P.K. ABDUL GHAFOUR | Arab News Staff
Wednesday 2 January 2013
Last Update 4 January 2013 12:02 pm
JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia has made significant progress in achieving the UN Millennium Development Goals ahead of the 2015 deadline, the Economy and Planning Minister Muhammad Al-Jasser announced yesterday.
“A review of implementation of the MDGs in the Kingdom demonstrates that the targets set for a number of goals have already been surpassed, while others are expected to be reached well ahead of schedule,” he said.
The 2012 MDG report issued by the Ministry of Economy and Planning charts the progress made by the Kingdom towards achieving the MDGs at four levels, including development of the IT environment, making it possible to speed up achievement of the MDGs through the expansion of databases.
Saudi Arabia was also successful in integrating the MDGs into sustainable development by making persistent efforts to achieve, even surpass, the MDGs ahead of the schedule set by the UN, in addition to supporting the implementation of MDGs in developing countries, the report said.
“Saudi Arabia's five-year development plans constitute the cornerstone of the endeavors to achieve the MDGs,” Al-Jasser said. “Not only do these plans aim, through clarity of strategic vision and mobilization of human and financial resources to consolidate work at the above mentioned levels, but also ensure harmony and partnership between national and global efforts aimed at supporting international development and peace,” he pointed out.
The MDGs were set by a summit of 147 heads of state, organized by the United Nations in September 2000. Subsequently, a system was developed to monitor progress on achieving eight main goals: To eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, achieve universal primary education, promote gender equality and empowerment of women, reduce the child mortality rate, improve reproductive (maternal) health, combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases, ensure environmental sustainability and develop a global partnership for development.
Twenty-one targets derived from the general goals are to be achieved by 2015 and 60 indicators have been developed to monitor implementation and measure progress.
“A wide range of targets have already been reached or are well on their way toward achievement before 2015,” the minister said. The Kingdom has achieved good results in eradicating extreme poverty, providing primary education, reducing the mortality rate of children under five years of age, reducing maternal mortality, reducing the spread of AIDS and reducing the incidence of malaria and other major diseases.
“It is noteworthy that the MDGs constitute a part of the general objectives of the Kingdom's socio-economic development plans and thus are in line with its long-term development directions,” Al-Jasser said.
He said the tangible economic prosperity and progress achieved by the Kingdom over the past years produced sustainable improvement in all human development indicators such as standard of living, health and educational services and environmental conditions.
Over the period between 1999 and 2011, the national economy achieved an average annual real growth rate of 11.54 percent with a per capita income reaching around SR 78,906 ($21,042) by the end of this period, the report pointed out.
Moreover, diversification of the economic base increased, with the share of non-oil sectors constituting some 77.5 percent of total real GDP in 2011 despite the remarkable growth of the oil sector in recent years.
The Saudi economy also realized growing integration into the global economy with the ratio of merchandise foreign trade to GDP reaching some 83 percent by the end of the second year (2011) of the Ninth Plan.
Concerning foreign trade structure, the share of non-oil exports increased from around 8 percent in 2000 to some 12.9 percent in 2011. On the other hand, the share of imports of consumer goods in total imports has declined due to the growth of the share of national products in domestic consumption, which is an indicator of improved competitiveness of these products.
The Kingdom succeeded in increasing its income on many fronts, with per capita income growing at an average annual rate of 6.10 percent over the period 1990–2011. This domestic growth was accompanied by a similar improvement in human development indicators, thus ranking the Kingdom fifth place among "countries with the fastest progress" in human development and 56th among 187 countries in the global human development index.
As part of the government’s efforts to alleviate poverty, the maximum social security benefit per family has been increased from SR 16,200 to more than SR 58,000 per year. Total spending in this category stood at about SR 24.8 billion in 2011. It also provided assistance worth SR 10.8 billion to low-income groups to enable them improve their living conditions. Through the productive projects program, which aims at qualifying social security beneficiaries through upgrading skills or providing tools, the government spent SR 24.9 billion.
In order to solve the housing crisis, the government approved construction of 500,000 housing units at a cost of SR 250 billion. It also raised the ceiling of housing loans provided by REDF to SR 500,000 while the REDF capital has been supported with an extra amount of SR 40 billion, thereby increasing its total capital to SR 97 billion. It also raised the capital of the Saudi Credit and Saving Bank to SR 30 billion.
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