RIYADH — Saudi Arabia is a country that is growing on the international stage. The country’s development in regards to its economic prowess, its geopolitical stances, and the welfare of its people is increasingly being monitored by the rest of the world.
Saudi Arabia’s GDP, for example, has increased to levels that are more than four times that of 20 years ago, according to the World Bank. Its GDP per capita, meanwhile, is currently listed at more than $54,000, ranking the country just behind the United States at 21 in comparison to the rest of the world according to the CIA World Factbook.
The majority of this wealth must be attributed to the oil industry. According to Forbes, Saudi Arabia is the world’s largest exporter of petroleum and “the petroleum sector accounts for roughly 87 percent of budget revenues, 42 percent of GDP, and 90 percent of export earnings.”
These statistics mean two things. First, the unnaturally high rate of GDP growth in Saudi Arabia shows that the country is up to its ears in national income. If one were to take only figures related to GDP into account when surveying the countries of the world, then Saudi Arabia would be considered one of the most developed countries on the planet.
Second, though, the fact that an incredibly large portion of Saudi Arabia’s economy is based on the oil industry means that the country needs to diversify its earnings. Doing so would lessen its reliance on oil and transition its economy into one that is based more on skilled labor.
Saudi Arabia’s government is doing this. The country is looking to, among other things, restructure its government, privatize a variety of its industries and lower its unemployment rate from 11.6 percent to 7 percent, according to its 2030 action plan.
It is also important to note that the country wants to be seen as an international leader. According to the same Saudi Vision 2030 report mentioned above, Saudi Arabia wants to “raise our ranking on the E-Government Survey Index from our current position of 36 to be among the top five nations.”
This ambition begs the question, what are the negative aspects about Saudi Arabia? What does the world know about, say, the Saudi Arabia poverty rate?
This question is actually much more difficult to answer than what would be expected. For a country as rich and economically prosperous as Saudi Arabia, one would think that it would have detailed statistics regarding its developments in wealth disparities, childhood health and development and poverty alleviation. This could not be further from the truth.
The Saudi government is highly secretive about such indices. For example, neither the World Bank, the CIA World Factbook, nor UNICEF have any statistics available regarding the Saudi Arabia poverty rate. UNICEF also has little to no data on Saudi Arabia’s advancements in childhood development or national wealth disparities. Additionally, the country’s government website shows almost no information regarding these figures.
These statistics are important. The more that the international community knows about socioeconomic aspects such as the Saudi Arabia poverty rate, the more it can work with Saudi Arabia to promote the health and wellness its people deserve. As Saudi Arabia continues to rise as an international power, foreign governments must do all they can to gather this elusive data.
– John Mirandette