Minister of Finance Ibrahim Al-Assaf said that Saudi Arabia’s total exports reached a record SR 652 billion [$173.86 billion] in 2005, reflecting positively on the Kingdom’s balance of payment, the Arab News reported. The Kingdom announced its largest-ever budget for FY2006 on December 12, with expenditures of SR 335 billion [US $89.3 billion] and revenues of SR 390 billion [$103.9 billion].
In remarks to Saudi TV December 12, Al-Assaf estimated the Kingdom’s oil export this year at SR 580 billion [$154.66 billion]. Non-oil exports in 2005 reached SR 69 billion [$18.39 billion], a 20 percent increase, showing that the Kingdom’s efforts at diversification were bearing fruit.
Saudi Arabia’s current account was projected to record a surplus of SR 326.5 billion [$87.06 billion] this year, a 67.7 percent increase over the SR 194.7 billion [$51.92 billion] of last year. According to the Ministry of Finance, by the end of 2005 revenues will reach SR 555 billion [$147.99 billion] while net expenditures will total SR 341 billion [$90.93 billion].
Al-Assaf said the Kingdom’s economy was in good shape. Surging government revenues have allowed the kingdom to pay down the public debt – all of which is owed to local institutions. The debt should be reduced this year to SR 475 billion [$126.7 billion], or 40 percent of the GDP. Al-Assaf said that SR 141 billion [$37.59 billion]of this year’s surplus would be spent on paying down the debt, and it will continue to be a priority in 2006, he said.
Al-Assaf said the Kingdom’s oil sector grew by six to seven percent this year at fixed prices and 37.5 percent at current prices as a result of skyrocketing oil prices. He said the surge in oil prices had not created any inflation in the country. The ministry estimated the non-oil industry sector – which the government has targeted for growth to reduce dependence on oil revenues – would expand by 8.4 percent this year.