Saudi Arabia’s economy rises 2.5 pct as COVID-19 impact eases

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Saudi Arabia’s economy rose 2.5 percent from the previous three months, according to data on Tuesday that showed an upturn from the depths of the coronavirus pandemic towards the end of 2020.

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The Kingdom’s economy had shrunk 3.9 percent in the fourth quarter of 2020.

The oil sector contracted by 8.5 percent and the non-oil sector by 0.8 percent from the same period of 2019, Saudi Arabia’s General Authority for Statistics said.

But the same sectors rose a seasonally adjusted 2.6 percent and 2.4 percent, respectively, from the third quarter, with international trade picking up sharply.

“The data points to a further broad-based recovery in non-oil activity from the height of the crisis, with a fall in COVID cases at end-2020 and as the economy opened up,” said Monica Malik, chief economist at Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank.

The kingdom’s investment program would be a key driver of future growth, she said, referring to huge infrastructure projects backed by its sovereign wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund.

Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil exporter, and other members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies, have been curbing output to support oil prices since January 2017.

Some economists scaled back their headline growth forecasts for Saudi Arabia, the largest Arab economy, after OPEC and its allies agreed to extend most oil cuts into April.

On a quarterly basis, imports of goods & services grew by 21.2 percent after shrinking 7.9 percent in the third quarter, while exports rose 3.7 percent after contracting 6.5 percent.

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