Saudi projects budget deficit for fifth year running

Riyadh (AFP) –


Saudi Arabia said Tuesday it expects to post a budget deficit for the fifth year in a row in 2018, forecasting a shortfall of $52 billion due to low oil prices.

Revenues are estimated to be 783 billion riyals ($208.8 billion) and spending is expected to be 978 billion riyals ($260.8 billion), the highest in the oil-rich kingdom's history, according to official statements carried by Saudi TV.

The new budget was announced during a cabinet meeting chaired by King Salman who said the world's top oil exporter would "continue to decrease its dependence on oil to reach just 50 percent" of total revenues.

The Saudi finance ministry said the budget deficit for 2017 came in at $61.3 billion, higher than the expected $53 billion but still lower than the $82 billion shortfall in the previous year.

Actual revenues for the current fiscal year rose by a healthy 34 percent compared with 2016 to $185.6 billion due a sharp hike in both oil and non-oil revenues.

The kingdom has posted a budget deficit every year since 2014 when the price of oil, which contributed about 90 percent of revenues, crashed.

Riyadh has resorted to a string of austerity measures to contain spending and imposed a variety of subsidy cuts and rises in prices of services.