Governance in Saudi Arabia

Cover Note

The content of this paper is significant to understanding how development partners and aid organizations, such as United Nations, function. Specifically, it focuses on the United Nations development program and the activity of the World Bank in relation to Saudi Arabia. The facts are presented that  illustrate  governance challenges facing Saudi Arabia today. The mitigation of these factors  is critical for creation of  a sustainable human development program. It is suggested that  the resolution of the highlighted issues be crucial in mitigating these challenges.

This paper outlines  the resulting effects associated with discriminative and inadequate education systems. The latter are  characterized in terms of  poor education quality and redundant curriculums, which do not factor global changes in education. Additionally, importation of labour in Saudi Arabia has significantly affected the country’s ability to be self-reliant. This  is well illustrated  by a high proportion  of foreign nationals holding significant positions in the job market. To add,  heavy reliance on oil exportation has contributed to  increasing environmental challenges. Therefore, alternative economic activities have been advocated  in order to create a balanced economy. However, while the economic impacts are stressed upon, it is critical that the nation’s health system operate optimally in order to cater for the Saudi population adequately.

In my assessment, it is evident that the measures instituted by the Saudi Arabia government aspire to reduce the illiteracy rate among its youth. At the same time, the focus should also be maintained on  creation of  a unique education system  critical for forming  the labour force that will comprise  Saudi nationals. These measures will predictably reduce reliance on foreign human capital while reengineering the social and economic systems in place.


Economic, social, and political development characterizes the degree of success in governance policies implemented by any country. While Saudi Arabia has significant oil wealth, it is encumbered by an array of governance challenges. These challenges have influenced the country’s economic, social, and political governance. This paper intends to depict the challenges of the governance of the country’s social and economic development.

Saudi Arabia joined the World Trade Organization in 2005. At that time,  an ambitious economic diversification policy was initiated.  Political reforms, such as the appointment and election of the first female deputy minister, were applauded as a critical step towards political inclusion of minorities in the governing structures.  Human development in Saudi Arabia has also grown due to  effective and conservative use of public resources that increased significantly due to revenues derived from exported oil.

Human development

Saudi Arabia aspires to create human capacities to participate and lead in new service and industrial sectors, therefore, reducing reliance on foreign nationals. The achievement of sustainable and diversified economy which will engage in global concerns on environmental and climatic changes while putting less emphasis on oil exports is among Saudi Arabia’s development agendas. Additionally, the effective translation of policies and investments in human development returns is planned to be achieved through effective governance and public administration, so that public investments results are sufficient. Meanwhile, the creation of  regional, youth, and gender equity, which will be preceded by growth, is being advocated


While Saudi Arabia has significant wealth derived from exportation of oil products, several governance issues are identifiable in the economic and social structures (Jones 2010, p. 179). Big challenges inhibit the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on the way to realize a set of developmental objectives. The situation is exacerbated by the fact that there is a need to ensure the existence of capacities that will  sustain the kingdom’s developmental gains. In this respect,  implementation of governance policies on  building  institutional and systematic capacities for sustaining development is highly recommended. It is viewed as  an attempt to ensure that realized set of developmental achievements in the past can be sustained beyond the projected period characterized by  increasing environmental and energy market pressure (Ramady 2010, p. 312). Given the environmental impacts associated with the use of fossil fuels, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has opted for launching a regime premised on global climatic changes. This has been attributed to   gradual increments observed in the costs associated with the reliance on  fossil fuels. This aspect is aimed at motivating the country to shift to policies that are more environmentally friendly and ensure that  carbon emissions are minimized if not eliminated.

In light of the foreseeable carbon constrained environment, Saudi Arabia faces significant challenges in building its human development capacity. , This seems quite complicated given that the country has relied heavily on oil exports to earn revenue for human development . Therefore, diversification of  the economic functions is deemed critical for establishment of a reliable base of revenue, employment in the service sector, and a number of non-oil industrial applications (UNDP 2011, p. 21). Meanwhile, the economic policies and strategic plans should ensure that resource deficiencies, pollution, and conservation of water are provided  and taken into consideration. Water availability and clean energy are among the top concerns in the nation’s agenda as they are perceived as critical for sustaining its economic growth and development. Therefore, if these are not accounted for adequately,  detrimental bottlenecks will take place. Hence,  the implementation of proactive measures is crucial.

While economic growth is a contributing factor to the development of Saudi Arabia, the government finds that it is critical to ensure national equity corresponds with this growth. Equity is exercised where regional, youth development and gender issues are concerned. The Saudi Arabian population has a young structure where 21% of the population is represented by  individuals aged between  15 and 24 years, while 37% of the population is below 15 years of age (SCL 2009). In this context,  the Saudi Arabian government faces challenges while ensuring that every child is provided with an equal opportunity for receiving  education. Therefore, the country’s ability to respond to the ever rising need for employment, education, and health care illustrates  the country’s development position and its future.

Meanwhile, inasmuch as the Saudi Arabian government has strived to provide education for all, inherent concerns arise as to the qualitative aspect of education provided and the application of the acquired education in the job market. Therefore, Saudi Arabia faces a  challenge of the increasing number of  educated youth who are not able to find decent jobs  (O’Kane 2010, p. 4). While these concerns are growing, gender disparity in education evidences  a setback in the government’s policy towards gender parity. An estimated 28.9 % of women in Saudi Arabia are illiterate compared to while 11.1% of illiterate men  (UNDP 2009).

