Economy of Saudi Arabia

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Economy of Saudi Arabia
Kingdom Tower at night.JPG
Riyadh with the Kingdom Centre in the background
Currency Saudi Riyal (harr)
Fiscal year Calendar year
Trade organisations WTO, OPEC, G-20 major economies, BIS, ICS, IOS, WCO, GCC, World Bank IMF

$906.8 billion (PPP; 19th)

$727.3 billion (nominal; 19th)[1]
GDP growth 5.13% (2012)[2]
GDP per capita $31,275 (PPP; 28th)[1]
$25,085 (nominal; 30th)[1]
GDP by sector agriculture: 3.2%; industry: 60.4%; services: 36.4% (2009 est.)
Inflation (CPI) 2.90% (2012)[2]
Labour force 7.63 million (2009 est.) note: about 80% of the labor force is non-national
Labour force
by occupation
agriculture: 6.7%; industry: 21.4%; services: 71.9% (2005 est.)
Unemployment estimated 10%
Main industries crude oil production, petroleum refining, basic petrochemicals, ammonia, industrial gases, sodium hydroxide (caustic soda), cement, fertilizer, plastics, metals, commercial ship repair, commercial aircraft repair, construction
Ease of doing business rank 22nd[3]
Exports $381.5 billion (2012 est.)[4]
Export goods petroleum and petroleum products 90%[5]
Main export partners  United States 14.3%
 China 13.7%
 Japan 13.7%
 South Korea 9.9%
 India 8.2%
 Singapore 4.3% (2012 est.)[6]
Imports $136.8 billion (2012 est.)[7]
Import goods machinery and equipment, foodstuffs, chemicals, motor vehicles, textiles[8]
Main import partners  China 13.5%
 United States 13.2%
 South Korea 6.7%
 Germany 6.5%
 India 6.3%
 Japan 6.0% (2012 est.)[9]
Gross external debt $127.4 billion (31 December 2012 est.)[10]
Public finances
Public debt 9.4% of GDP (2009 est.)
Revenues $293.1 billion (2010 est.)
Expenses $210.6 billion (2010 est.)
Economic aid (Donor) $100 million in 1993 to Lebanon; since 2000, Saudi Arabia has committed $307 million to Palestinians; pledged $240 million to Afghanistan; pledged $1 billion in export guarantees and soft loans to Iraq.
Credit rating Standard & Poor's:[11]
AA- (Domestic)
AA- (Foreign)
AA+ (T&C Assessment)
Outlook: Stable[12]
Outlook: Stable
Outlook: Stable

Main data source: CIA World Fact Book

All values, unless otherwise stated, are in US dollars

Saudi Arabia has an oil-based economy with strong government control over major economic activities. Saudi Arabia possesses 18%[13] of the world's proven petroleum reserves, ranks as the largest exporter of petroleum, and plays a leading role in OPEC, although its influence has waned in recent years.[14]

Economic overview[edit]

The petroleum sector accounts for roughly 92.5% of budget revenues,[15] 55% of GDP, and 90% of export earnings. About 40% of GDP comes from the private sector. Roughly five and a half million foreign workers play an important role in the Saudi economy, for example, in the oil and service sectors. The government is encouraging private sector growth to lessen the kingdom's dependence on oil and increase employment opportunities for the swelling Saudi population. The government has begun to permit private sector and foreign investor participation in the power generation and telecom sectors. As part of its effort to attract foreign investment and diversify the economy, Saudi Arabia acceded to the WTO in 2005 after many years of negotiations. With high oil revenues enabling the government to post large budget surpluses, Riyadh has been able to substantially boost spending on job training and education, infrastructure development, and government salaries.

