Saudi budget deficit fell by 71% to $6.93 billion

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s budget deficit dropped by 71 per cent in the first quarter of the year, the government said on Thursday, after spending cuts and a major rebound in oil revenues.
The world’s top crude exporter has made an aggressive push to diversify its traditionally oil-dependent economy after the drop in global prices since 2014 slashed its revenues.
Finance Minister Mohammed al Jadaan on Thursday said the deficit had dropped to 26 billion Saudi riyals ($6.93 billion) in the first three months of the 2017 fiscal year.
Saudi Arabia’s budget deficit was initially projected at $53 billion for the whole year, after an even bigger deficit last year that prompted subsidy cuts, delays in projects and a temporary government salary freeze.
“This is a very encouraging figure and clearly reflects our aim to achieve a balanced budget in 2020,” Jadaan said. This is the first time that Saudi Arabia has released budget figures on a quarterly basis, a measure it says is aimed at boosting transparency.
Total revenues for the first quarter were at 144.076 billion riyals ($38.41 billion), an increase of 72 per cent from the same quarter last year.
Oil revenues were notably up in the first quarter at 112 billion riyals ($29.86 billion) with a growth rate of 115 per cent from the same quarter last year, driven by a hike in crude prices in international markets.
Non-oil revenues for the first quarter were reported at 32 billion riyals ($8.53 billion), a one per cent increase from the same quarter last year. Expenditure stood at 170 billion riyals ($45.3 billion) for the first quarter of this year, down three per cent from the corresponding period last year.
Expenditure is projected at $237 billion for this year, down from $260 billion last year.
The Saudi government last year announced a sweeping “Vision 2030” plan aimed at developing its industrial and investment base and boosting small- and medium-sized businesses in a bid to create more jobs for Saudis and reduce reliance on oil. — AFP