Conventional name: Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (‘al-mamlakatu l’arabiyyati saudiyya). Named after the ruling Al Saud family <>

Capital: Riyadh

Surface area: 1,960,582 km²

Comparison with a European country : 9 times UK (or about 2/3 of the whole European Union).

Administrative Divisions: 13 provinces (mintaqah = mintaqat).

Population (est. 2004): 26,534,504 (2012) , includes 35% non-nationals

Population density (2011): 13.5  inhabitants /km².

Young people under 15 Years Old (2011): 29.4%

Annual population growth (2011): 1.54%

Fecundity rate: 2.31 (2011)

Life expectancy (2011): 74.11 years

Infant mortality (2011): 16.6%

Urban population (2010) 82%

Illiteracy rate (2003): men 15.3%; women 29.2% (2003)

Ethnic background: Arabs 90% of the population, Afro-Asian 10%

Religions: Sunnite  <>Muslims 97% Shiite Muslims <> 2,5%

Language: Arabic

HDI (Human Development Indicator, UNDP figures 2002): 0.759 (HDI medium level) within the 173 countries selected in the report Saudi Arabia is ranked 71.

Currency: 1 Saudi riyal (SAR) = (1 US$ = 3.747 Saudi riyals, 2005)

Total GDP:  577’600’000’000 US$ (2011)

GDP per capita :24’500 US$ (2011)

Growth rate: 3.7% (2011)

Unemployment Rate: 13% male only (local bank estimate; some estimates range as high as 25%) (2004)

Exports (2011): 2’378 billion fob US$

Imports (2011): 8’835  billion fob US$

Major Trading Partners: Imports: US (15.3%), Japan (9.8%) Germany 8.1%, China (6.6%) UK (5.7%) Exports: US (18.2%), Japan (14.9%), South Korea (9.5%), China (6.1%), Taiwan (4.5%), Singapore (4.1%) (2004)

Agricultural – products: wheat, barley, tomatoes, melons, dates, citrus

Major Export Products: Petroleum and petroleum products 9/10, foodstuffs, manufactured articles.

Major Import Products: foodstuffs, cattle, manufactured articles, textiles transport equipment

Industries: Crude oil production, petroleum refining, basic petrochemicals, ammonia, industrial gases, sodium hydroxide (caustic soda), cement, construction, fertilizer,…

Total External Debt: 8’095 billion US$ (2011)

Foundation of the State: 23 September 1932

Admitted in the United Nations: 1945

Member of: League of Arab States, Gulf Cooperation Council, OPEC, observer status in the W.T.O.

Parties to i.a.: Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), Chemical Weapons Convention (CWP).

State nature: Kingdom

Regime nature: Absolute Monarchy

Head of State (King) and government: King and Prime Minister ABDALLAH bin Abd al-Aziz AL Saud (since 1 August 2005); the monarch is both the chief of state and head of government

Vice-Prime Minister, Crown Prince and National Guard Commander: ABDALLAH <> bin Abd al-Aziz AL-SAUD (King’s half-brother).

Minister for Foreign Affairs: SAUD al-Faysal bin Abd al-Aziz AL-SAUD.

Some features:

