Middle East Sees Vast Division Between Poor and Wealthy

Across the Middle East, there is enormous disparity between those who have so much and those who have almost nothing at all.

In Saudi Arabia, the wealth disparity can be staggering. The royal family, fueled by oil money, maintains a lifestyle few can imagine, but just south of the country lies Yemen, one of the poorest countries in the world.

Thirteen of the Arab world's 30 billionaires live in Saudi Arabia, where luxury goods and name brands are a currency unto themselves. Specialty cars like Ferraris and Maseratis are everywhere, and what is possibly the biggest yacht in the world -- 457 feet long with 82 rooms, an indoor swimming pool and eight decks -- belongs to the Saudi defense minister.

The average Saudi citizen makes a modest $14,000 a year, but if you're a Saudi you're guaranteed free health care, housing and subsidies on everything, including energy.

In Dubai, United Arab Emirates, an effort to attract tourists has wholly created island communities -- one called The World and another called Palm Jumeirah. Even fashion shows are becoming part of the changing landscape.

"There are palaces going up," said Isobel Coleman, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. "You drive past them and you think, 'That can't possibly be a hotel or that can't possibly be a private home. It's got over 100 rooms.'"

In Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, the 420,000 citizens have a per capita income of $17 million. The city has decided to build its own branch of the Louvre museum.

So what about the responsibility of Muslim countries to one another? Take Afghanistan, where the average life span is 42 years, and 18,000 women die every year in childbirth.

Last year the United States gave $3 billion of economic aid to Afghanistan; the Saudis gave just $200 million.

null
Join the Discussion
You are using an outdated version of Internet Explorer. Please click here to upgrade your browser in order to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
You Might Also Like...