Suffering is relative for inflation-hit Saudis

By Andrew Hammond

RIYADH, Aug 17 (Reuters) – With inflation rising across the Gulf Arab region, Saudi Arabia’s perennial problem of unequal distribution of wealth has never been so obvious.

While poor Saudis queue for hours to obtain water in the kingdom’s second city Jeddah, others are able to take advantage of America’s new-found disdain for gas-guzzling four-wheel-drives by snapping up imported cars.

Thousands of couples are cutting costs by forgoing individual weddings in favour of mass ceremonies carried out by a charity backed by Saudi princes. But the affluent are still going on holidays, albeit opting for cheaper stays in neighbouring Arab countries rather than trips to Europe or Asia.

Surging oil prices have triggered a turnaround in Saudi Arabia’s economic fortunes and a return to some of the big spending — by wealthy individuals and the monarchy — that characterised the 1970s and 1980s.

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