I'm seeing vastly different numbers reported for Saudi Arabia's oil & gas share in GDP. One Saudi scholar gives

Kingdom of Saudi Arabia owns 17% proven reserves of the world and constitutes 50% of the Saudi GDP, approximately (Saudi Arabia facts and figures, 2020).

which is sourced from OPEC... which indeed said that then.

The oil and gas sector accounts for about 50 per cent of gross domestic product, and about 70 per cent of export earnings.

However, the more recent version of that page, no longer mentions that. Also, an Saudi official source claims for Q4 2022:

Crude petroleum and natural gas activities achieved the highest contribution to GDP with 27.4%

They do also account for some other 7% of the GDP due to "Petroleum Refining". (Alas, I'm not sure how to get 2020 version of the official Saudi data.)

So, did Saudi Arabia cut in half its share of oil and gas GDP share from 2020 to 2022? I find this hard to believe given that the oil price in 2020 wasn't any higher than in 2022 (in fact it had a huge dip in 2020, due to the pandemic.) What alternative explanations exist for this rather large difference reported, e.g. in terms of how that share of oil and gas in GDP is computed?

(Before some suggests I ask this on Skeptics, it's not suitable, because it's not a single claim based on just one source.)

  • 1
    This doesn't seem like a politics question, just an accounting or economics point.
    – Nij
    Apr 20, 2023 at 21:44
  • @Nij: macro-econ questions are on-topic. Don't have time to search meta right now, but was discussed there. (Also, both GAS--the Saudi agency-- and OPEC are [inter]governmental orgs.) Apr 20, 2023 at 21:45
  • 1
    @Nij My understanding is that this is all controlled by the government which would make it on topic.
    – Joe W
    Apr 21, 2023 at 13:29

1 Answer 1


To partially answer my Q, GASTAT (the Saudi Statistics Agency) does have time series data for their GDP since 1970, and they've pretty much always reported on the same breakdown with crude and refining business being separate lines (on sheet 1.3 of that file). But there's an "oil sector" (vs non-oil) separate time series (on sheet 1.5) which seems to do addition on its own. The latter has slightly higher figures than my manual sum. Anyhow, my quick graph of that percentage (without and with the refining added):

enter image description here

(The starred years 2021 and 2022 means that the data for those is still considered preliminary.)

So, at least based on that data, the 50% figure was like high point in the 2010s or so. I'm [still] not sure exactly what data OPEC reported on their site in that regard (back when they did). It's possible it was some kind of slightly impressionistic average, because e.g. the IMF reported something like that (in Aug 2022):

Despite efforts to diversify the economy, oil still accounted for about 40 percent of real GDP in the last few years, down from about 45 percent 10 years ago. The share of the oil economy in nominal GDP varies significantly with oil prices and was about 30 percent in 2021 but is projected to increase to about 40 percent in 2022.

And since the IMF mentioned real GDP, that's also in the GASTAT file at sheet 2.1, where the breakdown is only between "oil activities" vs other; 2010 is the reference (for inflation). The percentage of oil activities from GDP (and progression thereof over time) looks a bit different in real terms, indeed.

enter image description here

(Somewhat confusingly, there's also a "oil sector" by real GDP on sheet 2.5 in the GASTAT file, but luckily those numbers are only minutely different from "oil activities" by real GDP--they only differ in the decimals of a percentage, so I'm not plotting that one.)

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