Reforms aimed at dampening protest in Arab world

ALGIERS- Leaders of a number of Arab countries have taken reform measures in a bid to head off the type of popular discontent that has led to revolution elsewhere.
Key points:
State television said on Friday Libyan families would be eligible to receive 400 dollars each and some public sector workers could get pay rises of as much as 150 percent as the regime sought to thwart protests.

After riots in January the government cut the prices of oil, sugar and other necessities and assured that subsidies on essential goods like flour would continue. On Thursday Algeria lifted a state of emergency in force since 1992.
In late January President Ali Abdullah Saleh ordered the creation of a fund to employ university graduates and extend social security coverage.
On February 2, he also vowed not to seek a new mandate when his term ends in 2013 and promised political reforms.
On Thursday he ordered his security forces to offer "full protection" to both pro- and anti-regime demonstrators.
On February 19, Crown Prince Salman, charged by King Hamad with a wide-ranging dialogue with the opposition, ordered security forces to stay away from anti-regime protesters in Manama's Pearl Square to avoid clashes.
On Wednesday, Bahraini authorities released 23 activists from the Shiite Muslim majority population who had been accused of terrorism but then pardoned.
On February 5 Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki pledged not to seek a third term in power. The previous day he had said he would halve his $360,000 annual salary.
On Tuesday, the government proposed new legislation that would slash the salaries of politicians and top officials, just days after MPs approved smaller pay cuts in a bid to head off protests.
In January Prime Minister Samir Rifai said the government was setting aside $500 million (€364 million) to raise government salaries and the pensions of retired government employees and servicemen, to create jobs and cut prices in the face of popular discontent.
On February 2, King Abdullah II sacked the government and appointed Maaruf Bakhit to replace Rifai, with orders to carry out "true political reforms." The new cabinet includes opposition figures.
On Wednesday, Saudi King Abdullah, whose country has so far been spared popular unrest, boosted social benefits for civil servants, students and others. He also pardoned some prisoners indicted for financial crimes and announced plans to tackle unemployment.
In January the government announced a $250-million fund to help some 420,000 impoverished families. The government has also said it will cut taxes on basic foodstuffs and imports in a bid to offset rising food prices.

Saturday, February 26th 2011

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