Social, Economic and Political Development
When the modern Kingdom was established in 1932, the Arabian Peninsula was an agricultural society that depended on farming and commerce – especially date exports and trade generated by pilgrims coming to Makkah and Madinah. It lacked the infrastructure needed to support the kind of economic and social development envisioned by its founder, King Abdulaziz bin Abdulrahman Al-Saud.
The discovery of oil in commercial quantities in 1938 changed that. Soon after World War II, steady oil exports provided the funds to build a basic infrastructure of roads, airports, seaports, schools and hospitals.
In 1970, Saudi Arabia introduced the first of a series of ongoing five-year development plans to build a modern infrastructure. The result has been a steady transformation of the country into a modern, sophisticated state.
Today, the Kingdom offers a highly developed infrastructure to support economic growth and investment, free public education and health care systems for all citizens, world-class research and health care facilities and an extensive social services program.
Saudi Arabia has also implemented a number measures to encourage political participation, promote economic growth, increase foreign investment and expand employment opportunities.
As part of its ongoing agenda, the Kingdom has been updating and modernizing its academic curricula and monitoring its religious schools. In February 2005, the Kingdom held its first elections for municipal councils, a move that streamlines local government and ensures that citizens have a strong voice in local affairs.