Last updated: 29 December, 2012

Saudi says budget surplus hit $102.9 billion in 2012

The Saudi finance ministry said on Saturday the kingdom’s budget surplus in 2012 hit 386 billion riyals ($102.93 bn) as oil-dominated revenues continued to rise.

The kingdom also announced what it described as a record budget for the coming year, with expenditure expected at $218.7 billion and revenues amounting to $221 billion.

The world’s largest exporter of crude oil traditionally uses a conservative price for oil in its budget. Oil revenues amounted to 92 percent of total revenues in 2012, the finance ministry said in a statement.

Revenues in 2012 amounted to 1,239 billion riyals ($330.4 billion), while expenditure hit 853 billion riyals ($227.5) billion, said the statement carried by the SPA state news agency.

The oil-rich kingdom had expected a small surplus of 12 billion riyals ($3.2 billion) in 2012, with revenues expected to reach 702 billion riyals ($187.2 billion) and expenditure increasing only to 690 billion riyals ($184 billion).

In 2013, revenues are projected to reach 829 billion riyals ($221.06 billion), while expenditure is planned at 820 billion riyals ($218.7 billion), the agency reported.

“The council of ministers has passed the largest budget in the history of the kingdom,” Al-Ekhbariyah state television reported.

Ailing King Abdullah, who underwent a back operation last month, presided over a council of ministers meeting on Saturday.

“There is plenty of wealth, thanks be to Allah,” the monarch said in a shaky voice, addressing his ministers, according to television footage.

“You have no excuse after today for any dereliction or complacency,” he said, according to the television report.

Some 25 percent of the budgeted expenditure is earmarked to education, including building new schools, vocational training and scholarships abroad, according to a breakdown provided by the ministry.

Roads and transport are allocated 65 billion riyals ($17.3 billion), while water, agriculture and industry are to get 57 billion riyals ($15.2 billion).

In 2011, OPEC kingpin registered also an impressive budget surplus of 306 billion riyals ($81.6 billion), as revenues turned out to be double the conservative forecast.

Revenues that year hit 1.110 trillion riyals ($296 billion) compared to a forecast of 540 billion riyals, while expenditure hit 804 billion riyals ($214.4 billion), after it was planned at 580 billion riyals.

On Saturday, Finance Minister Ibrahim al-Assaf told ministers that real growth in the kingdom’s gross domestic product (GDP) is expected to be 6.8 percent in 2012, with 5.5 percent growth in the oil sector and 7.2 percent in other sectors.

He put the rise in inflation in 2012 at 2.9 percent compared with the previous year, and 4.5 percent compared with the benchmark year of 1999, according to the SPA news agency.

Saudi Arabia continues to use part of its surplus to repay its public debt.

Assaf said debt by the end of 2012 will stand at 98.848 billion riyals ($26.36 billion) compared with 135.5 billion riyals (36.1 billion) at the beginning of the year.