Saudi Arabia has approved SR1.44 trillion ($384bn) worth of projects for its new five-year development plan, a 67 per cent increase on the previous plan.

The plan will be implemented during 2010 to 2014 and covers a wide range of sectors, according to a report published by the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) on 10 August.

Education and training will comprise the largest share of total expenditure (50.6 per cent), social development and healthcare (19 per cent), economic resource development (15.7 per cent), transportation and telecommunications (7.7 per cent), while municipal services and housing will comprise seven per cent.

A million housing units will be constructed by the public and private sectors to meet 80 per cent of demand in the country and 117 hospitals will be built, including 32 specialist ones with 22,372 beds. New primary, intermediate and secondary schools will also be set up to educate 5.31 million students, while the capacity of universities will be increased to 1.7 million.   

“Increasing economic growth, improving the living standards and quality of life of citizens, and achieving balanced development of the kingdom’s regions are some of the plan’s main objectives,” says Khaled Al-Gosaibi, Saudi Arabia’s Economy and Planning Minister.

He added that the plan was aimed at achieving sustained development, as well as transforming the kingdom into a knowledge-based economy.

Al-Gosaibi said the gross domestic product (GDP) per capita income is projected to grow from SR46,200 in 2009 to SR53,200 by 2014.

In a sustained effort to maintain economic growth through the global financial downturn, in late 2009, Saudi unveiled its largest ever budget for the current year. Total expenditure for 2010 is projected at $144bn, a 14 per cent increase in spending compared with the 2009 budget of $126bn.

The 2010-2014 five-year plan is a continuation of this expansionary fiscal policy.