Major-economic trend[edit]

Saudi Arabia was an economy based on subsistence agriculture by a population that was largely nomadic until the discovery of oil in the 1930s. It was not until the 1973 oil crisis that the country saw rapid growth, and GDP per capita (PPP) shrunk by 0.8% on average during the 1980s, grew 2.1% during the 1990s and 4.4% during the 2000s.[16] Annual imports grew 44% on average during the 1970s, but shrunk 1.9% during the 1980s, grew again 2.4% during the 1990s and 14% during the 2000s.[17]

This is a chart of trend of gross domestic product of Saudi Arabia at market prices estimated by the International Monetary Fund (and other sources) with figures in millions of Saudi Arabian Riyals.[18]

Year Gross Domestic Product US Dollar Exchange Inflation Index
Per Capita Income
(as % of USA)
1970 22,565 4.50 Saudi Arabian Riyals
1975 163,670 3.52 Saudi Arabian Riyals
1980 546,602 3.59 Saudi Arabian Riyals 95 43.84
1985 376,318 3.62 Saudi Arabian Riyals 92 49.33
1990 437,334 3.74 Saudi Arabian Riyals 91 33.13
1995 533,504 3.74 Saudi Arabian Riyals 101 28.29
2000 706,657 3.74 Saudi Arabian Riyals 100 26.50
2005 1,152,600 3.74 Saudi Arabian Riyals 100 32.53

For purchasing power parity comparisons, the U.S. dollar is exchanged at 3.75 Saudi Arabian Riyals only.[19] Mean wages were $14.74 per man-hour in 2009.

As of August 2009 it was reported that Saudi Arabia is the strongest Arab economy, according to World Bank.[20]

Saudi oil reserves are the second largest in the world, and Saudi Arabia is the world's leading oil producer and exporter. Oil accounts for more than 90% of the country's exports and nearly 75% of government revenues. Proven reserves, according to figures provided by the Saudi government, are estimated to be 260 billion barrels (41 km3), about one-quarter of world oil reserves.

More than 95% of all Saudi oil is produced on behalf of the Saudi Government by the parastatal giant Saudi Aramco, and the remaining 5% by similar parastatal companies as of 2002. In June 1993, Saudi Aramco absorbed the state marketing and refining company (SAMAREC), becoming the world's largest fully integrated oil company. Most Saudi oil exports move by tanker from oil terminals at Ras Tanura and Ju'aymah in the Persian Gulf. The remaining oil exports are transported via the east-west pipeline across the kingdom to the Red Sea port of Yanbu. A major new gas initiative promises to bring significant investment by U.S. and European oil companies to develop non-associated gas fields in three separate parts of Saudi Arabia. Following final technical agreements with concession awardees in December 2001, development should begin in 2002.

Due to a sharp rise in petroleum revenues in 1974 following the 1973 Arab-Israeli war, Saudi Arabia became one of the fastest-growing economies in the world. It enjoyed a substantial surplus in its overall trade with other countries; imports increased rapidly; and ample government revenues were available for development, defense, and aid to other Arab and Islamic countries.

But higher oil prices led to development of more oil fields around the world and reduced global consumption. The result, beginning in the mid-1980s, was a worldwide oil glut, which introduced an element of planning uncertainty for the first time in a decade. Saudi oil production, which had increased to almost 10 million barrels (1,600,000 m3) per day during 1980–81, dropped to about 2 million barrels per day (320,000 m3/d) in 1985. Budgetary deficits developed, and the government drew down its foreign assets. Responding to financial pressures, Saudi Arabia gave up its role as the "swing producer" within OPEC in the summer of 1985 and accepted a production quota. Since then, Saudi oil policy has been guided by a desire to maintain market and quota shares.

However, beginning in late 1997, Saudi Arabia again faced the challenge of low oil prices. Due to a combination of factors—the East Asian economic crises, a warm winter in the West caused by El Niño, and an increase in non-OPEC oil production—demand for oil slowed and pulled oil prices down by more than one-third.

Saudi Arabia was a key player in coordinating the successful 1999 campaign of OPEC and other oil-producing countries to raise the price of oil to its highest level since the (Persian) Gulf War by managing production and supply of petroleum. That same year, Saudi Arabia established the Supreme Economic Council to formulate and better coordinate economic development policies in order to accelerate institutional and industrial reform.

