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Business & Economy

SR1.6tr reserves lift economy

Finance Minister Ibrahim Al-Assaf said on Tuesday that the Kingdom's public reserves of about SR1.6 trillion would be used wisely to support the economy.
“The amount will be invested in non-risky ventures after conducting detailed studies,” he told a Saudi channel after unveiling the 2014 budget that projected spending at SR855 billion, equal to the country's projected revenue.
Speaking about the SR206 billion surplus in 2013, he said Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah has approved an allocation of SR24 billion from the surplus to finance strategic road projects including the Jazan-Jeddah Expressway, SR20 billion for railway projects and SR10 billion to the Saudi Credit Bank. The rest would be kept in reserve, he said.
Economist Ihsan Buhulaiga told Arab News that the Kingdom's huge public reserves would enable it to balance the budget when oil revenues fall, without borrowing from others.
He said the new budget continues to focus on massive spending, which would boost the economy and create more jobs for citizens.
However, he said more effort must be made to increase GDP growth to more than five percent in the coming years. Al-Assaf also disclosed that development projects worth SR2 trillion are under construction across the Kingdom.
He downplayed the number of stalled projects but acknowledged that many projects were delayed due to a shortage of workers caused by the campaign against illegals.
He said the government had spent more than SR35 billion on the Hafiz program that provides unemployed Saudis SR1,500 to SR2,000 monthly. He said the government has reduced the number of rented school buildings from 50 to 16 percent.
Economy and Planning Minister Mohammed Al-Jasser said Saudi Arabia’s nonoil exports rose to SR200 billion this year from SR32 billion in 2001. He said more than a million Saudis found jobs in the last two years, including 750,000 in the private sector.

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