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Saudi ministry posts then removes budget data

Saudi budget Reuters/Denis Balibouse
Saudi Arabia's finance minister Mohammed Al-Jadaan. The ministry of investment has not commented on the erroneous budget data
  • Media reported apparent error
  • Budget surplus of $4.3bn
  • Deficit already estimated

Saudi Arabia’s ministry of investment has removed incorrect data from its website after news media published erroneous fiscal data suggesting a large budget surplus for 2023. 

In an apparent glitch, the ministry’s monthly data update on February 5 showed an estimated budget surplus of SAR16 billion ($4.27 billion) in 2023, including the fourth quarter, according to Reuters.  

The ministry then removed the budgetary data from its monthly report after news media had published it. A ministry of investment spokesman was not available for comment. 

Saudi Arabia’s ministry of finance’s 2024 budget statement had already estimated a deficit for 2023 of $22 billion. 

This was in line with analysts’ expectations after the kingdom enacted Opec+ oil production cuts as well as its own cuts in an effort to raise oil prices that hit GDP. 

The government’s General Authority for Statistics also said last week that economic growth declined by 0.9 percent in 2023, in line with expectations. Fourth-quarter growth was 0.4 percent, the first rise since the fourth quarter of 2022.

The International Monetary Fund this week lowered its 2024 forecast for GDP in Saudi Arabia to 2.7 percent, down from 4.0 percent forecast last October.

It raised its 2025 outlook by 1.3 percent to 5.5 percent, praising the Saudi non-oil economy as “robust”.

The finance ministry is also predicting annual deficits of between $20 billion and $30 billion over the next three years, as oil prices fail to make a break-even price of $86 per barrel given by the IMF in October.

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