The Saudi vision and population growth

Saudi Arabia has now launched a new phase of its march based on revolutionizing its economic identity

Mashari Althaydi
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The world's population explosion is one of the biggest obstacles hindering the train of development and creating exhausting competition between the pace of development and the demands of the increasing population.

Saudi Arabia has now launched a new phase of its march based on revolutionizing its economic identity by recreating it through the state’s guarantee of welfare, launching a giant private sector and diversifying national income. All the details and plans of these ambitious and future terms were explained by Vision 2030. This was practically explained through the recent budget announced last week.


The Saudi department of statistics announced that the population in Riyadh reached 8 million – 4.5 million are Saudis while 3.4 million are residents. The population of the entire kingdom is 31.74 million according to 2016 estimates.

All this means that the rate of Saudi population growth is increasing at a worrying pace. When we talk about population growth, we are not only talking about citizens but also about residents, considering the increase of number of refugees from Arab countries and other countries as a result civil wars.

Saudi Arabia has now launched a new phase of its march based on revolutionizing its economic identity

Mshari Al Thaydi

This is in addition to the fact that the Saudi labor market tempts Arab and non-Arab workers from all over the world, particularly from Asia. Of course what further tempt them to go work in Saudi Arabia are the cheap general services and cheap livelihood costs. What does uncontrolled population growth mean for the general economy?

It means a lot of pressure on services, goods, energy, general resources, such as those related to hospitalization, education and transportation etc. But when does population growth become useful?

It becomes useful “when this increase is met with a result in term of the state’s real production, and when this increase leads to decrease in poverty and increase of the average income. Population growth must not lead to the deterioration of the quality of life or to the decrease of essential services or deterioration of these services’ quality. Population growth must not harm the environment or drain natural resources.” (Muntser Abu al-Hajjaj al-Aqsri, al-Ahram)

Finally, the religious debate about the issue is not conclusive. Some prohibit family planning and some allow it as it has its benefits. This debate by various sources is available for anyone who wants to check it out. Speaking of jurisprudence, it's worth noting that that the four imams of the Sunni sect did not have many children. Imam Abu Hanifa only had one son, Hammad, Imam Shafii had two sons, Othman and Mohammed, Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal had two sons, Saleh and Abdullah and Imam Malik had one son, Yahya.

What can be seen is that population growth is not adding to market production or expertise as the opposite is happening. Therefore, the situation must be bravely confronted and programs that encourage family planning must be devised so the new Saudi train moves forward without any obstructions.

This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on December 26, 2016.

Saudi journalist Mshari Al Thaydi presents Al Arabiya News Channel’s “views on the news” daily show “Maraya.” He has previously held the position of a managing senior editor for Saudi Arabia & Gulf region at pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al-Awsat. Al Thaydi has published several papers on political Islam and social history of Saudi Arabia. He appears as a guest on several radio and television programs to discuss the ideologies of extremist groups and terrorists.

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