Saudi Arabia on Monday unveiled spending cuts in its 2016 budget, subsidy reforms and a call for privatisations to rein in a yawning deficit caused by the prolonged period of low oil prices.
The Gulf kingdom has kept oil production at high levels in an attempt to force out higher-cost producers, such as shale, and retain its market share. But this year’s deficit ballooned to 367bn Saudi riyals ($97.9bn,) or 15 per cent of gross domestic product, as oil revenues fell 23 per cent to Sr444.5bn.
Seeking to ward off future fiscal crises, the ministry of finance confirmed wide-ranging economic reforms, including plans to “privatise a range of sectors and economic activities”.
Riyadh would revise energy, water and electricity prices “gradually over the next five years” to optimise efficiency while minimising “negative effects on low and mid-income citizens and the competitiveness of the business sector,” it added.
The first reforms will be effective from Tuesday, including an increase in gasoline prices, a rise in electricity tariffs for the wealthiest consumers, a modest increase in water costs for all, and changes to all energy prices for industrial users.
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