The critical environmental and sustainability issues of Saudi Arabia:
- Water Shortage
Saudi Arabia constitutes the majority of the Arabian Peninsula and is one of the largest arid countries without permanent rivers or lakes. Located in the tropical and subtropical desert region of the Middle East between the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea, temperatures can reach more than 50°C (122°F) in some areas, producing overwhelmingly hot and dry conditions. Long-term average rainfall across the country is 114 mm per year. Rainfall varies between 100 and 200 mm annually in the north, but falls below 100 mm per year further south. Some small areas at greater elevations in the west and southern parts of the Kingdom, however, do see up to 500 mm of rainfall annually. Despite being one of the wealthiest nations globally due to swift economic growth and prosperity from oil, Saudi Arabia is one of the poorest nations in terms of natural renewable water resources.
- Economic Problems
Saudi Arabia’s gross domestic product shrank in the first quarter of 2017 for the first time since the global financial crisis. The non-oil government sector of the economy shrank 0.1 percent, showing Riyadh continued to keep a tight rein on state spending as it tried to cut a big budget deficit caused by low oil prices. The recent drone and missile attacks at Abqaiq, the Saudi’s largest oil processing center, caused the worst sudden supply disruption in history, knocking out nearly 6 million barrels per day, half of the country’s total production and about 5% of global supply.
- Education System
The language barrier involving the use and command of English was identified as the issue that contributed to the great problem in the Saudi Arabian education system. The situation has gotten worse because teachers who are responsible to teach English are not adequately trained. Consequently, this resulted in ineffective teaching which then lead to poor performance of the students. Unfortunately, the majority of educators and teachers in Saudi Arabia are not interested in undergoing advanced training and development. The failure of the students in achieving the educational targets could be a result of the failure of the administrators and policy makers in dealing with the barriers within the educational system.
The education system has failed to equip young Saudis with relevant skills and knowledge which are necessary and marketable in the job market. About 80% of universities and college students graduate in social and art subjects like history, Islamic studies and Arabic literature and the remainder 20% graduate in the more competitive fields like medicine, engineering and accounting. In fact there is a big gap between the universities output and the needs in the labour market. Many of these young graduates cannot find jobs in the industries as they do not have the relevant skills required. The government has failed to put in place policies to coordinate the education sector and the industrial sector. To reverse this trend of unemployment the government has to take a look into the education system with the aim of making it market-oriented. It also has to encourage more students to take up Sciences as opposed to Social-sciences.
Another cause is the labour system which needs to be modernized to meet the new challenges and to keep pace with technological development. The system as currently constituted has many gaps and loopholes which are easily exploited by mischievous industrialists.
- Gender Inequality
The women in Saudi Arabia don’t have the right to go anywhere without their husband or a male relative. This male person who accompanies a woman is called a Mahram. Without his approval, a woman can’t leave the country, get a job, get married, enter a University or even have surgery. If a woman’s guardian gives her permission, she can study outside of the country, but it is hard for women to get a scholarship. Most women have a pedagogical or scientific education. But they don’t typically work after college. Despite the many reforms and lifting of bans, the percentage of working women is only 17%. This means that most women in Saudi Arabia stay home and care for their children. Girls get married at a very young age, often before puberty. This is why many of them have to stop their education. The testimony of a woman in Saudi Arabia is two times less valuable. In order to file a lawsuit, she needs 6 male witnesses. And the sentence may be based on tribal traditions, not on laws.