Saudi Arabia must balance its population growth and resources

Do we want a nation of millions of people who can only read and write at a certain level or do we want a nation of scientists, doctors and researchers?

Khaled Almaeena
Published: Updated:
Enable Read mode
100% Font Size

At a recent GCC municipal conference, policy makers voiced their concern about the rapid population growth in their respective countries and called for cooperation to improve the lives of their citizens.

While the population of countries is considered one of the elements of national power, the population boom in Gulf countries in recent years is alarming. A paradigm shift in thinking has occurred as it has become clear that the rapid growth of cities and the increase in their population along with the failure to provide adequate sewage services, water and electricity are bound to cause environmental problems.


This further taxes already pressured services. The population of GCC countries has almost tripled and this unplanned surge will have a negative effect on balanced and sustainable development.

It will also choke the economy and prevent long-term prosperity. The more the population increases the greater the need for better infrastructure, public transport and other facilities.

In order to meet the challenge to improve services for citizens, we must have balanced population growth.

Simple economics matter

However, when one mentions this subject in Saudi Arabia a barrage of criticism as well as verbal abuse is unleashed. Simple economics matter. A family of four or five has a better chance to have a high quality of life than does a family of nine. As Muslims, we do believe that God provides for all. But God also expects us to use our reason and logic. I see in supermarkets, airports and public places the tired faces of women, some in their early 30s, dragging seven or eight screaming children along, snapping at them and occasionally slapping one of them. Last week, I saw a father twist the arm of his seven-year-old son as three younger siblings cowered in fear.

Do we want a nation of millions of people who can only read and write at a certain level or do we want a nation of scientists, doctors and researchers?

Khaled Almaeena

We have to ask ourselves: Do we want more children just for the numbers? Do we have the mental, physical and the material capability to raise them? Do we have time for all of them? Are we able to cater to their emotional needs? With the rising number of handicapped children, many due to intermarriage between close relatives, are our educational and health services capable of providing them with the basic services they require?

Unfortunately, the answer to most of these questions is no. It does not mean that we are not trying. God has blessed us with resources, but all these are worth nothing unless we properly manage our personal and professional lives.

Preserve our resources and balance our population

In a region where water scarcity is a major concern, our top priority should be to preserve our resources and balance our population in order to enhance the quality of life and ensure a better future for the younger generation.

The argument that more people add strength to a nation is also illogical. Singapore, Hong Kong, and Switzerland with no natural resources have more economic power than we do. However, to say that they have “no resources” would be incorrect. For they do have a wonderful and irreplaceable resource - the human resource of people with their beautiful minds and sense of well-being. Their population is productive, whereas ours is primarily made up of consumers. They respect laws for queues, traffic, politeness and love for their country. They do this by being orderly and by exhibiting discipline. We have a very young population and there are more on the way. We have to stop and think. Do we want quality or quantity?

Do we want a nation of millions of people who can only read and write at a certain level or do we want a nation of scientists, doctors and researchers?

Do we want large families where both parents struggle to make ends meet? Or do we want healthy and balanced families that can contribute to the welfare and progress of the nation? History tells us that large numbers don’t count.

This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette on May 11, 2014.


Khaled Almaeena is a veteran Saudi journalist, commentator, businessman and the editor-at-large of the Saudi Gazette. Almaeena has held a broad range of positions in Saudi media for over thirty years, including CEO of a PR firm, Saudi Television news anchor, talk show host, radio announcer, lecturer and journalist. As a journalist, Almaeena has represented Saudi media at Arab summits in Baghdad, Morocco and elsewhere. In 1990, he was one of four journalists to cover the historic resumption of diplomatic ties between Saudi Arabia and Russia. He also traveled to China as part of this diplomatic mission. Almaeena's political and social columns appear regularly in Gulf News, Asharq al-Aswat, al-Eqtisadiah, Arab News, Times of Oman, Asian Age and The China Post. He can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter: @KhaledAlmaeena

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
Top Content Trending