Saudi Arabia’s deficit is projected to decline by a third next year, according to a budget statement that is seen as a step toward eliminating the shortfall altogether by 2020.
The deficit for 2016 stands at SR 297 billion, around 9 percent lower than forecast, and far below the high of SR 366 billion seen in 2015, in the immediate fallout of the oil price crash.
The deficit is forecast to be SR 198 billion in 2017 and is “now manageable”, according to budget documents released on Thursday.
“The govement has been able to finance the deficit by drawing from reserves and surpluses, in addition to borrowing SAR 200.1 billion on inteational debt markets,” the budget documents said.
The Saudi budget 2017 reiterated the Kingdom’s aim to eliminate the fiscal deficit altogether by 2020. This is in line with the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 and related programs, including the National Transformation Plan 2020.
In 2016, Saudi Arabia's total revenues are expected to reach SR 528 billion, and are forecast to rise to SR 692 billion next year. Oil revenues for 2017 are estimated at SR 480 billion, 46 percent higher than the 2016 projections, while non-oil revenues are estimated at SR 212 billion, a 6.5 percent increase.
Expenditure for 2016 stood at SR 825 billion, excluding that related to the previous year, less than the SR 840 billion originally forecast. The expenditure in 2017 is estimated at SAR 890 billion, an 8% increase over 2016.
The total national debt for 2016 was approximately SR 316.5 billion, which is 12.3 percent of the projected gross domestic product (GDP) in fixed prices for 2016. Official documents showed that the national debt will not exceed 30 percent of GDP.
“Following successful debt issuances in 2016, debt issuance will continue as and when needed, subject to local and inteational market conditions,” the budget documents said. “The Kingdom will seek to raise further debt at attractive rates on inteational markets.”
This could include diversifying the type of issued debt by issuing Shariah-compliant instruments such as sukuk inside and outside the Kingdom.