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It's finally time to let women drive, urges Saudi prince

AFP
Filed on November 30, 2016 | Last updated on November 30, 2016 at 01.22 pm
Its finally time to let women drive, urges Saudi prince
Photo via Twitter/@Alwaleed_Talal

"Stop the debate: Time for women to drive," Prince Alwaleed bin Talal said on his official Twitter account, @Alwaleed_Talal.


An outspoken billionaire Saudi prince wants an "urgent" end to his country's ban on women driving, saying overturning the law was a matter of women's rights and economic necessity.

"Stop the debate: Time for women to drive," Prince Alwaleed bin Talal said on his official Twitter account, @Alwaleed_Talal.

Alwaleed is an unusually outspoken member of the Saudi royal family who holds no political posts but chairs Kingdom Holding Co., which has interests including US banking giant Citigroup and the Euro Disney theme park.

He is a longtime advocate of women's rights in the kingdom, which has some of the world's tightest restrictions on women and is the only country where they are not allowed to drive.

In conjunction with his short tweet, Alwaleed's office issued an unusually long statement late Tuesday outlining his reasons for supporting an end to the ban.

"Preventing a woman from driving a car is today an issue of rights similar to the one that forbade her from receiving an education or having an independent identity," Alwaleed said.

"They are all unjust acts by a traditional society, far more restrictive than what is lawfully allowed by the precepts of religion."

He also detailed the "economic costs" of women having to rely on foreign private drivers or taxis, since public transit is not a viable alternative in the kingdom.

Using foreign drivers drains billions of dollars from the Saudi economy, Alwaleed said.

He calculated that families spend an average of 3,800 riyals ($1,000, 940 euros) a month on a driver, money which otherwise could help household incomes at a time when many are making do with less.

Even if their husbands can take time out to transport the women, that requires temporarily leaving the office and "undermines the productivity of the workforce," Alwaleed said.

"Having women drive has become an urgent social demand predicated upon current economic circumstances."

Saudi Arabia's oil revenues fell by 51 per cent last year following a collapse in global prices, which remain at less than half the level they were two years ago.

As a result, the government has delayed major projects, cut spending, and raised prices for everyday services including water and electricity supplies.

The kingdom in April announced its Vision 2030 plan to diversify its oil-dependent economy and employ more Saudis, including women. Unveiling that plan, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman, 31, said social change cannot be forced.

On women driving, he said: "So far the society is not persuaded ... but we stress that it is up to Saudi society."





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