Saudi Arabia: an overview

A fan holds a Saudi Arabia flag before an Asian Cup match. Credit: Getty Images

Saudi Arabia possesses 18 per cent of the world’s known petroleum reserves and consequently ranks as the largest exporter of petroleum. This sector accounts for roughly 45 per cent of national budget revenues, 55 per cent of GDP and 90 per cent of export earnings.

The government has strong control over major economic activities, although it is currently encouraging private-sector growth to lessen the kingdom’s dependence on oil and to provide more jobs for a growing population. In 2007, just 10 per cent of GDP was contributed by non-oil manufacturing and less than 6 per cent of total employment.

In recent years, private sector and foreign investors have been allowed to participate in the power generation and telecom sectors. It was approved for membership of the World Trade Organisation in 2005.

High oil revenues mean that the government runs with a large budget surplus, which is invested back in development projects. However, there is still a big problem with youth unemployment.