RIYADH Dec 14 King Salman told Saudis on
Wednesday he recognised that economic restructuring measures
adopted in response to a sharp drop in oil prices were painful,
but said they were necessary to avoid long-term damage to the
"The state has sought to deal with these changes ... through
a variety of measures to restructure the economy, some of which
may be painful in the short run but ultimately aim to protect
the economy of your country from worse problems," he told the
consultative Shura Council.
"Similar circumstances have happened before over the past
three decades, forcing the state to cut its expenses, but it
emerged from them, thanks be to God, with a strong economy and
continuous and increasing growth," Salman said.
In a drastic step to save money, the king in September
ordered salaries of ministers and Shura Council members to be
cut by 20 and 15 percent, and scaled back financial perks for
public sector employees.
The plunge in oil prices since mid-2014 has pushed
energy-rich Gulf Arab states to rein in lavish public spending.
Saudi Arabia racked up a record budget deficit of nearly $100
billion last year, forcing it to find new savings and ways to
King Salman also said that Saudi Arabia sees the security of
neighbouring Yemen as part of the kingdom's own security, and
issued a thinly veiled warning to regional rival Iran not to
"We will not accept any interference in its internal affairs
or anything that affects its legitimacy (government), or will
make it a hub or a passage for any state or party to target the
security of the kingdom and the region as a whole," he said,
without mentioning Iran by name.
Saudi Arabia is leading an alliance of Arab states fighting
to restore Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi to power
after Houthi rebels aligned with Iran forced him into exile
nearly two years ago.
Saudi Arabia accuses non-Arab Iran of trying to expand its
influence into Arab countries such as Syria and Yemen, a charge
Salman also said that Saudi Arabia would continue to work
with world powers to achieve world peace. He made no direct
reference to Syria, where government forces finally broke rebel
resistance this week in the city of Aleppo to deliver a major
victory for President Bashar al-Assad in the civil war.
(Reporting by Hadeel al-Sayegh, writing by Sami Aboudi; Editing
by Mark Trevelyan)