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Country Report Saudi Arabia September 2017

Country Report Saudi Arabia September 2017

  • September 2017
  • ID: 2358827
  • Format: PDF
  • The Economist Intelligence Unit


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Outlook for 2017-21

  • The ageing king, Salman bin Abdel-Aziz al-Saud, will continue to rely on his son (promoted in June to crown prince), Mohammed bin Salman al-Saud, to manage the government's response to regional insecurity and low oil prices.
  • Attempts at fiscal restraint will prompt low-level public discontent. Owing to political caution, the government will occasionally reallocate resources away from capital spending to public wages and subsidies for Saudis.
  • As part of its National Transformation Plan and Vision 2030, the government will seek to accelerate economic diversification. However, its goals are likely to be thwarted by the slow pace of reform and labour-market shortcomings.
  • Fiscal consolidation will be carried out mainly through cuts to capital spending. With oil prices averaging above 2015 levels, the fiscal deficit will fall from 12.8% of GDP in 2016 to an annual average of 7.1% of GDP in 2017-21.
  • Sharp cuts to oil production and government spending on capital projects will mean real GDP contracts in 2017. Rising crude production, alongside spending on capital projects thereafter, should restore growth in 2018-21.
  • The current account will broadly track oil price fluctuations throughout the forecast period. The balance will shift to a surplus in 2017 and only small deficits in 2018-21, as rising exports more than offset import growth.


  • King Salman appointed a rival Qatari royal to the emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Khalifa al-Thani, as head of a committee overseeing the affairs of Qatari pilgrims in the kingdom during the ten days of haj-which ended on August 31st.
  • In July Saudi Arabia's foreign reserves declined, according to recent official data. The kingdom is struggling to shore up its foreign reserves stock at current oil price levels.
  • Fiscal data for the first half of 2017 show that both revenue and expenditure came in below budget. However, significant arrears are likely to be settled in the second half of the year, which will sustain the wide fiscal deficit.
  • In late August the Ministry of Finance issued its second domestic sukuk (Islamic bond) of the year. Low yields on Saudi debt suggest that so far the kingdom's access to credit has not been affected by the Qatar dispute.
  • According to comments from Osama al-Afaleq, the chairman of the Saudi Contractors' Authority, to a local newspaper, Okaz, in late August, the arrears repayment process has been slower than expected. According to Mr Afaleq, nearly 70% of arrears-which total around SR40bn (US$10.7bn) remain unpaid.

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