Saudi Arabia has announced plans to invest about $46 billion in three of the world’s largest and most ambitious petrochemical projects. These include the $27 billion Ras Tanura integrated refinery and petrochemical project, the $9 billion Saudi Kayan at the Wayback Machine (archived March 15, 2009) petrochemical complex at Jubail Industrial City, and the $10 billion Petro Rabigh refinery upgrade project. Together, the three projects will employ more than 150,000 technicians and engineers working around the clock.[21] Upon completion in 2015–16, the Ras Tanura integrated refinery and petrochemicals project will become the world’s largest petrochemical facility of its kind with a combined production capacity of 11 million tons per year of different petrochemical and chemical products. The products will include ethylene, propylene, aromatics, polyethylene, ethylene oxide, chlorine derivatives, and glycol.[21]


The Saudi Arabian Basic Industries Corporation SABIC was established by a royal decree in 1976 to produce chemicals, polymers, and fertilizers. In 2008, SABIC was Asia's largest (in terms of market capitalization) and most profitable publicly listed non-oil company, the world's fourth-largest petrochemical company, ranked 186th as world's largest corporation on the Fortune Global 500 for 2009, the second largest producer of ethylene glycol and methanol in the world, the third largest producer of polyethylene and overall the fourth-largest producer of polypropylene and polyolefin. Standard and Poor's and Fitch Ratings claimed SABIC to be the world's largest producer of polymers and the Persian Gulf region's largest steel producer for 2005 and assigned SABIC an "A" corporate credit rating. In 2008, Fortune 500 ranking records SABIC revenues at $40.2 billion, profits at $5.8 billion and assets standing at $72.4 billion.[22]

Expansion operations and investments are projected to amount to USD20 billion in 2007 and USD70 billion until 2020. The overall total production in 1985 was 6.3 million metric tons (mmt); by the end of 2008 it had reached 56 mmt and by 2020, SABIC intends to produce over 135 mmt per year.[23] SABIC established in June 2006 "SABIC Sukuk Company" to issue Islamic bonds (Sukuk) that are estimated to range between SAR1 billion (USD266.67 million) and SAR3 billion (USD800 million).

Net profits of SABIC in 2008 touched SR 22 billion (US$ 5.86 billion), while total assets stood at SR 272 billion (US$ 72.5 billion) at the end of 2008 and the value of current assets at the end of 2008 stood at SR 95 billion (US$ 25 billion).[24]

Ma'aden (company)[edit]

Ma'aden was formed as a Saudi joint stock company on 23 March 1997 for the purpose of facilitating the development of Saudi Arabia’s mineral resources. Ma'aden's activities have focused on its active gold business which has grown in recent years to include the operation of five gold mines: Mahd Ad Dahab, Al Hajar, Sukhaybarat, Bulghah, and Al Amar. Ma'aden is now expanding its activities beyond its gold business with the development of phosphates, aluminum, and other projects. In addition, since its formation, Ma'aden (through the Ministry of Petroleum and Mineral Resources) has collaborated with the government and local legislators to develop a regulatory framework for the governance of the mining industry.

On 20 December 2009, Ma'aden signed an agreement with U.S. aluminum giant Alcoa to build a $10.8 billion aluminum complex. Under the agreement, the two firms will build a 1.8 million tonnes per year aluminum refinery and a 740,000 million tonnes per year smelter in Ras Azzour. The smelter is slated to start production in 2013 while the refinery would come online in 2014.[25]


Saudi Arabian exports in 2006

In recent years, Saudi Arabia sought to join the World Trade Organization. Negotiations have focused on the degree to which Saudi Arabia is willing to increase market access to foreign goods and services and the timeframe for becoming fully compliant with World Trade Organization obligations. In April 2000, the government established the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority to encourage foreign direct investment in Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia maintains a negative list of sectors in which foreign investment is prohibited, but the government plans to open some closed sectors such as telecommunications, insurance, and power transmission/distribution over time. As of November 2005, Saudi Arabia was officially approved to enter World Trade Organization.

List of trade organizations[edit]

Doing business[edit]

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has been rated as the 22nd most economically competitive country in the world, according to the International Finance Corporation (IFC)-World Bank's annual "Doing Business" report issued for 2013. Since 2004, the Kingdom has advanced its overall Doing Business rankings, from 67th to 22nd.

