Despite its key role within economic development, human resources remains a fundamental challenge for most Middle East countries. This paper explores how Saudi Arabia has sought to improve the quality, mix and practical skills of its human resources. Saudi Arabia's modern experiences are similar to those of other Gulf states. The role of human resources in national development planning is examined and it is argued that several important challenges remain. It is widely accepted that human resources development is an important factor in economic growth and for influencing changes in economic structure.1 Material standards of living, the character of social and cultural life and the well-being of societies are widely recognized to be associated closely with human resources development. It is not surprising, therefore, that it has been a major concern, if not an obsession, of leaders and policymakers in the developing countries.2 This paper explores select characteristics of human resources development in Saudi Arabia (SA). After examining human resources development in the context of overall national development planning, select findings of the recent (2002) UNDP Arab Human Development Report are also summarised in this context. The present challenges that confront SA in this key policy area are summarised. DEVELOPMENT PLANNING AND THE HUMAN RESOURCES DEVELOPMENT IN SA The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has deployed a system of development planning since 1970 when oil revenues provided the means to improve the country's economic and social conditions. Expansion of oil income during the first and second development plan periods (1970-1980) generated even more opportunities to invest in attempts to achieve greater economic growth. A modern economic infrastructure was created in order to help diversify the economy and reduce its dependence on oil. Major improvements were achieved in the provision of public services, particularly in health, education and social services. The basic principles underlying the country's development have been the sustenance of religious values and provision of national security. Within this context, several broad goals have shaped development plans and these are summarised below: * diversifying the economy and reducing dependence on oil;
* developing human resources.
* raising living standards and improving the quality of life; * maintaining economic and social stability;
* regional development;
* strengthening the role of the private sector in the economy; * broadening the linkages between the Kingdom and other nations; * and developing and completing the physical infrastructure.3 These long-term goals were targetted to produce structural changes in the economy and more effective control over the development process. Within these plans, the need for manpower development is recognized as essential with the increasing pace of economic development. Most policymakers would agree that manpower development is a particularly important 'driver' for real, sustainable development. Development is fundamentally a human effort. People initiate, direct and benefit from development; they are ultimately responsible for all development activities and tasks; people are needed to invest capital, utilize natural resources, produce and create markets and to undertake commercial enterprise.4 The human resources development strategy in SA is currently implemented through the following programs: * general education, which extends from kindergartens to secondary education, and includes teacher training colleges for males and females; * higher education, which encompasses education in universities and colleges; * technical education and training in both the public and private sec tors; * and science and technology.
Select features of these programs are examined.
GENERAL AND HIGHER EDUCATION
Government agencies and the private sector provide...