Think tank forecasts Saudi surplus of close to 100bn riyals

Kingdom's oil revenue predicted to return to pre-downturn levels.

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Saudi Arabia should post a budget surplus of close to 100 billion Saudi riyals (Dh97.93bn) next year as the kingdom's oil revenue reaches its highest level since the global economic downturn, says an international financial think tank.

The forecast by the Institute of International Finance (IIF) is far rosier than Saudi Arabia's own projections. The Saudi surplus would reach 94bn riyals next year, equivalent to 5.2 per cent of GDP, said the IIF, based in Washington, DC. It assumed an average oil price of US$80 a barrel. In contrast, Saudi officials have budgeted for a deficit for the third year in a row. They project a deficit of 40bn riyals, using an estimated oil price of $55 a barrel.

Oil was trading yesterday above $90 a barrel. "Traditionally, actual revenues and spending have both been significantly higher than budgeted," the IIF said in a budget report released this week.

Saudi Arabia beat analysts' forecasts by posting a healthy budget surplus of 108.5bn riyals this year, according to preliminary estimates released in the report.

The kingdom said last week it would spend 580bn riyals next year, mainly on infrastructure and education.

The expansionary budget has already been tipped to lift its stock market next year.

However, the spending rise shows a more prudent pace of expenditure than in previous years.

The IIF expects actual spending of 658bn riyals next year, an increase of 5 per cent over last year's outlay.