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Saudis Restore Full Public Sector Salaries and Benefits Amid Grumbling


King Salman of Saudi Arabia at the 28th Ordinary Summit of the Arab League at the Dead Sea last month. King Salman rescinded a 20 percent cut to ministers’ salaries and promoted two of his sons.

Mohammad Hamed/Reuters

BEIRUT, Lebanon — King Salman of Saudi Arabia rescinded salary cuts for ministers and restored financial perks for public sector workers in a series of royal decrees late Saturday.

He also promoted two of his own sons to important positions, naming Prince Khaled bin Salman ambassador to Washington and Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman state minister for energy affairs.

The decrees, released through state news media, are a new step in the Saudi leadership’s efforts to adjust the kingdom’s finances, which have been undermined by low oil prices.

In seeking to stabilize the country’s budget, the rulers have had to balance the need to reduce spending with the desire to maintain the support of a population used to generous subsidies and benefits.

The announcements rescinded a 20 percent cut to the salaries of the kingdom’s approximately two dozen ministers and bonus payments to hundreds of thousands of civil servants that had been canceled in September.

The bonus cuts had caused widespread grumbling in Saudi Arabia, where about two-thirds of employed citizens work for the state. For many, the bonuses had accounted for a substantial amount of their total take-home pay, with payouts equal to 20 percent or more of monthly salaries not uncommon.

Saudi officials said that the decision to cancel the pay cuts and restore the bonuses reflected the government’s improved fiscal position. Some analysts said the moves also sought to assuage public discontent over recent austerity measures, which have included increases in energy, water and fuel costs.

The decrees also elevated two of King Salman’s sons, empowering his branch of the vast royal family that has ruled the country since the 1930s.

Since ascending to the throne in 2015, King Salman has delegated tremendous power to one of his sons, Prince Mohammed bin Salman, 31, who is defense minister and second in line to the throne.

Prince Mohammed is spearheading an effort to modernize the kingdom by reducing its dependence on oil, diversifying the economy and improving life for Saudi citizens. He is also in charge of the Saudi intervention in the war in Yemen, where the kingdom and a coalition of Arab countries have been struggling to push rebels aligned with Iran from the capital, Sana.

Prince Khaled, the new ambassador to Washington, is a former fighter pilot in the Saudi Air Force, who has done academic work and military training in the United States, according to Al Arabiya, a Saudi-owned satellite network. He most recently served as an adviser at the Saudi Embassy in Washington.

Prince Khaled’s primary task will be to improve Saudi Arabia’s relationship with the United States, which grew strained during the administration of President Barack Obama because of disagreements over Syria and Egypt, and Mr. Obama’s pursuit of an agreement to limit the nuclear program of Iran, the Saudis’ regional rival.

Saudi officials have spoken positively of their interactions with President Trump and hope that he will increase support for the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen while also taking a harder line on Iran.

Prince Abdulaziz, the new state minister for energy affairs, was previously deputy oil minister.

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