Persian Gulf Arab states long accustomed to oil wealth are grappling with unprecedented financial misery under the double whammy of a faltering oil market and the Covid-19 outbreak.

They are resorting to belt-tightening measures to limit the impact of ballooning budget deficits and thus save precious cash to sustain the loyalty of citizens long guaranteed cradle-to-grave benefits and exemptions from income tax.

While crucial gas expansion projects have been largely spared, state-run oil companies such as Saudi Aramco have introduced deep spending cuts to weather the storm and maintain hefty dividend payments following its partial privatisation late last year.