Saudi Arabia has 16% of the world’s oil reserves and is the world’s largest oil producer. This makes the OPEC founding member the most prosperous Arab country. The revenues from oil exports make up about 85% of the state budget. The gross national income (GNI) per resident grew to (2017) US $ 20,080 (1980: US $ 11,260).
Foreign trade : Saudi Arabia has been generating an export surplus for years thanks to its export proceeds from crude oil, which is, however, partially consumed by payments for services and other transfers. In foreign trade, export and import relations exist primarily with China (13% / 15%), USA (9.8% / 12%) and Japan (11% / 4.6%). At 6.2%, Germany is primarily an importer (export of goods 0.44%) (2017). Saudi Arabia provides generous financial aid, especially to Islamic developing countries.
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Saudi Arabia has been producing crude oil in the Eastern Province (between Khafdji and Harrad) since 1938 and is today the most important producer with 543.4 million t / year (in 1982 still 495 million t), of which around 77% is for export. It owns 36.7 billion t or 16% of the world’s secure oil reserves. Saudi Arabia has the largest continental (Ghawar, west of Qatar) and submarine (Safanija, near Kuwait in the Persian Gulf) oil fields on earth. Fields south of Riyadh (al-Hauta) and on the border with the United Arab Emirates (Schaiba) have also been developed since the 1990s. With the natural gas reserves of 8,200 billion m 3(= 4.4% of the world reserves), the “wet gas” associated with crude oil is used primarily with a total production of 108.2 billion m 3 per year.
The natural gas serves as an energy source for the generation of electricity and fresh water and forms the raw material for the petrochemical industry, which includes large refineries in Ras Tanura, Djidda, Riyadh, Janbo, Jubail and Rabigh as well as plants in Jubail and Janbo. The latter is owned by the state-owned Saudi Arabian Basic Industries Corporation (SABIC) and produces chemicals, nitrogen fertilizers, plastic raw materials, industrial gases and crude steel almost exclusively for export. In addition to the oil fields of the east, there are numerous mineral deposits with iron and precious metal ores in the paleozoic rocks of Hidjas and Asir, which are currently only mined in Mahd al-Dhahab (“Cradle of Gold”) and Sukhaibarat (4.6 t gold, 5.8 t silver, 1,950 t copper per year).
Based on the cheapest energy (natural gas), Saudi Arabia wants to become an export-oriented industrial country. While the traditional handicraft of the hidjas is hardly available anymore, the modern industrial companies on the coasts and in the large cities of the inland employ 10.3% of the workforce, which are subsidized by the state with investment aid. Foreigners are mainly active in the construction industry. The food, consumer goods and building materials industries (cement) as well as the chemical industry generate a not insignificant part of the GDP and generate 10% of exports.
The supply of electricity is comprehensive (production capacity: 51 150 MW). Electricity generation is entirely based on thermal power plants.
Production has shifted from small-scale oasis and (in the Asir Mountains) terraced agriculture to agro-industrial operations in the center of the country (Riyadh, Qassim, Hail). Modern irrigation methods are used to produce fruit and vegetables (2.9 million tons, 1.1 million tons of which are dates) and wheat (1.4 million tons); Milk and meat production (8.7 million sheep, 3.4 million goats). Only 5% of the workforce (mainly guest workers) are employed in this branch of the economy (45% in 1980); they generate 1.8% of the gross domestic product (GDP). In terms of value, 70% of food requirements are met from domestic production, but Saudi Arabia remains the largest food importer (15% of total imports) in the Arab world. The problem is the rapid depletion of fossil groundwater reserves through agriculture, accounts for 85% of the water consumption. Currently, 1.7 times more water is consumed annually than is naturally available. In 30 years the reserves could be exhausted. The accelerated expansion of the gas-powered Seawater desalination plants on the coast (capacity: 1,058 million m 3 / year) is expensive.
Fisheries : The state fishing company catches 80,800 tons of fish along the 2,250 km long coastline. Pearl fishing in the Persian Gulf has practically ceased.
Although nearly 20 million people cross national borders each year and an additional 1.8 million Muslim pilgrims come to Mecca and Medina, Saudi Arabia rarely grants tourists entry permits. The holy places of Mecca and Medina are completely closed to non-Muslims. There are efforts to reduce entry restrictions.
The Dammam – Riyadh railway line via Harrad (since 1953; 556 km, shortened new line for passenger traffic since 1985 with a total of 449 km) is the main line. A reconstruction of the Hidjas railway Amman – Medina is not current, but there are plans for the railway construction Djidda – Mecca – Dammam and along the Gulf coast. A network of paved roads (including motorways, including from Dammam to Djidda with branches to Medina and Buraida) and slopes open up all the settlements. The paved roads make up around a quarter of the road infrastructure. Road border crossings exist with all neighboring countries except Oman (Iraq: closed), including. with the 25 km long bridge structure (opened in 1986) to Bahrain. The international ports of Jeddah and Dammam serve the shipping trafficand Djizan as well as the industrial ports (petrochemicals and oil loading) of Jubail and Janbo. Only crude oil is loaded in Ras Tanura and Ras al-Khafdji. The backbone of the energy export are the pipelines, which in total comprise a network of over 10,000 km in length. The most important pipeline is the Petroline from Dhahran on the Persian Gulf to Janbo on the Red Sea. The Natural Gas Liquids Pipeline for the transport of natural gas runs parallel to this. A large part of the international and national passenger traffic is handled via the 214 airfields and airports (including international: Djidda, Riyadh, Dhahran / Dammam and Medina); national airlines are the Saudi Arabian Airlines (Saudia).