($1,706) per month, compared with SR15,200 ($4,053) for nationals and SR23,600 ($6,293) for European private-sector employees in other Gulf states, the study showed.
However, “fear and salary increase could contribute to higher commodity prices,” said Saudi economic analyst Aqeel al-Onaizi.
“A lot of people have a problem in money management. If they get an increase in salary or a loan, they don’t spend their money on essentials, but rather on a holiday or a car, which is hardly beneficial to the improvement of their financial state,” Saudi economist Abdulrahman al-Mazi told Al Arabiya English.
“Citizens don’t know how to save money. They’re consumerists,” said Mohammad al-Saed, editor-in-chief of Saudi newspaper al-Tejara.
Other critics of the Twitter campaign ask whether it is realistic for Saudis to expect the government to reach into its coffers to raise the budget of each of its citizens, reported Foreign Policy.
“Saudi Arabia is envied... for its sense of security and safety,” cabinet secretary Abdulrahman al-Sadhan told Saudi newspaper al-Watan.
Social media is a “seditious force,” he added.
“Unlike other nations, the kingdom lives in security, peace, contentment and prosperity,” Sadhan said, adding that he believes there is a conspiracy against the country.