The World Factbook (1990)/Saudi Arabia

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Saudi Arabia

See regional map VI


Total area: 2,149,690 km²; land area: 2,149,690km²

Comparative area: slightly less than one-fourth the size of US

Land boundaries: 4,410 km total; Iraq 488 km, Iraq-Saudi Arabia Neutral Zone 198 km, Jordan 742 km, Kuwait 222 km, Oman 676 km, Qatar 40 km, UAE 586 km, PDRY 830 km, YAR 628 km

Coastline: 2,510 km

Maritime claims:

Contiguous zone: 18 nm
Continental shelf: not specific
Exclusive fishing zone: not specific
Territorial sea: 12 nm

Disputes: no defined boundaries with PDRY, UAE, and YAR; shares Neutral Zone with Iraq in July 1975, Iraq and Saudi Arabia signed an agreement to divide the zone between them, but the agreement must be ratified, however, before it becomes effective; Kuwaiti ownership of Qaruh and Umm al Maradim Islands is disputed by Saudi Arabia

Climate: harsh, dry desert with great extremes of temperature

Terrain: mostly uninhabited, sandy desert

Natural resources: crude oil, natural gas, iron ore, gold, copper

Land use: 1% arable land; NEGL% permanent crops; 39% meadows and pastures; 1% forest and woodland; 59% other; includes NEGL% irrigated

Environment: no perennial rivers or permanent water bodies; developing extensive coastal seawater desalination facilities; desertification

Note: extensive coastlines on Persian Gulf and Red Sea provide great leverage on shipping (especially crude oil) through Persian Gulf and Suez Canal


Population: 17,115,728 (July 1990), growth rate 4.4% (1990); note—the population figure is based on growth since the last official Saudi census of 1974 reported a total of 7 million persons and includes foreign workers, while estimates from other sources may be 15-30% lower

Birth rate: 37 births/1,000 population (1990)

Death rate: 7 deaths/1,000 population (1990)

Net migration rate: 13 migrants/1,000 population (1990)

Infant mortality rate: 71 deaths/1,000 live births (1990)

Life expectancy at birth: 64 years male, 67 years female (1990)

Total fertility rate: 6.8 children born/woman (1990)

Nationality: noun—Saudi(s); adjective—Saudi or Saudi Arabian

Ethnic divisions: 90% Arab, 10% Afro-Asian

Religion: 100% Muslim

Language: Arabic

Literacy: 52%

Labor force: 4,200,000; about 60% are foreign workers; 34% government, 28% industry and oil, 22% services, and 16% agriculture

Organized labor: trade unions are illegal


Long-form name: Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

Type: monarchy

Capital: Riyadh

Administrative divisions: 14 emirates (imārāt, singular—imārah); Al Bāḥah, Al Ḥudud ash Shamālīyah, Al Jawf, Al Madīnah, Al Qaşīm, Al Qurayyāt, Ar Riyāḍ, Ash Sharqīyah, ‘Asīr, Ḥā’il, Jīzān, Makkah, Najrān, Tabūk

Independence: 23 September 1932 (unification)

Constitution: none; governed according to Shari‘a (Islamic law)

Legal system: based on Islamic law, several secular codes have been introduced; commercial disputes handled by special committees; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

National holiday: Unification of the Kingdom, 23 September (1932)

Executive branch: monarch and prime minister, crown prince and deputy prime minister, Council of Ministers

Legislative branch: none

Judicial branch: Supreme Council of Justice

Leaders: Chief of State and Head of Government—King and Prime Minister FAHD bin ‘Abd al-‘Aziz Al Sa‘ud (since 13 June 1982); Crown Prince and Deputy Prime Minister ‘ABDALLAH bin ‘Abd al-‘Aziz Al Sa‘ud (half-brother to the King, appointed heir to the throne 13 June 1982)

Suffrage: none

Elections: none

Communists: negligible

Member of: Arab League, CCC, FAO, G-77, GCC, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, IDA, IDB—Islamic Development Bank, IFAD, IFC, ILO, IMF, IMO, INTELSAT, INTERPOL, ITU, IWC—International Wheat Council, NAM, OAPEC, OIC, OPEC, UN, UNESCO, UPU, WHO, WMO

Diplomatic representation: Ambassador BANDAR Bin Sultan; Chancery at 601 New Hampshire Avenue NW, Washington DC 20037; telephone (202) 342-3800; there are Saudi Arabian Consulates General in Houston, Los Angeles, and New York; US—Ambassador Charles W. FREEMAN; Embassy at Collector Road M, Diplomatic Quarter, Riyadh (mailing address is P. O. Box 9041, Riyadh 11143, or APO New York 09038); telephone [966](1) 488-3800; there are US Consulates General in Dhahran and Jiddah (Jeddah)

