Cost of eating out in Saudi Arabia rises at fastest rate in five years

While the overall inflation rate was flat, the cost of eating out is on the rise in Saudi Arabia (Getty Images)
Updated 25 September 2018

Cost of eating out in Saudi Arabia rises at fastest rate in five years

  • August data reveal sharp uptick in prices in hotel and restaurant sector
  • But price increases in other sectors slow leaving overall inflation rate flat

LONDON: The cost of eating out or enjoying a night’s stay at a hotel in Saudi Arabia increased at the fastest rate recorded in five years last month, according to government statistics.
August’s consumer price data show that restaurant and hotel inflation rose to a new high of 8.4 percent year-on-year in August from 7.6 percent year-on-year in July.
Slower price increases in other categories ensured the headline inflation rate for the Kingdom remained relatively flat, with inflation staying at 2.2 percent year-on-year in August, unchanged from the previous month.
Analysts forecast that the Kingdom’s inflation rate will likely pick up again towards the end of the year.
“We still expect it to rise a little over the rest of this year as underlying price pressures pick up,” said Jason Tuvey, senior emerging markets economist at Capital Economics, on Tuesday in a research note.
Inflation in Saudi Arabia peaked earlier this year at 3 percent following the introduction of the new value-added tax on certain goods and the government-imposed price hikes on the cost of energy at the start of 2018.
Consumer prices are expected to drop again in the new year as the impact of the VAT charge lessens, analysts predict.
“The upshot is that we expect that inflation will fall to around 1 percent year-on-year in January 2019,” said Tuvey in a note.
Food inflation - which represents 20 percent of the basket of goods and services used to calculate the growth rates in consumer prices - edged downwards in August to 6.6 percent year-on-year compared to 6.7 percent in July. 

The cost of food had jumped in July, with vegetables in particular becoming more expensive with inflation hitting 8.1 percent year-on-year compared to a decline of 0.8 percent year-on-year recorded in June.

Record budget spurs Saudi economy

The budget sets out to lift spending and cut the deficit. (Shutterstock)
Updated 19 December 2018

Record budget spurs Saudi economy

  • “It is a growth-supportive budget with both capital and current expenditure set to rise.”
  • Government spending is projected to rise to SR 1.106 trillion

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia on Tuesday announced its biggest-ever budget — with spending set to increase by around 7 percent — in a move aimed at boosting the economy, while also reducing the deficit. 

However, analysts cautioned that the 2019 budget is based on oil prices far higher than today — which could prove an obstacle in hitting targets. 

Government spending is projected to rise to SR 1.106 trillion ($295 billion) next year, up from an actual SR 1.030 trillion this year, Minister of Finance Mohammed Al-Jadaan said at a briefing in Riyadh. 

The budget estimates a 9 percent annual increase in revenues to SR 975 billion. The budget deficit is forecast at SR 131 billion for next year, a 4.2 percent decline on 2018.

“We believe that the 2019 fiscal budget will focus on supporting economic activity — investment and wider,” Monica Malik, chief economist at Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank (ADCB), told Arab News.

“It is a growth-supportive budget with both capital and current expenditure set to rise.”

A royal decree by Saudi Arabia’s King Salman, also announced on Tuesday, ordered the continuation of allowances covering the cost of living for civil sector employees for the new fiscal year.

“The continuation of the handout package will be positive for household consumption by nationals,” said Malik. “We expect to see some overall fiscal loosening in 2019, which should support a further gradual pickup in real non-oil GDP growth.”

World oil prices on Tuesday tumbled to their lowest levels in more than a year amid concerns over demand. Brent crude contracts fell to as low as $57.20 during morning trading.

Malik cautioned that the oil-price assumptions in the Saudi budget looked “optimistic.”

“We see the fiscal deficit widening in 2019, with the higher spending and forecast fall in oil revenue,” she told Arab News.

Jason Tuvey, an economist at London-based Capital Economics, agreed that the oil forecast was optimistic, but said this should not pose problems for government finances.

“The government seems to be expecting oil prices to average $80 (per barrel) next year,” he said. 

“In contrast, we think that oil prices will stay low and possibly fall a little further to $55 … On that basis, the budget deficit is likely to be closer to 10 percent of GDP. That won’t cause too many problems given the government’s strong balance sheet. 

“Overall, then, we think that there will be some fiscal loosening in the first half of next year, but if oil prices stay low as we expect, the authorities will probably shift tack and return to austerity from the mid-2019, which will weigh on growth in the non-oil sector,” Tuvey said.

John Sfakianakis, chief economist at the Gulf Research Center, based in Saudi Arabia, said that the targets of the budget were “achievable” and the forecast oil price reasonable. 

“It is an expansionary budget that should spurt private sector activity and growth,” he said. 

“With Brent crude averaging around $68 per barrel for 2018 and $66 per barrel for 2019, the authorities have applied a conservative revenue scenario.”