DUBAI: Saudi Arabia achieved its first budget surplus since 2014, at about $7.41 billion in the first quarter, the country’s minister of finance said on Wednesday.
The surplus was on the back of a jump in oil and non-oil revenues, after Saudi Arabia's finances were hit hard by a slump in oil prices almost five years ago.
Foreign direct investment in Saudi Arabia increased by 28 percent in the first quarter, Finance Minister Mohammed Al-Jadaan said.
The country is also launching a $3.33 billion initiative to support the growth of the private sector, including SMEs, he said.
“We are committed to the reform, this is not about the oil, this is about an economy that needs to be diversified,” Al-Jadaan said.
“If we have higher oil prices, I’ll be happier. I will have stronger reserves and that will provide a buffer for the down cycle,” he added.
Saudi Arabia plans to increase state spending by 7 percent this year, in an effort to spur economic growth that has been hurt by low oil prices, according to its 2019 state budget.
Average non-oil GDP grew at a faster 2.1 percent last year, compared with 1.3 percent in 2017, Al-Jadaan said.
The minister's remarks come during the first day of Financial Sector Conference in Riyadh, organized by the Ministry of Finance and Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority (SAMA).
Saudi Arabia does not see a need for any immediate action as global oil inventories continue to rise, Saudi Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih told the conference.
“We will not leave our customers scrambling to find the oil they need, we will make sure the oil market remains balanced at global level,” the minister said.
In other news from the Saudi capital, the stock exchange Tadawul announced the listing of Al-Moammar Information Systems Company, the first IT-related entity in the bourse’s roster of 201 listed companies.
The company held a five-day public offering last March and opened for subscription 4.8 million ordinary shares, at an offer price of 45 Saudi riyals per share, representing 30 percent of its paid-up capital.
Saudi Arabia’s Council of Ministers also issued a new banking license to Swiss lender Credit Suisse.