Flag: green with large white Arabic script (that may be translated as There is no God but God; Muhammad is the Messenger of God) above a white horizontal saber (the tip points to the hoist side); green is the traditional color of Islam


Overview: By far the most important economic activity is the production of petroleum and petroleum products. The petroleum sector accounts for about 85% of budget revenues, 80% of GDP, and almost all export earnings. Saudi Arabia has the largest reserves of petroleum in the world, is the largest exporter of petroleum, and plays a leading role in OPEC. Oil wealth has provided a per capita GDP that is comparable to most industrialized countries. Saudi Arabia is one of the few countries where consumer prices have been dropping or showing little change in recent years.

GDP: $73 billion, per capita $4,720; real growth rate 3.2% (1988)

Inflation rate (consumer prices): 1.5% (1989 est.)

Unemployment rate: 0% (1989 est.)

Budget: revenues $31.5 billion; expenditures $38.1 billion, including capital expenditures of $NA (1990)

Exports: $24.5 billion (f.o.b., 1989 est.); commodities—petroleum and petroleum products 89%; partners—Japan 26%, US 26%, France 6%, Bahrain 6%

Imports: $21.8 billion (f.o.b., 1989 est.); commodities—manufactured goods, transportation equipment, construction materials, processed food products; partners—US 20%, Japan 18%, UK 16%, Italy 11%

External debt: $18.9 billion (December 1989 est.)

Industrial production: growth rate 6.1% (1980-86)

Electricity: 25,066,000 kW capacity; 50,000 million kWh produced, 3,100 kWh per capita (1989)

Industries: crude oil production, petroleum refining, basic petrochemicals, cement, small steel-rolling mill, construction, fertilizer, plastic

Agriculture: accounts for about 10% of GDP, 16% of labor force; fastest growing economic sector; subsidized by government; products—wheat, barley, tomatoes, melons, dates, citrus fruit, mutton, chickens, eggs, milk; approaching self-sufficiency in food

Aid: donor pledged $64.7 billion in bilateral aid (1979-89)

Currency: Saudi riyal (plural—riyals); 1 Saudi riyal (SR) = 100 halalas

Exchange rates: Saudi riyals (SR) per US$1—3.7450 (fixed rate since late 1986), 3.7033 (1986), 3.6221 (1985)

Fiscal year: calendar year


Railroads: 886 km 1.435-meter standard gauge

Highways: 74,000 km total; 35,000 km bituminous, 39,000 km gravel and improved earth

Pipelines: 6,400 km crude oil; 150 km refined products; 2,200 km natural gas, includes 1,600 km of natural gas liquids

Ports: Jiddah, Ad Dammam, Ras Tanura, Jizan, Al Jubayl, Yanbu al Bahr, Yanbu al Sinaiyah

Merchant marine: 94 ships (1,000 GRT or over) totaling 1,988,322 GRT/3,474,788 DWT; includes 1 passenger, 6 short-sea passenger, 1 passenger-cargo, 15 cargo, 12 roll-on/roll-off cargo, 3 container, 6 refrigerated cargo, 4 livestock carrier, 32 petroleum, oils, and lubricants (POL) tanker, 8 chemical tanker, 1 liquefied gas, 1 combination ore/oil, 1 specialized tanker, 3 bulk

Civil air: 182 major transport aircraft available

Airports: 204 total, 179 usable; 66 with permanent-surface runways; 13 with runways over 3,659 m; 33 with runways 2,440-3,659 m; 98 with runways 1,220-2,439 m

Telecommunications: good system with extensive microwave and coaxial cable systems; 1,624,000 telephones; stations—21 AM, 16 FM, 97 TV; radio relay to Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Qatar, UAE, YAR, and Sudan; coaxial cable to Kuwait; submarine cable to Djibouti and Egypt; satellite earth stations—3 Atlantic Ocean INTELSAT, 2 Indian Ocean INTELSAT, 1 ARABSAT, 1 INMARSAT, 1 ARABSAT

Defense Forces

Branches: Saudi Arabian Land Forces, Royal Saudi Naval Forces, Royal Saudi Air Force, Royal Saudi Air Defense Force, Saudi Arabian National Guard, Coast Guard and Frontier Forces, Special Security Force, Public Security Force, Special Emergency Force

Military manpower: males 15-49, 6,437,039; 3,606,344 fit for military service; 159,186 reach military age (18) annually

Defense expenditures: 16.9% of GDP, or $12.3 billion (1990 est.)