Saudi Arabia's economic outlook stable, says Moody's

The IMF's regional director noted that oil would need to be at between $85 and $87 a barrel this year for the kingdom to balance it's budget.
Saudi Arabia's economic outlook stable, says Moody's
By Bernd Debusmann Jr
Thu 03 May 2018 08:38 AM

Saudi Arabia’s credit strengths include a strong fiscal condition, significant liquidity buffers and a sizable stock of oil reserves combined with low extraction costs, according to an annual credit analysis from Moody’s Investors Services.

Moody’s rates Saudi Arabia as A1 stable, an outlook it says reflects its view that risks to the kingdom’s risks are broadly balanced.

In the report, Moody’s noted that growth in oil revenues before 2014 gave the Saudi government an opportunity to build up a significant asset cushion and reduce debt.

While declining oil prices since 2014 have pushed the budget balance into deficit, its overall balance sheet remains robust, the report noted.

Saudi Arabia needs oil at $85 a barrel to balance budget, says IMF

Moody's rates Saudi Arabia as A1 stable, with a strong fiscal position and significant liquidity buffers

Additionally, the report predicted that overall GDP growth will remain below 2 percent between 2018 and 2022, compared to the 4.6 growth recorded between 2011 and 2016.

Moody’s also forecasts that the government debt burden will continue to increase as a share of GDP from 17.3 percent at the end of 2017, but will peak below 30 percent over the course of the next five years.

Based on the assumption that Brent oil prices will average $60 per barrel in 2018, Moody’s also predicts that the budget deficit will narrow to about 5.8 percent of GDP in 2018, and then to 5.2 percent in 2019.

On Wednesday, Jihad Azour, the International Monetary Fund’s director for the Middle East and Central Asia, said that Saudi Arabia will need oil prices to be between $85 and $87 a barrel this year to balance its budget, compared to a break-even oil price of $83 a barrel in 2017.

“I think the fact that we are currently witnessing a recovery globally and in the region, and the fact that the oil price is going up, shouldn’t at any point in time be considered as a way for them to relax efforts and to be complacent,” he is quoted as saying by Reuters.

The Saudi government has projected a budget deficit of $2 billion in 2018, which it plans to balance by 2023.

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