Saudi Arabian companies dominate 2009's "MEED 100", with companies listed on the Tadawul, accounting for 29 out of the region’s 100 biggest publicly quoted companies ranked by market capitalisation. Just three of the 20 companies that have dropped out of the top 100 over the past year are listed on the Saudi stock exchange.[32]

Foreigners are allowed to wholly own limited liability companies in the majority of industries. Non-Saudi nationals are required to obtain a foreign capital investment license from the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA).[33]


As of 2007, non-oil manufacturing contributed 10% to Saudi Arabian GDP and less than 6% of total employment.[34]

Through five-year development plans, the government has sought to allocate its petroleum income to transform its relatively undeveloped, oil-based economy into that of a modern industrial state while maintaining the kingdom's traditional Islamic values and customs. Although economic planners have not achieved all their goals, the economy has progressed rapidly. Oil wealth has increased the standard of living of most Saudis. However, significant population growth has strained the government's ability to finance further improvements in the country's standard of living. Heavy dependence on petroleum revenue continues, but industry and agriculture now account for a larger share of economic activity. The mismatch between the job skills of Saudi graduates and the needs of the private job market at all levels remains the principal obstacle to economic diversification and development; about 4.6 million non-Saudis are employed in the economy.

Saudi Arabia's first two development plans, covering the 1970s, emphasized infrastructure. The results were impressive—the total length of paved highways tripled, power generation increased by a multiple of 28, and the capacity of the seaports grew tenfold. For the third plan (1980–85), the emphasis changed. Spending on infrastructure declined, but it rose markedly on education, health, and social services. The share for diversifying and expanding productive sectors of the economy (primarily industry) did not rise as planned, but the two industrial cities of Jubail and Yanbu—built around the use of the country's oil and gas to produce steel, petrochemicals, fertilizer, and refined oil products—were largely completed.

In the fourth plan (1985–90), the country's basic infrastructure was viewed as largely complete, but education and training remained areas of concern. Private enterprise was encouraged, and foreign investment in the form of joint ventures with Saudi public and private companies was welcomed. The private sector became more important, rising to 70% of non-oil GDP by 1987. While still concentrated in trade and commerce, private investment increased in industry, agriculture, banking, and construction companies. These private investments were supported by generous government financing and incentive programs. The objective was for the private sector to have 70% to 90% ownership in most joint venture enterprises.

The fifth plan (1990–95) emphasized consolidation of the country's defenses; improved and more efficient government social services; regional development; and, most importantly, creating greater private-sector employment opportunities for Saudis by reducing the number of foreign workers.

The sixth plan (1996–2000) focused on lowering the cost of government services without cutting them and sought to expand educational training programs. The plan called for reducing the kingdom's dependence on the petroleum sector by diversifying economic activity, particularly in the private sector, with special emphasis on industry and agriculture. It also continued the effort to "Saudiize" the labor force.

The seventh plan (2000–2004) focuses more on economic diversification and a greater role of the private sector in the Saudi economy. For 2000–04, the government aims at an average GDP growth rate of 3.16% each year, with projected growths of 5.04% for the private sector and 4.01% for the non-oil sector. The government also has set a target of creating 817,300 new jobs for Saudi nationals.

Advertising expenditures have reached new peaks due to emphasis on value-added manufacturing.[35]

As part of its diversification, Saudi Arabia has been inking major refinery contracts with Chinese and other companies.[36]


Saudi Arabia has one stock exchange, the Tadawul, whose financial markets are regulated by the Capital Market Authority (Saudi Arabia). The stock market capitalisation of listed companies in Saudi Arabia was valued at $646 billion in 2005 by the World Bank.[37]

ICT Services[edit]

Saudi Arabia is currently enjoying a massive boom in its personal computer industry since the deregulation of 2002. PC per capita has exploded to nearly 43% of the population in 2005 from just 13% in 2002 leapfrogging over the rest of West Asia.[citation needed]

The electrical and electronics market was estimated to be around $3.5 billion in 2004.[38]

The e-commerce market was estimated at just over $1 billion in 2001.[39]


