S audi Arabia today enjoys one of the most modern and efficient physical and social infrastructures in the world, without which the socioeconomic development of the past and the progress charted for the future would not be possible.

Saudi Arabia has built a modern infrastructure of airports (above), 

roads (below) and other facilities to serve its people and allow 

economic development.

At the time of the establishment of the modern Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 1932, the country lacked modern roads, ports, transportation facilities and a telecommunications system. Realizing that these facilities would be vital to economic development, the government soon set about building the components of a sound infrastructure. The national effort received a boost with the introduction of a series of five-year development plans in 1970. The first three of these plans, carried out between 1970 and 1984, focused on establishing the physical economic infrastructure, and the subsequent plans used that infrastructure to achieve economic growth and diversification.

The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Fahd bin Abdulaziz was intimately involved in the planning and implementation of the development plans. In the 20 years since he became King on June 13, 1982, the country has completed a major program to establish a comprehensive road network at a cost of more than 34 billion U.S. dollars. Today, the Kingdom is served by nearly 100,000 miles of roads, which facilitate civilian travel as well as commerce throughout the country.

The modern 

transportation infrastructure,

 including ports (top)

airlines and airports (middle)

 and railways (bottom),

 that Saudi Arabia has built

 in a few decades, not only

facilitates travel, but also serves

a burgeoning economy.


The Kingdom also established three international and 22 regional and local airports, enlarged and modernized its 21 ports, and put in place a modern telecommunications network. As part of its efforts to maximize the efficiency of its transportation facilities, the government announced recently that the Saudi Railway Organization (SRO) would work with the private sector to extend the Riyadh-Dammam line to the Jubail Industrial City on the north-eastern side and to Makkah, Jeddah and Madinah in the western side of the country.

As the general economy grew, and along with it industry, the government installed a network of power generation plants, transmission lines and distribution lines, increasing power generation capacity more than 20-fold in the past 20 years to 23,800 megawatts. The electricity service currently covers 7,000 cities and villages in the Kingdom and serves three million subscribers.

To provide the water needed for the growing urban, industrial and agricultural sector, the Kingdom took steps to collect and conserve vast quantities of water from the frequent flashfloods that occur in certain parts of the country, water that had previously disappeared into the sands. To collect the runoff, the Ministry of Agriculture and Water built more than 200 dams placed strategically in wadis (dry riverbeds). These dams have a total reservoir capacity of more than 16 billion cubic feet of water. It also established a vast network of irrigation canals to distribute water from these reservoirs to nearby farms.

A vast network of power generation plants and transmission lines 

provide power to more than 7,000 cities, towns and villages.

Saudi Arabia also looked to the sea as a source of water not only for agriculture, but also for industrial and urban use. The Saline Water Conversion Corporation (SWCC) operates 27 desalination stations along the Red Sea and the Arabian Gulf, which with plants operated by other government agencies produce 220 billion gallons of desalinated water annually. These plants, which carry water through an extensive network of pipelines to urban, industrial and agricultural centers, provide more than 70 percent of the water used in cities, as well as a sizeable portion of the needs of industry and agriculture.

The result has been a 20-fold growth in agricultural production in the past two decades, with 12 million tons of cereals, vegetables and fodder, 2.2 million tons of wheat and barley, 2.7 million tons of vegetables and 1.2 million tons of fruit produced annually.

To meet the health needs of Saudi citizens from preventive care to advanced surgery, the Kingdom implemented a two-tier health service plan. The first tier is a network of 3,500 primary health care centers and clinics established throughout the country that provide preventive, prenatal, emergency and basic health services. The second tier is a network of  318 public and private hospitals that provide advanced medical services.

A doctor gives a young Saudi an eye examination 

at one of the 318 hospitals in the Kingdom.

To encourage public participation in sporting activities, the Kingdom has over the past two decades established a network of sports facilities. These include huge sports complexes, called Sports Cities, in major population centers, each equipped with a multipurpose stadium seating between 10,000 and 60,000 people, a 5,000-seat indoor stadium, Olympic-size swimming pools, indoor and outdoor courts and playgrounds. It also has built several hundred smaller neighborhood sports facilities, clubs and playgrounds in smaller urban centers where young Saudis can play basketball, volleyball and other sports near their homes.

As part of plans to build the necessary social and economic infrastructure, the Kingdom also established an educational system of 26,000 schools, eight universities, and a large number of colleges and other educational and training institutions capable of supplying the manpower needed to run its growing social and economic facilities.

As it was establishing the infrastructure needed to service the Kingdom’s growing economic and commercial activities, the government built industrial cities on sites chosen for their proximity to sources of raw materials and ease of access to major domestic and international consumer markets, further encouraging industrial growth. Most Saudi industrial plants are situated in these cities, which offer all the necessary services, from telephones and transportation to water and electricity.

One of the unique features of  Saudi Arabia ’s development planning has been the provision of tens of billions of dollars of interest-free, easy-term loans to citizens. These loans are used to fund industrial and commercial ventures as well as housing, and contribute to the private sector’s growing participation in national development.

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