Saudi Arabia Economy - 2021


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Economic overview

Saudi Arabia has an oil-based economy with strong government controls over major economic activities. It possesses about 16% of the world's proven petroleum reserves, ranks as the largest exporter of petroleum, and plays a leading role in OPEC. The petroleum sector accounts for roughly 87% of budget revenues, 42% of GDP, and 90% of export earnings.

Saudi Arabia is encouraging the growth of the private sector in order to diversify its economy and to employ more Saudi nationals. Approximately 6 million foreign workers play an important role in the Saudi economy, particularly in the oil and service sectors; at the same time, however, Riyadh is struggling to reduce unemployment among its own nationals. Saudi officials are particularly focused on employing its large youth population.

In 2017, the Kingdom incurred a budget deficit estimated at 8.3% of GDP, which was financed by bond sales and drawing down reserves. Although the Kingdom can finance high deficits for several years by drawing down its considerable foreign assets or by borrowing, it has cut capital spending and reduced subsidies on electricity, water, and petroleum products and recently introduced a value-added tax of 5%. In January 2016, Crown Prince and Deputy Prime Minister MUHAMMAD BIN SALMAN announced that Saudi Arabia intends to list shares of its state-owned petroleum company, ARAMCO - another move to increase revenue and outside investment. The government has also looked at privatization and diversification of the economy more closely in the wake of a diminished oil market. Historically, Saudi Arabia has focused diversification efforts on power generation, telecommunications, natural gas exploration, and petrochemical sectors. More recently, the government has approached investors about expanding the role of the private sector in the health care, education and tourism industries. While Saudi Arabia has emphasized their goals of diversification for some time, current low oil prices may force the government to make more drastic changes ahead of their long-run timeline.

Real GDP growth rate

-0.9% (2017 est.)

1.7% (2016 est.)

4.1% (2015 est.)

Inflation rate (consumer prices)

-2% (2019 est.)

-4.5% (2018 est.)

-0.8% (2017 est.)

Credit ratings

Fitch rating: A (2019)

Moody's rating: A1 (2016)

Standard & Poors rating: A- (2016)

Real GDP (purchasing power parity)

$1,609,323,000,000 (2019 est.)

$1,604,007,000,000 (2018 est.)

$1,565,891,000,000 (2017 est.)

note: data are in 2017 dollars

GDP (official exchange rate)

$792.849 billion (2019 est.)

Real GDP per capita

$46,962 (2019 est.)

$47,597 (2018 est.)

$47,309 (2017 est.)

note: data are in 2017 dollars

Gross national saving

33.6% of GDP (2019 est.)

33.2% of GDP (2018 est.)

30.4% of GDP (2017 est.)

GDP - composition, by sector of origin

agriculture: 2.6% (2017 est.)

industry: 44.2% (2017 est.)

services: 53.2% (2017 est.)

GDP - composition, by end use

household consumption: 41.3% (2017 est.)

government consumption: 24.5% (2017 est.)

investment in fixed capital: 23.2% (2017 est.)

investment in inventories: 4.7% (2017 est.)

exports of goods and services: 34.8% (2017 est.)

imports of goods and services: -28.6% (2017 est.)

Ease of Doing Business Index scores

Overall score: 71.6 (2020)

Starting a Business score: 93.1 (2020)

Trading score: 76 (2020)

Enforcement score: 65.3 (2020)

Agricultural products

milk, dates, poultry, fruit, watermelons, barley, wheat, potatoes, eggs, tomatoes


crude oil production, petroleum refining, basic petrochemicals, ammonia, industrial gases, sodium hydroxide (caustic soda), cement, fertilizer, plastics, metals, commercial ship repair, commercial aircraft repair, construction

Industrial production growth rate

-2.4% (2017 est.)

Labor force

13.8 million (2017 est.)

note: comprised of 3.1 million Saudis and 10.7 million non-Saudis

Labor force - by occupation

agriculture: 6.7%

industry: 21.4%

services: 71.9% (2005 est.)

Unemployment rate

6% (2017 est.)

5.6% (2016 est.)

note: data are for total population; unemployment among Saudi nationals is more than double

Population below poverty line


Gini Index coefficient - distribution of family income

45.9 (2013 est.)

Household income or consumption by percentage share

lowest 10%: NA

highest 10%: NA


revenues: 181 billion (2017 est.)

expenditures: 241.8 billion (2017 est.)

Taxes and other revenues

26.4% (of GDP) (2017 est.)

Budget surplus (+) or deficit (-)

-8.9% (of GDP) (2017 est.)

Public debt

17.2% of GDP (2017 est.)

13.1% of GDP (2016 est.)

Fiscal year

calendar year

Current account balance

$15.23 billion (2017 est.)

-$23.87 billion (2016 est.)


$221.1 billion (2017 est.)

$183.6 billion (2016 est.)

Exports - partners

China 20%, India 11%, Japan 11%, South Korea 9%, United States 5% (2019)

Exports - commodities

crude petroleum, refined petroleum, polymers, industrial alcohols, natural gas (2019)


$119.3 billion (2017 est.)

$127.8 billion (2016 est.)

Imports - partners

China 18%, United Arab Emirates 12%, United States 9%, Germany 5% (2019)

Imports - commodities

cars, broadcasting equipment, refined petroleum, packaged medicines, telephones (2019)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold

$496.4 billion (31 December 2017 est.)

$535.8 billion (31 December 2016 est.)

Debt - external

$205.1 billion (31 December 2017 est.)

$189.3 billion (31 December 2016 est.)

Exchange rates

Saudi riyals (SAR) per US dollar -

3.7514 (2020 est.)

3.75 (2019 est.)

3.7518 (2018 est.)

3.75 (2014 est.)

3.75 (2013 est.)

NOTE: The information regarding Saudi Arabia on this page is re-published from the 2021 World Fact Book of the United States Central Intelligence Agency and other sources. No claims are made regarding the accuracy of Saudi Arabia 2021 information contained here. All suggestions for corrections of any errors about Saudi Arabia 2021 should be addressed to the CIA or the source cited on each page.

This page was last modified 16 Dec 23, Copyright © 2023 ITA all rights reserved.