This disparity is observed in secondary school education which is male-oriented since  men  aim at working in the labor sector and contribute to the high rate of change in the economy. Of these 65%, of males are enrolled in applied or scientific subjects (UNDP 2009). To compare,  61% of females are enrolled in social sciences, such as literature and languages. Meanwhile, only 4.4 % of women in Saudi Arabia are employed in  public administration, and 6.1% in social and health services.  85.8% of women are employed in the education sector (UNDP 2009). In light of these figures, there is evidence that women are engaged in the labor sector at a significantly lower rate despite an alleged  incremental trend over the years. To make matters worse, women in Saudi Arabia represent 33.2% of the unemployed population,  which constitutes 14% of the overall labor force  represented by women. The total unemployment rate stands at 21.7 % for women while men represent just 7.6% (SCL 2009). This indicates that the Saudi Arabian government is still faced by governance challenges while implementing its policy of creation of equitable education and employment opportunities that will maintain parity between the genders.

While Saudi Arabia focuses on shifting beyond the exportation of oil towards the service and industrial sectors’ growth, there emerges a critical need for increased human capacity. Yet,  there is a gap between the need and   the actual availability of technical and local skills, which  results in  the government’s reliance on imported labor force. 27% of Saudi Arabia’s  population is represented by residents from other parts of the world, such as  South Asia, Middle East, and East Asia. Of the expected 11 million jobs to be created, only 5 million are expected to be taken by Saudi Arabia citizens (Bedu 2009). In light of these trends, the Saudi Arabia government initiated an affirmative action policy aimed at recruiting more Saudi Arabians in various sectors in an effort to create a self reliant population. Evidently, these efforts are an effective  move from heavy dependence on foreign workers for the execution of skilled and non skilled jobs, to increased participation of  Saudi Arabian citizens in the labor force. However, these can only be realized though the expansion of capacity of education development systems in order to counter the illustrated trend in the economy.

Provision of health services is a vital aspect of the government. However, the health sector in Saudi Arabia faces  significant challenges, since there  are no adequately allocated resources. For instance, the financing of the health sector has been critically impaired by  an increase in the percentage of the dependent  in the overall population. Meanwhile, a rapid change in the disease morphology to costly non-communicable from communicable diseases, have led to an increase in the health expenditure. Therefore, these require a larger budget to be allocated given the expensive nature of procuring treatment. Given a shortage of qualified personnel in health centers, an estimated 80% of nurses and doctors and over 50% of technicians in Saudi Arabia are foreigners (WHO 2006, p. 28). It has been observed that a significant number of Saudi nationals working in the health care system occupy administrative posts, while a significant percentage of Saudi Arabians have migrated to  urban areas creating a human resource imbalance between the rural and urban areas. This means that the pace at which the Saudi Arabia population is urbanizing is very rapid. This leads to significant changes in  lifestyles most of which are not healthy enough. This leads  to an  increased number of medical cases in health centers.

Public investments are critical factors in the development process of Saudi Arabia. Therefore, a challenge emerges in the Saudi Arabian government’s attempt to realize more efficient and stronger returns from public investments. Achievement of effective translation of investments and national policies into human development returns is somewhat hindered. Saudi Arabia has shown slower progress in given development indicators  in contrast to the nations of the same class (IHDI 2012). This indicates that Saudi Arabia has a significant affinity for improvement in governance and public administration, which needs to be enhanced. Therefore, existing institutions should  increase their capacities of effective transition to service and industrial sectors. This will  facilitate the establishment of new partnerships and help to achieve efficiency in the provision of services. This will also respond to a current necessity of decentralization.

In this context, ,it has been observed that significant challenges face the Saudi Arabian government. They should be mitigated through increased efficiencies, diversification of the economic activities, and  inclusion of women and youth in social-economic development. The realization of these will culminate in the economic development through investments, employment, and entrepreneurship.

Corrective measures

The diversification of the economy, where the government does not rely on the exportation of oil as the sole economic activity, will enable to  bridge the economic gap  between the poor and the rich. At the same time,  life in the urban and rural regions will not change  significantly. Saudi Arabia is an important force in the global market despite the effects of the global recession (Niblock 2006, p. 124). As a matter of fact,  the country’s oil exports have generated significant revenues, making it one of the most formidable regional hubs in the global economy. In light of this,  benefits accruing from globalization should include the integration of elaborated policies into  critical sectors in the economy which are singled out by the government for liberalization of trade. The revenues will be spent on  elaborating policies and visions as to enhancement of development and trade building capacities.

In order to create  efficient and effective public service and administration, it is essential to develop extensive networks for achieving connection to  best practices and governance found worldwide . Therefore,  increased environmental governance is highly recommended  while building on environmental initiatives of  expansion and replication nationally. Meanwhile, the creation of a new partnership relationship between private and public partners in the determination and implementation of varying developmental initiatives is vital. Significantly, in the environmental and energy sectors,  climate and water concerns should be prioritized by local and multinational companies through social responsibility initiatives.

New policies and strategies should be implemented to address education challenges and employment  opportunities available for young people. Hence, the  issues concerning sustainability of development should be addressed. These are namely  improvement of the quality of education, generation of employment, and creation of awareness about  issues aimed at mainstreaming gender parity. In order to mitigate the costs associated with health care provision in Saudi Arabia, it is critical that the health systems be strengthened. At the same time, competent human resources should be developed for the delivery and management of health care. Public sensitization and training on  control and prevention of diseases are a priority, as well as measures that will ensure  increased response to  health information.


The social and economic potential of Saudi Arabia is significant. However, it should not  be based on the country’s capacity in oil exportation, but rather derive from available resources in the human resources sector that  have been underutilized. The creation of a qualitative education system is critical to  creation of a relevant workforce which will be  sensitive to global economic changes. They should contribute to the development of a society premised on the equity of opportunities, where gender discrimination will be discouraged.

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