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Saudi Arabia Table of Contents

Saudi Arabia

Economic Policy Making

The economic philosophy of the Saudi Arabian royal family has not changed since the reign of Abd al Aziz, but the economic role of the government has grown tremendously. The stated goal of Saudi rulers has been to improve the economic conditions of the country's citizens while retaining the society's Islamic values. Imbedded in this social contract, however, is the issue of political control. The Al Saud recognized that the key to political power in the kingdom lay in replacing the old economy with lucrative new economic opportunities for the country's citizenry.

In the early stages of the kingdom, the only nontraditional economic opportunities for Saudi citizens were linked to employment in the military, distribution of land, and some modest contracts and commissions. Abd al Aziz had limited means. His revenue was adequate to allow only minimal government functions, not, to undertake economic and social projects. Development of the country's oil resources resulted in some wage payments to Saudis and local purchases of goods and services by foreign oil companies, but the impact on the Saudi economy was initially minor. The main beneficiary of oil exports was the ruling family and its tribal allies. Until the 1970s, oil income increased slowly, and the government usually operated under financial constraint. The government's economic decisions were largely those of determining priorities among alternative uses of limited resources. Government structure and subsidiary economic organizations also evolved slowly. In 1952 the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency (SAMA) was created to serve as the central bank, and in 1962 the General Petroleum and Mineral Organization (Petromin) was formed.

Data as of December 1992