Saudi Arabia Geography and Oil Term Paper

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This also includes the well-known Saudi offshore portion of the Persian Gulf which was the focus of much interest and debate during the first Gulf War in early 1990's as a result of Iraq's invasion of Kuwait.

Geologically, these oil fields "are mostly the result of what is known as extensional block faulting" in ancient sedimentary rock layers (i.e., sandstone and shale) "in the crystalline Pre-Cambrian basement (or subfloor)" which runs approximately along a north-to-south axis deep beneath the Arabian desert. This gigantic structure "underlies the world's largest oil field Ghawar and other major oil fields, such as Khurais, Mazalij and Abu Jifan (Rickard, 156). To the trained geographer/geologist, the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia in the region of Al-Dahna with its as Summan Plateau, greatly eroded with deep gorges, is very indicative of oil reserves lying far beneath the surface, extending to depths of some 11,000 feet (Rickard, 157).

As previously pointed out, the production of crude petroleum and related products dominates the Saudi economy. In 1962, Prince Faisal "announced his program for using the kingdom's ever-increasing oil revenues to modernize the country's agricultural, industrial and infrastructure bases" (the Middle East, 398) which inevitably led to the creation of one of the world's largest and most economically influential oil providers. Beginning roughly in 1970, the development of the Saudi Arabian economy was wholly dependent on a series of five-year plans, all of which focused on "different means by which the kingdom could transform its relatively undeveloped, oil-based economy into a modern industrial state" (the Middle East, 398).

These five-year plans have obviously created one of the most powerful and self-sufficient economies in the Middle East. Taken as a whole, "oil wealth has increased the standard of living of most Saudis," yet due to a growth in population over the last twenty years or so, the Saudi government has found it increasingly difficult to maintain and improve the standard of living for a good portion of its people, some of whom still live in abject poverty.
Nonetheless, "heavy dependence on petroleum revenues continues, but industry and agriculture now account for a larger share of economic activity" within Saudi Arabia ("Background Note," Internet).

However, in more recent times, fluctuations in oil revenues and prices have had a huge impact on the Saudi economy. For instance, despite the enormous wealth created by oil revenues, the Saudi government "was faced by a hefty budget deficit in the late 1990's and by 1998, this deficit has expanded to more than $13 billion dollars, an increase equivalent to nearly 10% of the country's gross domestic product" (the Middle East, 163). This situation forced the Saudi government to implement what is known as the Sixth Plan (1996 to 2000) which sought to reduce the kingdom's "dependence on the petroleum sector by diversifying economic activity... with special emphasis on industry and agriculture" ("Background Note," Internet).

Overall, these five-year plans and other government-sponsored economic programs have greatly helped Saudi Arabia to obtain its present status as an economic global powerhouse, especially since the demand for oil has increased substantially in the last ten years. Surely, Saudi Arabia will continue to expand its economic base beyond that of the oil and petroleum industries in order to achieve "the goal of economic diversification" ("Background Note," Internet). Yet it should be remembered that without its unique geographical location, the kingdom of Saudi Arabia would not be in its present state and might have been abandoned long ago to the sands of its vast "Empty Quarter."


Background Note: Saudi Arabia." U.S. Department of State. Internet. June 2007. Retrieved at

Rickard, Michael J. Basement Tectonics in the Middle East. New York: Kluwer Academic


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