Education and military expenditures take the top two spots in Saudi Arabia’s 2017 budget, which estimates a spending of SR890 billion ($237.3 billion), an 8 percent increase from 2016.
Revenue is projected to reach SR692 billion ($184.5 billion) in 2017, a 31 percent increase from initial projections. The budget deficit is expected to reach SR198 billion in 2017, reflecting 7.7 percent of the GDP. The budget projects a record 33 percent decrease in the kingdom’s national deficit.
Oil revenues are estimated at SR480 billion, 46 percent higher than the 2016 projections. Non-oil revenues are estimated at SR212 billion, a SR13 billion increase over the 2016 projections.
Combined, these efforts will move the Kingdom closer to its Vision 2030 goal of balancing the budget by 2020.
The sector-wise allocations are as follows:
Education: SR200 billion ($53.3 billion) – this covers public education, higher education and training.
Military: SR191 billion ($51 billion) – this will support and expand the kingdom’s military capabilities.
Economic Resources and General Programs: SR155 billion ($41.3 billion). Among the key projects included is the expansion of the Grand Mosque.
Health and Social Development: SR120 billion ($32 billion). This will enable the construction and subsequent equipping of healthcare centres. 38 new hospitals are already in the process of being built.
Security and Regional Administration: SR97 billion ($25.8 billion). The establishment of naval bases for border guards will be among the new projects this budget will facilitate.
Municipality Services: SR55 billion ($14.6 billion). This includes the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs and municipalities.
Infrastructure and Transport: SR52 billion ($13.8 billion). This will go toward building roads, ports, railway, airports, postal services and developing industrial cities.
National Transformation Plan: SR42 billion ($11.1 billion). This will cover the costs of the NTP initiatives in 2017.
Public Administration: SR27 billion ($7.2 billion). This includes projects, programs and 46 new initiatives.
Saudi Arabia’s Cabinet, which met yesterday (December 22) under the chairmanship of King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, approved the budget for the next year.
The government plans to phase out its costly subsidies on energy, although low-income citizens will receive “direct cash support” to help them manage, a report in Arab News said.
It will also introduce “minimal” fees on foreigners gradually up to 2020, the Saudi Finance Minister Mohammed Al-Jadaan was quoted as saying.
“There are two kinds of fees, the first is according to the number of family members an expat has in return for utilities used… this minimal amount will increase gradually every year,” the minister said in response to a question from Arab News.
“The second is already imposed on companies which employ expat workers; this will increase gradually as well until 2020.”
The fees do not apply to domestic helpers, such as drivers and cleaners, but only to expats working in commercial entities, the minister said.
The finance minister ruled out income taxes on Saudi nationals, foreigners or company revenues.
The minister added that the Saudi government had paid all outstanding dues to private sector firms as the beginning of December. Any claims submitted in the last three weeks will be paid in two months’ time.