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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 18 November 2018

Saudi Q3 non-oil revenues jump 48% as reforms yield results

The kingdom increased spending by 25 per cent at the end of the quarter

Participants arrive to the last day of FII. Revenue and spending in the kingdom jumped year-on-year on the back of rising oil prices. Reuters
Participants arrive to the last day of FII. Revenue and spending in the kingdom jumped year-on-year on the back of rising oil prices. Reuters

Non-oil revenues in Saudi Arabia rose 48 per cent year-on-year to 211 billion riyals (Dh206.6bn) while spending increased, as the world’s biggest oil exporter continues to implement reforms to diversify its economy away from hydrocarbons, its finance minister said.

“That is significantly more than where we were when we were speaking on this panel one year ago,” Mohammed Al Jadaan told delegates on the final day of the three-day Future Investment Initiative summit in Riyadh.

“This is not oil [revenues], this is not market driven, this is actually self [imposed] initiatives that have been implemented with a lot of care and a lot of planning, and we ended up with a significant reduction in reliance on one volatile commodity.”

Saudi Arabia, the biggest Arab economy, also saw expenditure increase by 25 per cent for three months to September 30 as a rise in oil prices helped the kingdom fuel its economy.

The spending increase, the minister said, is in line with the kingdom’s Vision 2030 economic reform programme and is enabling different ministries to execute their transformation projects with the “right budgets”.

Saudi Arabia had to tighten its purse strings in the wake of a three-year oil price slump that saw crude prices fall from a peak of $115 per barrel in mid-2014 to less than $30 a barrel in the first quarter of 2016. The kingdom, which relies heavily on hydrocarbons for revenue, was forced to cut spending, had to borrow heavily from local and international debt markets and launch fiscal and economic reforms to cut its deficit.

Since enacting reforms, the country has cut its deficit from 16 per cent three years ago to 9 per cent last year. At the beginning of 2018, Saudi Arabia said it expects the budget deficit to fall to 7 per cent, however, Mr Al Jadaan said it is likely to be “a lot less than” that.

“We are going to reduce our deficit even more than the budget,” he said. “We managed to [do it] through a very disciplined fiscal balance programme.”

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The kingdom’s annual gross domestic product is expected to grow by 2.2 per cent this year and 2.4 per cent in 2019, according to estimates from the International Monetary Fund.

The country could also cut its public wage bill to 45 per cent of its total budget next year despite growth in employment, its crown prince said on Wednesday.

“The rate of spending, the capex is increasing and the salaries [the ratio of public wage in the budget] are decreasing,” Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman told delegates on Wednesday. “Three years ago, the rate of salaries to the budget was 50 per cent [and] we expect it next year to be 45 per cent [although] spending is increasing.”

The public wage bill is decreasing despite a rise in the employment level in the country, and unemployment will continue to fall, and economy will keep on strengthening, he added.

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