Saudi Arabia has finalised procedures to disburse more than $19 billion (73bn Saudi riyals) to its private sector in the first half of 2021, according to the Ministry of Finance.
The amount for the first six months of the year represents 97 per cent of the total payment orders received for private sector claims, the ministry said on Saturday.
“The Ministry of Finance completed the procedures for disbursing more than 73bn riyals, representing 97 per cent of the total payment orders received for private sector claims, during the first half of the year 2021,” it said.
The move comes as part of efforts by the Arab world’s biggest economy to shore up its private sector and offset the Covid-19 pandemic’s impact on businesses and citizens.
Last month, Saudi Arabia’s central bank extended loan relief measures aimed at helping smaller businesses through the pandemic by three more months. The Deferred Payment Programme, which enables affected micro, small and medium enterprises to defer loan repayments, was due to end in July.
The Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority, as the central bank is known, has also taken a number of measures, including cutting interest rates and implementing a 50bn riyal ($13.3bn) stimulus package to stabilise the kingdom’s economy since the onset of the pandemic last year.
The Private Sector Financing Support Programme rolled out in March last year was aimed at extending finance to small and medium enterprises to stimulate growth and preserve jobs.
Saudi Arabia’s economy is expected to grow by 2.4 per cent this year and by 4.8 per cent in 2022, driven by a strong rebound in the kingdom’s non-oil sector and investment from its sovereign wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund, according to the International Monetary Fund.
The kingdom’s non-oil economy is projected to grow 4.3 per cent in 2021, according to the Washington-based lender. Saudi Arabia is Opec’s biggest producer and the world’s largest exporter of crude.
On Thursday, Fitch Ratings affirmed Saudi Arabia’s ‘A’ sovereign rating and revised its outlook for the kingdom to “stable” from “negative”, attributing the revision to significantly higher oil prices and the government’s continued commitment to fiscal reforms.