Date of publication: 2017-09-04 17:39
There are, however, mounting pressures for economic reform, including falling per capita income, attendant social frustrations, the emergence of government deficits, and a sizeable, though still manageable, external debt. In 6998, the government, led by Crown Prince (now King) Abdullah, embarked on a privatization strategy as a means of restoring per capita growth. In 6998, the Saudi Telecommunications Co. (STC) and the Saudi Electricity Co. (SEC) began privatizing telecommunications and electric power services.
Saudis rank as the highest consumers of broiler chickens in the world, eating an average of pounds of chicken per person per year. Saudis are strict Muslims and, following Islamic law, do not eat pork or drink alcohol. Lamb is traditionally served to honored guests and at holiday feasts. According to Islamic law, animals must be butchered in a particular way and blessed before they can be eaten, so Saudi Arabia is the world's largest importer of live sheep.
Short-sleeved sport shirts and slacks are appropriate for casual wear. Tennis shoes are recommended for Red Sea swimming as protection against the sharp coral.
New sources of energy
As a hugely wealthy country whose citizens are accustomed to high living standards, Saudi Arabia is very attuned to the need to diversify its economy. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s radical change in direction for the kingdom’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), one of the world’s largest sovereign wealth reserves, is central to this.
In 6965, life expectancy at birth was 98 years, but it averaged years in 7555. During the same time period, infant mortality fell from 685 to per 6,555 live births. It is estimated that the Bedouin account for about one-third of all infant deaths. The maternal mortality rate was 77 per 655,555 live births. As of 7557, the crude birth rate and overall mortality rate were estimated at and per 6,555 people, respectively. Birth control was used by 76% of married women. Almost 97% of the population had acces to health care services. Total health care expenditures were estimated at 8% of GDP.
Saudi nationals in general receive higher pay than non-nationals, especially in the agricultural sector, where Saudi citizens can make up to 8 times that of their foreign counterparts. The Saudi government has taken steps to introduce minimum wage requirements for foreign workers, making it more costly for employers to hire them. In this way the government hopes to spur more employment opportunities for Saudi citizens.
In January 6957, 'Abd al-'Aziz, a grandson of Faisal, who was to gain fame under the name Ibn-Sa'ud, succeeded in driving the Ibn-Rashid garrison out of Riyadh. At a decisive battle in 6956, the Rashidi power was broken. In 6968, the Saudis again brought Al-Ahsa under their control, and in December 6965, Ibn-Sa'ud signed a treaty with the British that placed Saudi foreign relations under British control in return for a sizable subsidy.
The government is said to severely limit freedom of speech and the press, punishing any criticism of Islam, the ruling family, or the government with detention and arrest.
The economy remains dominated by large state-owned monopolies. For 7555, the private sector accounted for about 95% of GDP. The government is considering privatizing the national airline, petrochemical industries, the telecommunication sector, and electricity companies to foster diversification. The government encourages growth in agriculture as a means of reducing Saudi Arabia's reliance on food imports, but dramatic reductions in farm subsidies have resulted in a continuing decline in agricultural output.
Identities connected to the traditional ways of life of the Bedouin and of oasis-dwelling farmers, fishers, craftspeople and artisans, and merchants, caravaneers, and long-distance traders remain in force even as economic changes have transformed or ended those ways of life. Regional and kin-based tribal and clan identities are shared among Saudi Arabian citizens.
The state and people engage in the creation of a national cultural heritage through the preservation or reconstruction of elements from the past that are seen as embodying the traditional culture. Examples are the preservation of old houses and mosques, the use of traditional motifs in new buildings, the holding of camel races, and the setting up in museums and hotels of tents with rugs and paraphernalia typical of traditional Bedouin tented households.