Faisal Bin Fazil Al Ibrahim, Minister of Economy and Planning of Saudi Arabia, is scheduled to visit Sri Lanka shortly.
During his stay, under the guidance of Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador Khalid bin Hamood Al Qahtani, he will engage in discussions with key ministers and senior officials of the Sri Lankan Government, focusing on enhancing the economic development of both Saudi Arabia and Sri Lanka. This presents a significant opportunity for the Sri Lankan Government to collaborate with Saudi Arabia for mutual economic benefit.
As a highly developed economy, Saudi Arabia is actively supporting less fortunate nations through its economy by offering both long and short interest-free loans. Additionally, the country provides humanitarian assistance without discrimination based on caste or religion. Notably, Saudi Arabia has extended substantial aid, including interest-free long-term debt-based loans and humanitarian assistance, to its ally, Sri Lanka, amounting to billions.
Saudi Arabia has emerged as a key player in the Middle East, experiencing rapid economic growth particularly under the leadership of King Salman bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud and Prime Minister Prince Muhammad bin Salman bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud. The nation’s economic prowess has been instrumental in realizing the ambitious Vision 2030, spearheaded by Prince Muhammad bin Salman, which aims to diversify and bolster the economy.
As the largest economy in the Arab world and the Middle East, Saudi Arabia ranks among the world’s top 20 economies and holds a permanent position in both OPEC and the G20. Boasting the second-highest natural resource value globally at US$ 35 trillion, the country possesses the world’s second-largest oil reserves and ranks as the leading oil exporter and has the fifth-largest proven natural gas reserves. Traditionally reliant on oil, Saudi Arabia took decisive steps in 2016 launching Vision 2030 to reduce its dependence on oil and diversify its economic base. These strategic efforts led to a 2.1 percent economic growth from 2019 to 2020. The Global Competitiveness Annual Report – 2019 of the International Institute for Management Development positioned Saudi Arabia at the seventh spot among G20 nations and 26th globally. Subsequent reports in 2020 showcased improvements, with Saudi Arabia advancing to the 20th position in economic performance, 19th in business performance and infrastructure, and securing the 10th rank globally in terms of the economy.
Saudi Arabia’s industrial production surged, with the GDP of manufacturing sector, at constant prices increasing from 32 billion Riyals in 1974 to 319.5 billion Riyals by the end of 2018, achieving a 12 percent contribution to the GDP of the sector. Non-oil GDP saw a 7.5 percent contribution from the manufacturing sector in 2018. The industrial sector’s overall contribution rose to 32 percent in 2018.
Saudi Arabia is actively pursuing investments in the mining sector to diminish its reliance on oil, despite abundant reserves. Currently Saudi Arabia holds the fourth-largest natural gas reserves globally, estimated at around 240 trillion square feet.
Celebrating its 93rd National Day, Saudi Arabia achieved a milestone with a GDP crossing 4.155 trillion Riyals, surpassing the US$ 1 trillion mark for the first time and entering the ranks of trillion-dollar economies globally.
According to the IMF, the non-oil sector in Saudi Arabia is expected to grow, propelled by robust consumer spending.
Saudi Arabia’s economy generates 1.18 million jobs annually, with 212,000 benefiting Saudis, and notably, 71 percent of these are Saudi women.
Data from the General Organization for Social Insurance indicates a noteworthy increase in the total number of individuals covered by social insurance, reaching 10.6 million by the end of the third quarter of this year, compared to 9.5 million at the end of the same quarter in 2022.
In the public and private sectors, the workforce comprised more than 2.2 million Saudi men and women by the third quarter of this year, marking an increase from 2.1 million in the same period in 2022. Notably, the number of expatriates also rose by around 969,305.
The Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development projects that the participation rate of women in Saudi Arabia’s labour market will reach 37 percent by the close of 2022. A study indicates a remarkable surge of over 150 percent in Saudi Arabian women’s participation in sports in recent years. International organizations affirm that Saudi Vision 2030 is making substantial progress towards achieving its goals ahead of schedule. Launched in 2016, this ambitious initiative aims to position Saudi Arabia for a “post-oil” era and enhance its global influence.
Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman during a September interview with the American channel Fox News highlighted Saudi Arabia‘s economy as the fastest growing among G20 nations in 2022. The Crown Prince emphasized that Saudi Arabia, currently ranked 17th globally, aspires to reclaim a spot among the top seven economies.
(M.H. Shehuddeen Madani, Director, Al Hikma Welfare Association, Sri Lanka)