Saudi Arabia expands impressively.

From 1996 through the end of 2004, Saudi Arabia's per capita income grew only 0.6 percent, according to International Monetary Fund (IMF) statistics. During 2005, however, again according to the IMF, per capita income will increase 50 percent. GDP growth is estimated at about 6 percent.

In a recent report the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) borrowed language from the IMF to characterize the Saudi economy as "expanding rapidly".

The BBC also said per capita income will end 2005 at over us$13,000 up nearly us$1,500 from $11,888 in 2004.

In a single year, Saudi Arabia's consumers will gain impressively in purchasing power and disposable income.

Gains are also being felt in the job market. Saudi unemployment is estimated officially at 9 percent, but unofficial estimates put it at 25 percent. Job gains are coming from sharp improvements in foreign direct investment (FDI). These investments diversify the Saudi economy and create jobs.

Until now, Saudi Arabia has relied almost exclusively on oil as an engine of growth. Saudi Arabia is the world's largest producer of oil, and has approximately 25 percent of the world's proven reserves.

The dependence on oil revenue, which accounts for 46 percent of the country's GDP, means that the world demand for oil dictates the health of the country's economy. In countries where oil plays a central role, oil price shocks hamper growth.

More good news for Saudi consumers came from approval by the World Trade Organization (WTO) that the country's 12 year negotiation for WTO membership had finally come to an end, and that Saudi Arabia would formally join the world body on December 13, 2005, as reported by ameinfo.com(Dubai).

Consumers will benefit from the market-oriented rules for WTO members, which, among other reforms, specifies strong liberalization measures. Already, the Saudi government is speeding up the process of privatization of the country's heretofore strictly controlled economy.

Saudi Arabia inflation is low, another benefit for its consumers, estimated by the IMF to grow 0.8 percent in 2005.

DIVERSIFICATION AND AN IMPROVED JOB MARKET ARE PRIORITIES

The...

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