From the plan’s emphasis on cost reduction and improvement of economic performance, it was clear that it had been drawn up under the assumption that the days of huge surpluses in the oil sector were over. The library of the University of Petroleum and Minerals in Dhahran, with almost 335,000 volumes, is the nation’s largest specialized collection. Most major cities host large, modern supermarkets and specialty retail stores offering wide varieties of goods and services. Higher oil prices and output in 2002 and 2003 saw the current account surplus widen again, to $11.9 billion and $28 billion, respectively.
Most housing is constructed of concrete and brick. The state-owned Saudi Arabian Mining Co. (Ma’aden) was created in 1997 and participated actively in and promoted mineral exploration and mining activities throughout the kingdom. The difference goes to Aramco’s operating expenses and numerous off-budget expenditures. For months, as they worked in secrecy to pull together a huge trove of leaked data from a Panamanian law firm, the investigative team at Süddeutsche Zeitung knew they had an explosive scoop.
There is no hog raising, and importation of pork products is banned, as it is contrary to Islamic law. Arabia has long been famed for its horses, but the importance of the Arabian horse as an export item is now virtually nil. Beef has not been a significant part of the Saudi diet, and most beef and veal is consumed by expatriates, as traditional Saudis prefer camel meat.