Saudi king boosting social fund

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King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia has ordered billions of riyal be poured into a social development fund

Saudi Arabia’s king has ordered billions of riyal be poured into a development fund that helps people buy homes, get married and start businesses, in the wake of the unrest spreading around the Middle East.

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

King Abdullah ordered that 40 billion riyal – about £6.6 billion – be injected into the country’s development fund which nearly doubles the original budget.

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

The steps could be meant to shore up popular support and fend off unrest, as protests hit neighbouring 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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