JEDDAH (AFP) — Oil powerhouse Saudi Arabia announced on Wednesday a record budget surplus of more than 77 billion dollars for 2006 thanks to surging crude prices.
The surplus of 290 billion riyals (77.5 billion dollars), unveiled in the central bank’s annual report, compares with initial forecasts of a 14.7 billion dollar surplus and a final figure of 58 billion dollars in 2005.
The Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency said 2006 was also marked by record public spending of more than 105 billion dollars, which went largely on development projects in the desert kingdom and the repayment of some public debt, the official SPA news agency reported.
Saudi Arabia generally bases its budget estimates on oil prices well below market levels, which explains the vast differences between the forecasts and the final figures.
For 2007, Saudi Arabia — the world’s biggest oil producer — has projected a surplus of just 5.3 billion dollars, while oil prices this year have topped 80 dollars a barrel.
The central bank also said the balance of payments was in the black to the tune of more than 99 billion dollars.
Inflation was 2.2 percent in 2006 and has risen further this year, reaching 3.8 percent in July, central bank governor Hamad al-Sayyari was quoted as saying by SPA.