Arab youth consider Saudi Arabia as their country’s biggest ally underlining the rising prominence of the Kingdom in the region’s political and economic scene, according to the findings of the 6th Annual ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller Arab Youth Survey, released. The survey is conducted by the international polling firm PSB with 3,500 Arab nationals aged 18-24 in 16 countries in the Middle East and North Africa.
More than a third (36%) of the youth surveyed said Saudi Arabia is their country’s biggest supporter followed by the by the UAE (33%), Qatar (25%) and Kuwait (25%). The United States is the only Western country to feature in the top five allies at 22%.
The findings reflect the increasing trust of the region’s youth in GCC governments over traditional Western countries, with respondents from both GCC and non-GCC countries citing Saudi Arabia as their biggest ally. Regional issues such as the Arab Spring, which stemmed from internal factors rather than external influences, coupled with Western allies’ decisions not to intervene in issues such as the Syrian civil war, is signaling an end of the traditional model of foreign relations with a prominent western nexus.
Joseph Ghossoub, Chairman and CEO of the MENACOM Group, the regional parent company of ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller, said, “Almost a trillion-dollar economy, Saudi Arabia has long been a regional powerhouse led by its strong oil reserves and production capacity. What the survey findings highlight is the trust of the region’s largest demographic in the role of the Kingdom as a strong political player. The Kingdom’s firm stand on regional and international issues has inspired their confidence in Saudi Arabia to steer dialogue and action.”
Sunil John, CEO of ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller, added, “Saudi Arabia is increasingly becoming the key architect of the Arab world’s foreign policy, having outlined bold and clear directives that Western allies are expected to honour. The findings mark a significant shift in the foreign policy outlook of youth in the Arab world and also underline the growing prominence of the GCC governments.”
In addition to its prominence as a regional ally, Saudi Arabia’s domestic growth policies are also endorsed by majority of its youth with 57% stating that they are optimistic of the country’s future. With billions of dollars being invested in driving the growth of the Saudi economy, particularly to create jobs and homes for its youth, the survey reveals that a majority of the Saudi youth (70%) feel the Kingdom is headed in the right direction of growth compared to 65% last year. Nearly 76% of the youth observe that Saudi Arabia’s economy has been headed in the right direction in the past five years, taking into consideration the events of the Arab Spring.
In other key findings, young Saudis also expressed their growing confidence in their government’s ability to address key concerns such as living standards (66%), economic stability (63%) and unemployment (68%). Some two thirds (65%) of Saudi youth also feel that people in this generation are more likely to start a business than in previous generations, highlighting a growing entrepreneurial spirit. Three quarters (75%) of Saudi youth feel that energy, electricity and transport fuel such as petrol and diesel must be subsidised by the government.
While nearly three in five (59%) Saudi respondents rate the quality of healthcare as excellent or good, there is growing worry among them about lifestyle diseases such as obesity (26%), diabetes (17%) and cancer (14%). A third of Saudi youth (33%) say the quality of healthcare in the Kingdom has improved over the last year while around half (53%) feel it has remained the same. The numbers who say they are ‘unconcerned’ about health issues also fell from 28% in 2013 to 20% in 2014.
The biggest challenge for the Middle East, according to more than half (52%) of Saudi youth, is the rising cost of living. Corruption in government and public life (40%), national economy issues (39%), pan-Arab economy (33%), unemployment (28%), Israel-Palestinian conflict (27%), loss of values and culture (25%) and personal debt (23%) are other pressing challenges faced by the region according to respondents. They see climate change and environmental issues (6%) and lack of press freedom (7%) as the least pressing issues.
The 2014 Arab Youth Survey, commissioned by ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller and conducted by the international polling firm PSB, involved 3,500 face-to-face interviews with Arab national men and women aged 18-24, covering 16 countries – and is the largest polling since the annual study began in 2008. The countries included are the six Gulf Cooperation Council states (UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain), Algeria, Iraq, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Tunisia, Libya and Yemen – with Palestine added for the first time this year.
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