The market demand for Healthcare and medical equipment in Saudi Arabia is strong. Studies show Saudi Arabia is the largest and most developed market for healthcare, medical equipment and products in the Arab Gulf region, valued at $13.1 billion and this value is expected to grow to over $20 billion by 2016. The Saudi Ministry of Health is the largest buyer representing 64 percent of the market.
Currently, there are 364 hospitals, both general and specialized, with a total capacity of 51,000 beds in Saudi Arabia. With an annual population growth rate of 2.5% to 3%, statistics show that the country would require an additional capacity of around 47,000 beds for a total population of over 37 million by 2020.
Recent research confirmed a high budgetary allocation for health sector and new health projects, expansion and growth of existing hospitals and clinics, and privatization. Compulsory healthcare insurance, introduced in 2005, and favorable government policies provided more demand for advanced healthcare and medical equipment for both diagnostic and therapeutic applications and boosted investments in this sector.
Research indicates $11.84 billion was allocated for the healthcare sector in 2008, 11% more than in 2007. Several healthcare resources mentioned that there is very little domestic production beyond basic healthcare and medical supplies, therefore the market is heavily reliant on imported products. Foreign investment in the expansion of the small private health sector and the production of healthcare and medical devices could boost the market. Massive investment in hospital infrastructure is driving interest in the healthcare and medical device market, which is almost entirely dependent on imports. In April 2008, multi-national device-maker GE Healthcare expanded its joint venture with local distributor El Seif Development, demonstrating that, while direct foreign company presence remains limited by historically strict rules on company ownership, multinationals are increasingly looking to go beyond an import-only presence.
By Maisa Al Tawil