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Saudi Arabia posts $98B budget deficit, raises petrol prices by 50 percent amid oil slump

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Baku, December 30, AZERTAC

Saudi Arabia on Monday said this year's budget deficit amounted to $98 billion (367 billion riyals) as lower oil prices cut into the government's main source of revenue, prompting the kingdom to scale back spending for the coming year and hike up petrol prices.

A royal decree announced that petrol prices would go up by 50 percent effective Tuesday. Even with that jump, Saudis will pay just 24 cents (0.90 riyals) for a liter of 95 octane gasoline, less than a dollar per gallon. The Saudi-based Jadwa Investment estimates the government spends around $61 billion on energy subsidies annually, almost $11 billion of that on gasoline alone.

For two consecutive years the kingdom has posted a deficit, and it is planning for another budget shortfall next year, projected at $87 billion (326 billion riyals).

Saudi Arabia says it expects to spend $224 billion (840 billion riyals) in 2016, which is $5 billion (20 billion riyals) less than what had been projected for this year. However, the government has also put aside $49 billion (183 billion riyals) in discretionary spending to use on infrastructure projects if oil prices improve.Nearly half of this year's spending, or around $120 billion (450 billion riyals), went to wages, salaries and allowances. The budget revealed that the kingdom spent $30 billion more in 2015 than it had initially planned, reaching $260 billion (975 billion riyals) in total expenditures largely because of financial handouts King Salman doled out to the public when he ascended the throne earlier this year.

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