#BBCtrending: What will Saudis do when the oil runs out?

Saudi Shepherd with his sheep Image copyright AFP
Image caption A shepherd and his goats in Saudi Arabia

What will happen to Saudis and Kuwaitis when they run out of oil? An Arabic hashtag expressing that fear has now been used a million times.

Early last week, an Arabic hashtag that translates to 'Your job after oil runs out...' begun to trend mostly in Saudi Arabia but also in neighbouring Kuwait. Citizens of these countries used it to make jokes, but there was also serious contemplation of a future without their once abundant oil wealth. Some Saudis contemplated returning to a simpler life style and perhaps becoming shepherds. Others were a bit more pessimistic about their nation's future. "I'm unemployed and there are another million like me, so how much worse will it get when oil runs out?" one man commented on Twitter. Despite being the largest oil producer in the region, Saudi Arabia has had a longstanding issue with unemployment.

Saudis are feeling insecure because oil prices recently hit a four-year low. That doesn't in itself tell us anything about oil supply - indeed if it was running out the price might be expected to rise - but in 2011 a Citigroup report warned that Saudi might run out of oil to export by 2030. Inside the country, many believe that the kingdom is not ready for a future without oil. One Saudi tweeted: "I fear we will say we wasted our oil in luxury and opulence and didn't make use of it in scientific advances that will benefit us and the coming generations."

The International Monetary Fund has recently urged the Saudi government to spend less and use its money better for a time when oil runs out. Over the last few years, Saudi has spent more on welfare and is now embarking on large infrastructure projects. But some of the comments online were critical of government's 'generosity' in foreign aid. "I would take back the financial aid we handed to countries left and right...we have more right to that money," one of the few female Saudis who commented said.

Despite its oil reserves, ordinary people in Saudi have expressed anxiety over the economy in the recent past. Back in July, people used the hashtag "the salary does not meet my needs" and discussed the financial struggles some people face even in one of the world's wealthiest nations. The fear of a post-oil era extended to neighbouring Kuwait, albeit amongst a much smaller population. Kuwaitis also became active using the hashtag to express similar concerns on social media. One Kuwaiti commented "I pray to God not to see that day because this generation can't be self-sufficient".

Reporting by Mai Noman

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