Kuwait Times - 23/5/2006
The preliminary results of the Third National Census of Population and Housing reported Saudi population at 22.7mn at the end of 2004 and keeping in mind the past years growth is expected to have reached 23.1mn at the end of 2005. However, there is some disagreement regarding the population size with the UN and other international agencies pegging the population at around 24.5mn at the end of 2005.
At the end of 2004, according to the census, there are 16.5mn Saudi citizens as compared to 6.1mn expatriates residing in the country. Saudi Arabia is experiencing very high population growth rates which will require additional services, be it medical, infrastructure or social security.
Saudi Arabia growth rate in one of the highest in world which puts a pressure on government to provide for basic amenities, infrastructure and medical services to its population. With the increase in the life expectancy, there is greater need for medical services and the government is upgrading the medical system but we feel that there is a greater need for private participation in the medical sector.
The Makkah Region has the largest population in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia accounting for 25.6 percent of the 22.67mn national population, according to the preliminary results of the recently concluded Third National Census of Population and Housing. The Makkah Region had a population of 5.79mn (25.6% of the total population), followed by Riyadh Region at 5.45mn (24.1%) and the Eastern Province at 3.36mn (14.8%) according to Central Statistics Department of the Ministry of Economy and Planning.
The expatriate population was put at 6.1mn, or 27.1 percent of the Kingdom's total population. In 1992, the number of expatriates living in the Kingdom was put at 4.6mn. The recent census, which was carried out in September-2004, was the first since the 1992 count that placed the total number of population at 16.95mn.
City-wise, the Saudi capital Riyadh ranked first with a population of 4.1mn, followed by Jeddah at 2.8mn, Makkah at 1.3mn and Madina at 0.9mn, The combined Saudi population in the three administrative regions Makkah, Riyadh and Eastern Province, which are considered to be the major development centres constituted 59.7 per cent of the Kingdom's population. The largest concentration of expatriates in the Kingdom is in the cities like Makkah, Riyadh, the Eastern Province and Medina, which had 83.2 per cent of the total non-Saudi population. The expatriates in Makkah represent 36 per cent of the total city's population followed by Riyadh (28.1%), the Eastern Province (13.1%) and Medina (6%).
However, the main focus of the government has been on providing adequate training and development to the Saudi so that they are well-equipped in taking up the job both in the private as well as public sector. One of the major contributors of employment in the emerging economies has always been the small and medium enterprise and we believe the country needs to develop more SMEs by providing incentives to entrepreneurs. Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (Sagia) is focusing its activities on certain strategic investment sectors, education being a key one. Sagia is focusing on knowledge-based industries (KBI) and attracting foreign investment for this sector in the Kingdom.