Saudi foreign assets dip by 12%

Saudi foreign assets dip by 12%. (AP)

Saudi Arabia's foreign assets dipped by nearly 12 per cent in the first 11 months of 2009 as the world's oil superpower heavily overshot assumed spending and its main oil operator pushed ahead with massive investment plans.

From about SR1.709 trillion (Dh1.692trn) at the end of 2008, the assets of the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency (Sama), the Gulf Kingdom's central bank, tumbled by about SR206bn to SR1,503bn at the end of November, Sama said in its November bulletin.

The assets had steadily declined through 2009 before they gained around SR31bn in October apparently after a sharp rise in crude prices.

Analysts said the large fall in Sama's assets through 2009 after a sharp increase ?in previous years was caused by heavy budgetary expenditure and higher spending by the government-owned Saudi Aramco, the world's largest oil producing company which is undertaking a mammoth expansion programme involving crude capacity, gas, petrochemicals and refining.

"To meet its commitment to the economic rescue plan, the government was withdrawing part of those assets in 2009 and channelling them into Saudi Arabia. The fall was also caused by the fact that Saudi Aramco appeared to have increased spending on development projects," said Ihsan bu Hlaiga, a Saudi economist.

Striving to cushion the downward pressure on its economy because of lower oil prices and global credit tightness, Riyadh approved a record high budget of SR475bn for 2009, creating a deficit of SR65bn. The actual shortfall was cut to SR45bn despite overspending by around SR75bn.

The kingdom last week announced another record budget for 2010 as part of an ongoing stimulus programme to maintain growth in its economy.

Economists said Saudi Arabia resorted to its assets to avoid putting further pressure on its fragile liquidity situation resulting from the global credit tightness.

Heavy borrowing by Saudi Arabia boosted its public debt to a record SR660bn in 1999 before the surge in oil prices allowed it to slash the debt in the following years.

 

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