20110214 bahrainis demand jobs 35
Unemployed Bahraini men, mainly members of the Shi'a Muslim majority, protest the lack of jobs February 9, 2003 in Manama, Bahrain. - 


JEREMY HOBSON: Pro-democracy protests continued across the Arab world this weekend, following Friday's ouster of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak. There were violent clashes in Yemen and Algeria. And today, the government of the island nation of Bahrain is preparing for protests. This is likely to be the first big demonstration in a wealthy Arab country.

Let's bring Marketplace's Stephen Beard, who joins us from Amman, Jordan. Good morning, Stephen.

STEPHEN BEARD: Hello Jeremy.

HOBSON: So how has the government in Bahrain preparing for this day of protests?

BEARD: It's been trying to buy off the protesters. The king has decreed that every household in the country's going to get a lump sum of $3000. He's no doubt, hoping that this will blunt the protests and keep the monarchy secure and insure that he doesn't go the way of Mubarak and the Tunisian president.

HOBSON: Do you think that's going to work?

BEARD: Well one political analyst I've been talking to says not. Muhammad Al Masri of the University of Jordan says this protest in Bahrain is more political than economic. The protesters belong to a different Islamic sect from the ruling elite. They complain they've been discriminated against, excluded from high office and from the top jobs. Al Masri says they want more democracy.

MUHAMMAD AL MASRI: They are not looking for more cash in their pockets. They want to be partners in the decision making process.

What happens in Bahrain today Jeremy is going to be very interesting because to a greater or lesser extent, regimes throughout the Arab world are trying the same tactic -- trying to blunt the protest with cash. We'll get a pretty good indication today whether or not it's going to work.

HOBSON: Marketplace's Stephen Beard in Amman, Jordan. Thanks Stephen.

BEARD: Thanks Jeremy.