Saudi finmin sees decision soon on $28 bln 2022 budget surplus

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Saudi Arabia's finance minister said on Wednesday that a decision on allocating last year's budget surplus of almost $28 billion will soon be finalized, with the bulk of the surplus expected to boost reserves.

Mohammed Al Jadaan told Reuters that a decision will be made within two weeks and that he does not think the Public Investment Fund (PIF), the country's sovereign wealth fund, will receive a part of the surplus.

“It will take another one to two weeks to finalize the surplus distribution,” Al Jadaan told Reuters on the sidelines of the Financial Sector Conference in the Saudi capital.

“Most likely you will see the outcome in ours, or SAMA (the Saudi Central Bank) reports, in the reserves,” he said, adding that the government focus was on ensuring adequate reserves to meet fiscal rules.

When asked whether PIF would receive a portion of the surplus allocation, the minister said he did not think so.

Saudi Arabia, the world's top oil exporter, recorded a budget surplus of 103.9 billion riyals ($27.68 billion) in 2022, beating its own estimates, as higher oil prices boosted government revenues by 31 percent.

Oil giant Aramco made a record annual net profit of $161.1 billion last year, up 46 percent from the previous year.

It was the kingdom's first fiscal surplus in almost a decade, and a consecutive, although narrower, surplus is forecast for 2023.

The Saudi economy grew by 8.7 percent in 2022, among the highest across the G20 group of nations, boosted by an increase in non-oil sector activities, a key part of the economic transformation plan, Vision 2030, intended to diversify revenue away from oil.

Al Jadaan said that the government's forecast for 2023 still remained largely on track, although global developments could have an impact on the numbers down the line. “Until now, our predictions (for the 2023 budget) are the same, I don't see any serious deviation. I think inflation will be around the same level as last year,” he said. Inflation averaged 2.5 percent in 2022.

Earlier this year, the International Monetary Fund revised its 2023 growth forecast for Saudi Arabia, the world's top oil exporter, significantly downwards, to 2.6 percent on lower output, maintaining that non-oil growth is likely to remain robust.

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