Saudi Arabia's Key Facts

by World Grain Staff
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Capital: Riyadh

Population: 28,161,417 (July 2008 est.)

Religions: Muslim 100%

Location: Middle East, bordering the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea, north of Yemen.

Government: Monarchy; chief of state and head of government: King and Prime Minister Abdallah bin Abd al-Aziz Al Saud (since Aug. 1, 2005).

Economy: Saudi Arabia has an oil-based economy with strong government controls over major economic activities. It possesses more than 20% of the world’s proven petroleum reserves, ranks as the largest exporter of petroleum, and plays a leading role in OPEC. The petroleum sector accounts for roughly 75% of budget revenues, 45% of GDP, and 90% of export earnings. About 40% of GDP comes from the private sector. Roughly 5.5 million foreign workers play an important role in the Saudi economy, particularly in the oil and service sectors. High oil prices have boosted growth, government revenues and Saudi ownership of foreign assets, while enabling Riyadh to pay down domestic debt. The government is encouraging private sector growth — especially in power generation, telecommunications, natural gas exploration and petrochemicals — to lessen the kingdom’s dependence on oil exports and to increase employment opportunities for the swelling Saudi population, nearly 40% of which are youths under 15 years of age. Unemployment is high, and the large youth population generally lacks the education and technical skills the private sector needs. Riyadh has substantially boosted spending on job training and education, infrastructure development, and government salaries. As part of its effort to attract foreign investment and diversify the economy, Saudi Arabia acceded to the World Trade Organization in December 2005 after many years of negotiations. The government has announced plans to establish six "economic cities" in different regions of the country to promote development and diversification.

GDP per capita: $23,200 (2007 est.); inflation: 4.1% (2007 est.); unemployment 13% among Saudi males only (local bank estimate from 2004; some estimates range as high as 25%).

Currency: Saudi riyal; 1 U.S. dollar equals 3.75 Saudi riyals (Aug. 20, 2008).

Exports: $230 billion f.o.b. (2007 est.): petroleum and petroleum products 90%.

Imports: $81.17 billion f.o.b. (2007 est.): machinery and equipment, foodstuffs, chemicals, motor vehicles, textiles.

Major crops/agricultural products: Wheat, barley, tomatoes, melons, dates, citrus; mutton, chickens, eggs, milk.

Agriculture: 3% of GDP and 12% of the labor force

Internet: Code. .sa; 18,369 (2007) hosts and 4.7 million (2006) users

Source: CIA World Factbook