Saudi Arabia is planning a comprehensive survey of rural areas to decide where to build new developments in an effort to stem the flow of migrants into cities and the growth of slums.
Municipal and rural affairs minister Mansour bin Miteb said the government is struggling to address the problems arising from "informal settlements", the Saudi newspaper, Arab News, reported. His ministry has forecast that, by 2025, 88% of the Saudi population would live in cities. The government believes the population will increase from 29.8 million now to 39 million by 2020.
To tackle the problem the government plans to assess which villages are already economically viable and bolster them with more services and infrastructure, reported Arab News. The government will also develop the agricultural and tourism sectors in suitable areas.
The Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs says it is working with other agencies and ministries to prioritise projects and determine ideal locations and time frames.
Despite its vast oil wealth, Saudi Arabia faces an acute housing shortage among its young, growing population.
After the Arab Spring uprisings in 2011, King Abdullah announced a $66.6bn scheme to build 500,000 low-cost housing units over several years. But the scheme has been slow to get off the ground, prompting the king, last year, to order various ministries to work together more effectively.