Saudi per capita at record high in 2011

Strong oil prices boosted Saudi Arabia’s GDP per capita income to a record high level of more than $20,000 in 2011 but the level remained a fraction of the per capita in neighbouring Qatar and the UAE.

Despite a 2.8 per cent growth in the Gulf Kingdom’s population, the GDP per capita swelled to an all time high of $20,344 last year, almost 25 per cent above the 2010 level of about $16.244, according to estimates by National Commercial Bank (NCB), the country’s largest bank.

The report put Saudi Arabia’s population at around 28.4 million at the end of 2011 compared with 27.6 million at the end of 2010, more than half the combined population of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), which groups Saudi Arabia with the UAE and four other Gulf nations.

It showed the surge in the per capita followed a rise in oil export revenue to an all time high of around $302.8 billion in 2011 following a 50-per cent increase in crude prices and a one million bpd rise in the country’s output.

Sitting atop more than a fifth of the world’s recoverable crude deposits, Saudi Arabia relies heavily on oil sales and higher crude prices boosted its nominal GDP to a record $577 billion last year, an increase of around 29 per cent over the 2010 GDP of nearly $447 billion, NCB said.

Despite the surge, Saudi Arabia’s per capita remains far below that in the UAE and Qatar, where it exceeded $40,000 and $70,000 respectively last year. This is because of their surging economies and relatively small populations, estimated at eight million and 1.9 million respectively.

The surge in oil exports also allowed Saudi Arabia to record high fiscal surpluses and replenish its foreign assets after a steep fall during the 1990s. From less than SR200 billion in late 1990s, the assets controlled by the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency soared to a record high of more than SR2,000 billion at the end of the first quarter of 2012.

NCB expected them to grow to $636 billion (SR2.38 trillion) at the end of 2012 as average oil prices are expected to remain above $100 a barrel and Riyadh is believed to have assumed an oil price of $60 for this year’s budget.

The report also forecast the country’s per capita to slip slightly this year but remain as high as $20,250. It also projected the population to rise again by around 2.8 per cent to 29.2 million at the end of 2012.

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