Saudi Arabia flag Saudi Arabia: Economic outline

Economic Outline

Economic Indicators

For the latest updates on the key economic responses from governments to address the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, please consult the IMF's policy tracking platform Policy Responses to COVID-19.

Saudi Arabia is the largest economy in the Middle East and the richest Arab country. The policy of large-scale public works undertaken by the authorities, as well as foreign direct investment and the soundness of the banking and financial system, have enabled the country to become the number one regional economy and one of the largest in the world. However, the economy of Saudi Arabia is almost entirely based on oil, with GDP growth being closely linked to real oil growth. In 2021, increasing oil prices and the stabilization of the COVID-19 pandemic contributed to an estimated GDP growth of 2.8% (IMF). The forecasts of the Ministry of Finance, the OECD and the IMF agree on a growth rate of 4.8% in 2022, thanks to the expansion of hydrocarbon activity and resumption of capital projects, before returning again to 2.8% in 2023.

Low oil revenue weighed on Saudi Arabia's current account balance as a consequence of the global pandemic, with an estimated budget deficit of USD 17.1 billion in 2021. Such deficit is likely to be narrowed down to USD 13.8 billion in 2022, as the government projects a surplus in both 2023 and 2024. The measure taken to curb the impact of COVID-19 on the private sector entailed an increase in public debt, which stood at 29.7% in 2021 (from 22.8% before the pandemic). The debt-to-GDP ratio is expected to further increase this year (30.8%) before taking a downward trend in 2023 (30.4% - IMF). Inflation picked up to 3.2% in 2021 partly as a consequence of the hike in the VAT rate from 5% to 15%, and should stabilize around 2% in the upcoming years.

The standard of living in Saudi Arabia is one of the highest in the Middle East, with a GDP per capita of over USD 48,000 (PPP – IMF). According to the latest data available from the Saudi General Authority for Statistics, the unemployment rate of the total working-age population (Saudis and non- Saudis 15 years and above) decreased to 6.6% in the second quarter of 2021; whereas the unemployment rate of total Saudis (males and females 15 years and above), decreased to 11.3% in the same period. Nevertheless, the unemployment rate is much higher for female citizens compared to the male population (22.3% vs. 6.1%).

Main Indicators 202020212022 (e)2023 (e)2024 (e)
GDP (billions USD) 703.37833.54e1.00996.391.00
GDP (Constant Prices, Annual % Change) -4.13.2e7.63.72.9
GDP per Capita (USD) 20e23e272727
General Government Gross Debt (in % of GDP) 32.430.024.825.124.6
Inflation Rate (%)
Unemployment Rate (% of the Labour Force)
Current Account (billions USD) -22.8144.32161.52122.69103.94
Current Account (in % of GDP) -3.25.316.012.310.2

Source: IMF – World Economic Outlook Database, 2016

Note: (e) Estimated Data

Monetary Indicators 20162017201820192020
Saudi Riyal (SAR) - Average Annual Exchange Rate For 1 GBP 5.064.835.004.754.81

Source: World Bank, 2015


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Latest Update: January 2023

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