Saudi 2011 budget seen in $20 billion surplus
RIYADH: Top oil exporter Saudi Arabia, which projected a budget deficit in 2011, is likely to post a 77bn riyal ($20.5b) surplus based on an oil price of $80 a barrel, according to a research.
State-owned National Commercial Bank (NCB) predicted the kingdom would also surpass its spending and revenues forecasts, saying both were "understated."
Last week, Saudi Arabia said it would spend 580b riyals ($154.657b) next year in a push to create jobs for a fast growing population. It projected revenues of 540b riyals, resulting in a 40b-riyal deficit. Gulf Arab states typically base their budgets on a very conservative oil price, which they do not reveal. NCB forecast revenues of 753b riyals and expenditures of 677b riyals, based on an average oil price of $80 a barrel for the Arabian light crude and an oil output of 8.5mn bpd on average. "This would lead in turn to a budget surplus of 77bn riyals, or 4.2 percent of estimated GDP in 2011," the bank said. Global benchmark U.S. crude futures, which hit a 26-month high of $91.63 on Thursday, did not trade on Friday with the Nymex floor closed for the Christmas holiday while OPEC's reference crude basket, which includes Saudi's Arab light, was at $90.02 a barrel on Wednesday.
OPEC's most influential oil minister, Saudi Arabia's Ali al-Naimi said on Friday he was still happy with an oil price of $70-80 a barrel.
The Saudi economy is heavily dependent on oil-it accounted for about 85% of its budgetary revenue in 2009 and around 31% of its GDP-leaving the kingdom exposed to price volatility.
The kingdom, the biggest Arab economy, has accumulated huge reserves during a sixyear oil price boom and is planning to spend more than $400b over the five years to 2013 to upgrade infrastructure, including airports and roads.
Net foreign reserves held by the Saudi central bank rose to $429b in the first 10 months of this year, from $405b at the end of 2009, leaving official foreign reserves able to cover more than 59 months of imports. NCB forecast the central bank's net foreign assets will grow based on higher oil revenues in 2011. "These assets will continue to provide an important buffer to protect the Saudi economy from volatility of oil prices or external financing difficulties." The bank also said non-oil revenues may exceed 83b riyals, 25 percent above actual levels in 2010. Meanwhile, Saudi money supply growth was steady at 3.7 percent on the year in November compared with the previous month, and the central bank's foreign assets increased 11.5 percent year on year, data from the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency (SAMA) showed on Wednesday.
M3, the broadest measure of money supply, came in at SR1.061 trillion ($283.01 billion) in November, up from SR1.023 trillion in the same month a year ago, and from SR1.041 trillion in October, according to data posted on SAMA's website.
SAMA's net foreign assets rose to SR1.627 trillion in November from SR1.610 trillion in October and SR1.459 trillion in November 2009, the data showed. Saudi Arabia has drawn on its reserves to fund record budgets and keep its $400 billion five-year infrastructure development program on track. While this spending helped the economy grow last year, according to the Kingdom's budget released last December, banks have remained hesitant to extend credit. -PB News