Sustainable development in Saudi Arabia

The term sustainable development relates to the shift towards economic growth that takes into account the social and environmental dimensions, in addition to the economic dimensions, with the aim of achieving sustainable development of land resources and production technology. This development aims to meet the current needs of individuals without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.

The three dimensions of sustainable development are as follows:

Economic dimension: The focus is on achieving economic growth that is sustainable in the long term without harmful impact on the environment or depletion of natural resources in a way that cannot be renewed.

Social dimension: It includes meeting the individual's basic needs such as education, health and housing, and promoting equality and social justice to ensure that people's quality of life is improved.

Environmental dimension: It relates to protecting the environment, preserving biodiversity, controlling pollution and preserving natural resources. Sustainable development is a long-term approach that relies on coordination and integration between different sectors, and gives priority to satisfying the basic needs of the individual and enhancing the balance between the three dimensions of sustainable development. The sustainable development goals have varied, and the following goals are based on the United Nations Development Programme, which are as follows:

  1. Poverty eradication.
  2. Ensuring food security and promoting sustainable agriculture.
  3. Improving health and providing well-being for all.
  4. Achieving comprehensive education available to all.
  5. Achieving gender equality and empowering women and girls.
  6. Providing water and sanitation for all.
  7. Achieving universal access to modern and sustainable energy services.
  8. Promoting comprehensive economic growth and providing decent job opportunities.
  9. Building sustainable infrastructure and promoting industrialization and innovation.
  10. Reducing disparities within and between countries.
  11. It makes cities inclusive, safe, strong and sustainable.
  12. Ensuring sustainable consumption and production patterns.
  13. Take urgent action to combat climate change.
  14. Use the seas, oceans and marine resources sustainably.
  15. Protecting, restoring, and improving the sustainability of the wild environment and managing forests sustainably:
  16. Achieving peace and justice.
  17. Strengthening means of implementation and strengthening the global partnership to achieve the sustainable development goals.

The previous Sustainable Development Goals are part of the United Nations programme, as all countries have relied on these goals to achieve sustainable development without harming the environment, with a focus on diversifying areas to include social, equality and environmental dimensions. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has paid great attention to sustainable development, and this was evident in the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, as the Kingdom sought to achieve economic development without harmful impact on the environment, covering all dimensions, whether social, environmental or economic, in accordance with the goals of sustainable development. In its ambitious plan, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia focused on several points:

  • Sovereign fund: Transforming the Saudi Public Investment Fund into a sovereign fund with assets estimated at $2 trillion to $2.5 trillion, making it the largest sovereign fund in the world.

  • Freedom from oil: Saudi Arabia seeks to be able to live without dependence on oil by 2020, even if oil prices fall to thirty dollars or less.

  • Aramco listing on the stock exchange: Offering less than 5% of the giant national oil company, Aramco, for public subscription on the stock exchange, and using the proceeds of the offering to finance the Saudi sovereign fund.

  • green card: Implementing the green card system within five years to improve the investment climate.

  • Thirty million pilgrims: Increasing the number of annual Umrah pilgrims from eight million to thirty million by 2030.

  • Employment and the private sector: Increasing women's participation in the labor market and achieving a lower unemployment rate among Saudis.

  • Military industry: Establishing a holding company for military industries, wholly owned by the government.

  • Housing and projects: Restructuring the housing sector to raise Saudi ownership rates and continue spending on infrastructure projects.

Objectives of Saudi Vision 2030:

  • Establishing more than 450 registered amateur clubs that provide cultural activities and entertainment events.
  • Raising the percentage of household ownership of homes from 50% to 70% by 2030.
  • Training more than 500,000 government employees remotely and qualifying them in human resources management.
  • Increasing the capacity to receive Umrah pilgrims from 8 million to 30 million pilgrims.
  • Increasing the number of archaeological sites registered with UNESCO to at least double.
  • 3 Saudi cities ranked among the top 100 cities in the world.
  • Raising household spending on culture and entertainment within the Kingdom from 2.9% to 6%.
  • Increasing the percentage of people exercising weekly from 13% to 40%.
  • Raising the social capital index from rank 26 to rank 10.
  • Increased life expectancy from 74 to 80 years.
  • Reducing the unemployment rate from 11.6% to 7%.
  • Increasing the contribution of small and medium enterprises to the gross domestic product from 2% to 35%.
  • Raising the percentage of women’s participation in the labor market from 22% to 30%.
  • Increasing the size of the economy and moving it from 19th to the top 15 in the world.
  • Raising the percentage of local content in the oil and gas sector from 40% to 75%.
  • Raising the value of the Public Investment Fund’s assets from 600 billion to more than 7 trillion Saudi riyals.
  • Moving from 25th place in the Global Competitiveness Index to the top 10 in the global rankings.
  • Raising the proportion of foreign direct investments in GDP from 3.8% to the global average of 5.7%.
  • Increasing the Kingdom’s rank in the Logistics Services Performance Index from 45th to 25th globally and first regionally.
  • Raising the proportion of non-oil exports from 16% to at least 50% of non-oil GDP.
  • Increasing non-oil government revenues from 163 billion to 1 trillion riyals annually.
  • Reaching rank 20 in the Government Effectiveness Index from rank 82.
  • Reaching fifth place in the e-government index from 36th place.
  • Raising the proportion of household savings out of their total income from 6% to 10%.
  • Raising the contribution of the non-profit sector to GDP from less than 1% to 5%.
  • Reaching 1 million volunteers in the non-profit sector annually compared to 11 thousand currently.

The following table shows the most important indicators of sustainable development in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia:

Indicator the year  
  2018   2019   2020
Index of the number of undernourished people 1.3 million people 1.3 million people 1.3 million people
Prevalence of undernourishment index 3.8% 3.9% 3.7%
Populations suffering from severe food insecurity 1000 1000 1000
Agriculture’s share of government spending 2.22% 2.23% 2.5%
Water use efficiency index 99.7685 104.082  
Water stress index 52.47% 52.47%  
Forest area index 977 thousand 977 thousand 977 thousand

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