  1. ^ a b c "Saudi Arabia". International Monetary Fund. Retrieved 18 April 2012. 
  2. ^ a b "Central department of statistics and information (Saudi Arabia)". 
  3. ^ "Doing Business in Saudi Arabia 2013". World Bank. Retrieved 22 October 2012. 
  4. ^ "2012 Exports figures of Saudi Arabia". CIA World Factbook. 2012 est. Retrieved 2013-04-29. 
  5. ^ "2012 Exports products of Saudi Arabia". CIA World Factbook. 2012 est. Retrieved 2013-04-29. 
  6. ^ "Export Partners of Saudi Arabia". CIA World Factbook. 2012. Retrieved 2013-07-22. 
  7. ^ "Import figures of Saudi Arabia". CIA World Factbook. 2012. Retrieved 2013-04-29. 
  8. ^ "Import products of Saudi Arabia". CIA World Factbook. 2012. Retrieved 2013-04-29. 
  9. ^ "Import Partners of Saudi Arabia". CIA World Factbook. 2012. Retrieved 2013-07-22. 
  10. ^ "External debt of Saudi Arabia". CIA World Factbook. 2012. Retrieved 2013-04-29. 
  11. ^ "Sovereigns rating list". Standard & Poor's. Retrieved 26 May 2011. 
  12. ^ a b c Rogers, Simon; Sedghi, Ami (15 April 2011). "How Fitch, Moody's and S&P rate each country's credit rating". The Guardian. Retrieved 28 May 2011. 
  13. ^ "Saudi Arabia". OPEC. 1995-01-01. Retrieved 2012-09-28. 
  14. ^ "OPEC Decides Not To Increase Oil Production", Jeff Brady. NPR. 8 June 2011. Retrieved 19 August 2011
  15. ^
  16. ^ GDP (PPP) per capita trend during 1980-2010
  17. ^ Saudi Arabian imports grew 14% during the 2000s
  18. ^ "Saudi Arabia - gdp". Retrieved 2012-09-28. 
  19. ^ "(USD/SAR) US Dollar to Saudi Arabian Riyal Rate". XE. Retrieved 2012-09-28. 
  20. ^ "World Bank : Saudi Arabia , strongest Arab economy". 2010-01-04. Archived from the original on 2010-01-04. Retrieved 2012-09-28. 
  21. ^ a b [1][dead link]
  22. ^ "SABIC climbing up the growth ladder". Retrieved 2012-09-28. 
  23. ^ "Corporate Profile". 2012-06-23. Retrieved 2012-09-28. 
  24. ^ "Financial performance". 2011-07-16. Archived from the original on 2011-07-16. Retrieved 2012-09-28. 
  25. ^ "Business : Saudi Maaden signs $10.8 bln deal with US Alcoa". 2009-12-20. Retrieved 2012-09-28. 
  26. ^ "Kingdom of Saudi Arabia - Member information". WTO. Retrieved 2012-09-28. 
  27. ^ "Membership of Key Economies in International Organisations". Kasinomics. Retrieved 2012-09-28. 
  28. ^ "ICC - The world business organization". 2011-02-21. Archived from the original on 2011-02-21. Retrieved 2012-09-28. 
  29. ^ "Members". ISO. Retrieved 2012-09-28. 
  30. ^ "WCO - Reports". 2011-05-03. Retrieved 2012-09-28. 
  31. ^ "The Cooperation Council For The Arab States of The Gulf - Secretariat General". Retrieved 2012-09-28. 
  32. ^ "Special Report: MEED 100 - The Middle East's top 100 listed companies in 2009 | Special Report". MEED. 2009-03-01. Retrieved 2012-09-28. 
  33. ^ Saudi Arabia Company Formation Healy Consultants Retrieved 3 September 2013.
  34. ^ "Manufacturing booms in Saudi Arabia | Saudi Arabia News". Retrieved 2012-09-28. 
  35. ^ Archived March 26, 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  36. ^ Wael Mahdi (17 January 2012). "Saudi Aramco to Invest $200 Billion in Refining, Exploration". Bloomberg. Retrieved 19 January 2012. 
  37. ^ "Data - Finance". Archived from the original on 2010-04-05. Retrieved 2012-09-28. 
  38. ^ "Saudi electronics market reaches $3.5 billion". 2011-07-15. Archived from the original on 2011-07-15. Retrieved 2012-09-28. 
  39. ^ Archived July 16, 2011 at the Wayback Machine

External links[edit]