Academic Research

Prestige Aid: A case of Saudi Arabia and Kuala Lumpur

Petronas Towers, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Abstract:

The growing trend of developing countries such as China, Iran and Saudi Arabia in adopting alternative mechanisms for the provision of foreign aid challenges traditional institutions and the landscape of development assistance. Furthermore, Malaysia as a geographically distant state, presents a challenge to the conventional notion of Saudi Arabia concentrating its support in the MENA region. Therefore, a classical and neoclassical realist explanation for the role of prestige and status in competing for hierarchical positions in the global structure elucidates a state’s interest in engaging with the practice of foreign aid far removed from its geostrategic interests. Accumulating prestige and recognition for its actions benefit a state’s position in the anarchical world structure and provide it with further influence to exert its own interests. This paper argues that Saudi Arabia engages in prestige and status-seeking behaviour, by providing foreign assistance to states, such as Malaysia, in the form of development grants, donations to universities, Islamic institutions and infrastructure projects. This paper contributes to the literature on foreign aid by providing novel insights on the symbolic motives of these policies.

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