Saudi Arabia: 2030

Saudi Arabia is one of the most influential and conservative Islamic countries in the Middle East. It makes up for four fifths of the Arabian Peninsula in Southwest Asia, and is bordered on the north by Jordan and Iraq, on the east by Kuwait. Saudi Arabia occupies an area about the size of the United States east of the Mississippi River and is the third largest country in the continent.  Saudi Arabia’s population is 27 million, and its capital city is Riyadh. Over the years, the country has attempted to achieve modernity without surrendering heritage, faith or culture. Today, Saudi Arabia is a nation marked by influential systems with a deep culture. However, despite the massive maturation Saudi Arabia has achieved, the social issue of violated human rights, the threat of nuclear technology and the economic issues are three matters in question that have yet to be resolved.

The past social issue in Saudi Arabia in regards to human rights is one that has yet to have been resolved, despite all around development in the country. The government’s human rights record in Saudi Arabia remains poor; women and minorities face constant discrimination and their rights suffer. Women in Saudi Arabia are less represented in political, social, economic and scientific fields than women in any other Arab or Muslim country. Women are still not allowed to vote, nor drive, and are not allowed to ride bicycles; as well they must obtain permission from a male guardian to travel within or outside the country. They are prohibited from studying certain subjects in school, such as chemistry and biology, and Saudi girls are not allowed to play sports in schools, which may be causing health problems and massive expenses.[1] Male relatives must arrange all marriages of Saudi women, and if she divorces her husband, there is a great chance she’ll lose custody of her children. Religious minorities in Saudi Arabia (mainly Shi’a Muslims, Hindus, Jews and Christians) all face parlous discrimination in employment and education, and are forbidden from publicly practicing their religion. [5] Under the current political and social system in Saudi Arabia, emigrant foreign workers and minorities exist without legal rights or protection. Under Saudi Arabia’s sponsorship (kafala system), expatriate workers are tied to a Saudi sponsor and are not allowed to enter the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for two years if they resign or quit their job; this has allowed companies to take advantage of the situation and treat their workforce poorly. The Saudi government’s harsh discriminatory policies violate human rights and have devastating personal and social effects. [5]

Saudi Arabia Issues First Anti-Domestic Abuse Advert For Women & Children

An issue that has been on the rise since the technological development of Saudi Arabia has been one in regards to the development of nuclear technology and the threat it could bring. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has been periodically suspected of seeking nuclear armaments; as well as has supported both the Pakistani and Iraqi nuclear weapons programs in the past. Saudi was motivated to start a nuclear weapons program in 1975 after Israel won the Arab-Israeli war; the Saudis hoped by building nuclear weapons they could match Israeli capabilities and counter potential aggression. Saudi scientists allegedly received training on how to build weapons in Iraq and Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia is part of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) initiative to develop a multilateral nuclear power program. Saudi Arabia engages in domestic research related to nuclear energy and has worked to accumulate a nuclear library with detailed scientific literature on global nuclear weapons programs. [2] Although Saudi Arabia signed a comprehensive safeguards agreement with the IAEA in 2005, the agreement has not yet entered into force, and a Small Quantities Protocol has been added to the agreement, therefore limiting the IAEA’s ability to verify that Saudi’s nuclear activities are limited and non-military in nature. Saudi Arabia operates a Tandetron accelerator, and Saudi scientists have some experience with experiments involving nuclear energy, such as the production of uranium isotopes; these activities could give Saudi Arabia enough experience with nuclear energy to begin to get comfortable with the technology. With Saudi’s development in technology, experts worry that the kingdom could overcome its domestic resource inadequacies by developing nuclear weapons with outside assistance, for example Pakistan. This could include securing a foreign source of enriched uranium or plutonium, gaining training from outside nuclear scientists or jointly developing weapons. [2] This potential issue of rising nuclear technology could be a great threat internationally, and is one that has continued to increase with Saudi’s expanding technology and scientific resources.

Saudi’s economy was a past success due to the oil reserves, the resources available and the economic relationships that existed. However, recently the economy has had to face substantial challenges and will have to face more in the future. Despite possessing the largest petroleum reserves in the world, per capita income has significantly dropped from $18,000 at the height of the oil book (1981) to $7000 in 2001, displaying how the income has continued to rapidly decrease today. As of 2013, per capita income in Saudi was a fraction of that of smaller Persian Gulf neighbours, for example Bahrain. [4] Unlike most developed countries where GDP growth is a function of increase in productivity and inputs such as employment, changes in oil prices are the most important factor in changes in Saudi domestic product. Saudi reserves are steadily diminishing, and no new significant discoveries have been made to replace them; as population and domestic energy consumption grows, per capita income declines. [4] Another issue is job preparation; the kingdom depends on huge numbers of emigrant workers to fill technical and administrative positions due to the poorly trained teachers, low retention rates and weak instruction for domestic workers. This is due to the fact that despite generous budgets, the education has suffered, and therefore so has the quality of domestic employment. Lastly, Saudi Arabia has not been particularly successful in technological innovation; the number of Saudi patents registered in the United States between 1977 and 2010 came to 382. While this may have compared well to other Arab countries, compared to South Korea (84,840) and Israel (20,620) Saudi has clearly failed in innovation and discovery. [4] This economic issue is one that could be detrimental to the kingdom if not resolved, and could severely affect the government, labourers and the country itself.

Saudi Arabia is a country that has attempted to achieve modernity without surrendering heritage, faith or culture. The kingdom prides itself as marked by deep, influential cultural systems. However, as a famous author once said, "No matter how perfect the day is, it has to end." (Stephanie Meyer) Despite the massive maturation Saudi has achieved, the social issue of violated human rights, the threat of nuclear technology and the economic issues are three matters in question that have yet to be resolved. Saudi has much more growth to achiever, and many more issues to resolve. As a country with strong resources that has proved itself as one that can survive, it will surely be able to overcome these issues and continue to flourish.


(1) "Issues." Center for Democracy and Human Rights in Saudi Arabia. N.p., n.d. Web. 8 June 2014. <>.

(2) "Profile for Saudi Arabia | NTI." NTI: Nuclear Threat Initiative. N.p., n.d. Web. 8 June 2014. <>.

(3) "Saudi Arabia." Global Issues in Context. Gale, n.d. Web. 8 June 2014. <>.

(4) "Saudi Arabia - The Economy." Country Studies. N.p., n.d. Web. 8 June 2014. <>.

(5) "Social & Ethical Issues." SAUDI;TRADE. N.p., n.d. Web. 8 June 2014. <>.

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