  • With one quarter of the world ‘s proven oil reserves , Saudi Arabia is expected to keep its position as the world’s largest oil producer for the foreseeable future. Crude oil represents 40% of the country’s GDP and 80% of its exports.
  • Saudi Arabia is one of the leading OPEC countries and plays a key role on the oil market not only because it is the main oil exporter but mostly because it is the only oil exporter with a significant amount of spare capacity (nearly 8 millions barrels per day -2001 figures).
  • Until the year 2000, foreign companies were limited to a 49% share of joint ventures with Saudi domestic partners. In May 2000, a new law was issued aimed at attracting foreign investment to the Saudi energy sector. The law allowed full foreign ownership of Saudi property and licensed projects, set up the General Investment Authority (SAGIA) as a « one-stop shop » for foreign investors, and reduced taxes on company profits up to 30% (from previous 45%). However, full foreign ownership is not yet allowed in sectors like upstream oil, pipelines, media and publishing, insurance, telecommunications, defense and security, health services, wholesale and retail trade.
  • Saudi Arabia has around 80 oil and gas fields, but more than half of its oil reserves are contained in only eight fields: Ghawar (the world’s largest onshore oil field, with estimated remaining reserves of 70 billion barrels, accounts for about half of Sthe country’s total oil production capacity) and Safaniya (the world’s largest offshore oilfield, with estimated reserves of 19 billion barrels). Most of Saudi crude oil is exported through three terminals: Ras Tanura (6 million barrels/day) and Juaymah (3 million barrels/day), in the Gulf, and Yanbu in the Red sea (5 million barrels/day). Saudi Arabia also manages two major oil pipelines: Petroline and the Abqaiq-Yanbu NLG pipeline which serves Yanbu’s petrochemicals plants. Two other pipelines are currently not used: Tapline (linking Saudi Arabia to Haifa, now in Israel) and the Iraqi-Saudi IPSA-2.
  • Asia is the first oil export market for Saudi Arabia, followed by Europe, and the United States. In 1998 Saudi Arabia supplied its American customers with 1.4 million barrels a day, or nearly 16% of US crude oil imports.
  • The country’s proven natural gas reserves are estimated at arround 220 trillion cubic feet, the four highest in the world after Russia, Iran and Qatar. the main fields are Ghawar (1/3 of the country’s total reserves), Safaniya and Zuluf.
  • Saud Arabia launched its « Saudi Gas Initiative » in May 2001 aiming to attract foreign investment for the natural gas sector’s development. Accounting for 25 billion US$, this project aims to integrate upstream gas development with downstream petrochemicals, power generation and water desalination.
  • The country has observer status in the WTO. The economy is characterised by high tariffs, and a variety of restrictions to free market which would start to be reduced by a possible membership to the organization.
  • SABIC (Saudi Arabia Basic Industries Company), owned at 70% by the state and at 30% by private Saudi investors, accounts for 5% of world petrochemical production. SABIC was created in 1976 and is the main non-oil industrial enterprise of the country.
  • Important investments in petrochemicals have increased the place of the downstream oil sector in recent years. However, despite periodic efforts to diversify, the Saudi economy remains essentially oil based. In 1998, 90% of Saudi exports revenues were still derived from sales of crude oil, natural gas and refined products.
  • Saudi Arabian governement launched an official plan 1995-2000 accepting to reduce state involvement and increase private sector, to enhance foreing investment and to reduce gradually state subsidies and the importance of public employment without harming civil servants jobs.
  • Saudi Arabia has now a policy of « Saudisation » in order to increase employment of Saudi nationals by replacing 60% of its foreign workers. To reach that goal, Saudi Arabia has stopped issuing work visas for certain jobs, has increased training for Saudi citizens and has set minimum requirements for the hiring of Saudi citizens by private companies.
  • Saudi Arabia spends 1,44 % of its GNP in development aid and is one of the biggest donors of the world.
  • No country in the world has a higher level of financial tranfers from migrant workers to their home country: these tranfers amount to 5 billion Dollars every year.
  • The world’s biggest (non-OECD) weapons buyer in 1997, spending US $ 11 billion of its US $ 18 billion defence budget on arms imports.
  • In Saudi Arabia, there are no resident foreign press correspondents.

EU and Saudi Arabia Relations :

  • As a member of the GCC, Saudi Arabia is part of the negotiation process between the EU and the GCC. In 1989 the EU concluded a cooperation agreement which was ratified by Saudi Arabia. The aim of this agreement is to increase trade relations and to contribute to stability in the region.
  • In 1999 the GCC member states agreed on a Custom Union which would enter into force in 2005.
  • The bulk of European imports from Saudi Arabia consist of crude oil.

Sources (figures): CIA World Factbook 2006, Arab german Consulting (,  the Population reference Bureau (