Saudi Central Bank Sees 2016 Growth Below 2% Amid Spending Cuts

Saudi Arabia’s economic growth will likely slow to below 2 percent this year as the government of the world’s biggest oil exporter cuts spending after the plunge in crude prices, a senior central bank official said.

“We know that the Saudi economy depends largely on government spending - it’s the engine of the economy - and in a lesser way on the private sector,” Ahmed Alkholifey, deputy central bank governor for research and international affairs, told an economic conference in the Red Sea city of Jeddah on Thursday.

The prolonged oil slump saddled Saudi Arabia with a budget deficit of about $98 billion last year, pushing officials to reduce spending, consider an international sovereign bond sale and cut energy subsidies. Gross domestic product expanded 3.4 percent in 2015 and the median estimate of 12 economists in a Bloomberg survey is 1.5 percent for this year.

“This year the predictions show that it will not reach 2 percent in any case, and there are some predictions that it will decrease to less than 1 percent,” Alkholifey said.

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