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Saudi Arabia
1. Geography
2. Political situation
3. Economy
a. Figures
4. Health
5. Education
a. Universities
6. Media
7. Demographics
8. Religions
a. Freedom
9. Peoples
10. Languages
11. History
12. Cities and Towns

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Index / Economy /
Open map of Saudi ArabiaFlag of Saudi ArabiaSaudi Arabia /

1. General tendencies
2. Economic structures
3. Oil and Gas
4. Industries
5. Agriculture and Fishing
6. Tourism
7. Imports and Exports
8. Living standards
9. State economy
10. Health of currency
About Saudi Arabia
1. Political situation
2. Economy
a. Figures
3. Health
4. Education
a. Universities
5. Media
6. Demographics
7. Religions
a. Freedom
8. Peoples
9. Languages
10. History
11. Cities and Towns

Saudi Arabia 20 riyal

Key figures
GDP per capita
World average: +90%.
MENA rank: 6 of 23.
US$578 billion.
MENA rank: 3 of 23.
List of figuresAll other figures
4.3 points of 10 max.
World rank: 63 of 180.
MENA rank: 8 of 21.
Investment friendly
World rank: 16 of 181.
MENA rank: 1 of 21.
Economic freedom
64.3 points of 100 max.
World rank: 59 of 179.
MENA rank: 8 of 19.
Value of Currency
Fixed rate since June 1986:
US$1=3.7450 Saudi Riyals

General tendencies
The wealth of modern Saudi Arabia is built on the enormous petroleum resources of the country, which has been fully exploited since the 1950's and 1960's. These revenues has transformed the country from poverty into a state of excellent infrastructure.
With this one pillar of its economy, Saudi Arabia's remains continuously exposed to instability in oil prices. But there are other challenges that may cause more problems for the country's immediate future. Poor planning in respect of fertility and education has resulted in present situation of a staggering 40% of its population under the age of 15 and large groups of young graduates with exams that do not fit the needs of businesses and the bureaucracy. Present unemployment is between 9 and 25% (low is official), yet there are millions of foreign workers (including families this group counts 5.6 million). One out of 3 adults are foreigners.
Effective programs have been acted out since the 1990's to reduce the number of the foreign workers.
In recent years, Saudi Arabia has benefitted greatly from high oil prices. A fall in oil prices happened in 2008, but this has improved into 2009.
Saudi Arabia is ranked as suffering hard from corruption, ranked 80 with Transparency. Corruption often take the form of commissions paid to officials.
Saudi Arabia has been member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) since December 2005.

Economic structures
The economic model of Saudi Arabia corporative, state control and central planning puts limitation upon private enterprise. Certain fields of the economy exclusive to the state, and has even more fields that does not allow foreign investment and ownership. What allows foreign interests are fields like power generation, telecom services and insurance. In many important and attractive sectors foreign interests must enter joint ventures with Saudis or the Saudi state.
Most corporate and personal income is not taxed, except for a 2.5% religious tax (Zakat) but foreigners from countries outside the Gulf region must pay a tax on their income.

Oil and Gas
Petroleum industries today contribute with 45% of GDP and 90% of all export revenues.
Still oil is the principal source of income, as Saudi Arabia is the largest exporter of the world, with an export level about 4 times higher than number 2 in the world (Norway). The daily production is around 1.3 million tons daily. Saudi Arabia has also a substantial production of natural gas, at about 100 million m³ daily.
Governmental plans have put considerable funds into developing liquefied natural gas plants and petroleum-based industries in recent years.

Industries are often related to the petroleum sector, including power generation. Other industries produce consumer products as well as simple products like cement. Among the new industries, is the production of steel, which benefits from the easy and cheap access of energy.

Agriculture and Fishing
Agriculture contributes with 3.1% to GDP (2008 estimate), but employing somewhat less than 10% of the work force. Only 1% of the total surface is naturally fertile, but large projects have launched to help increase the agricultural output of the country. The present production is still low, output of wheat is about 3.6 million tons; barley 1,1 million tons; tomatoes 490,000 tons; dates 500,000 tons; watermelons 450,000 tons, plus smaller output of sorghum, dairy products, onions, grapes and citrus fruit. Livestock is made up of 7.1 million sheep; 3.4 million goats; 210,000 cattle; and 410,000 camels.
Output from fishing is equally limited, with about 50,000 tons annually, where shrimp is making up a large part of the catch.
Today, Saudi Arabia is a net importer of foodstuffs of all kinds, a process largely beginning in the early 1970's. The decrease in self-sufficiency in Saudi Arabia has few parallels anywhere else in the world.

The only tourism of any size to Saudi Arabia is related to religion. The pilgrimage to Mecca and Madina is so huge that it represent an important part of the Saudi economy. There are about 2-3 million visitors annually, securing the Saudi economy an estimated income exceeding US$2 billion.

Imports and Exports
Saudi Arabia has an export surplus of more than 100%. In 1997 imports were US$28.3 billion, and exports US$59.7 billion. The main trade partners are for imports are USA (21%), Britain (11%), Japan (6.7%), Switzerland (5.8%) and Germany (5.5%). For exports, the main partners are USA (17.6%), Japan (15%), South Korea (10.6%), Singapore (6%), Netherlands (4.3%) and France (3.9%). Technical and mechanical equipment makes up 40% of the import, foodstuffs and tobacco about 15%, chemical products 10%.

Living standards
The long-lasting myth of incredible wealth for the average Saudi is very, very far off the present-day reality. Overall, Saudi Arabia is neither rich nor poor. The GDP per capita is unimpressive at US$20,200 (2008 estimate), less than 60% of that in Spain, 38% of that in Norway and 44% of that in the USA. There are extreme differences between the rich groups in society and the large groups of fairly poor. Still, Saudi Arabia is not a country of extreme poverty.
Prices in Saudi Arabia are state subsidized, creating a fairly low price level.

State economy
In the most recent years state budget has had revenues double the expenditures. In 2008 the surplus was a staggering US$147 billion. Much of this has been used on paying foreign debts.

Health of currency
Saudi Arabia's riyal has for more than 20 years (since 1986) been fixed to the US dollar. With a substantial part of the imports from outside the US, this has caused higher import prices in recent years.

By Tore Kjeilen