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Saudi Arabia Plans More Cuts

Setbacks have always been lying in wait for the cost-cutting reform.Setbacks have always been lying in wait for the cost-cutting reform.

Saudi Arabia is likely to take more cost-cutting measures as local experts say the country’s deficit is expected to hit $69 billion by the end of 2016.

The figure, albeit lower than the government projection of $87 billion, is still considered high for a country that has been clobbered by the sharp drop in oil prices since 2015, Xinhua reported.

In late November, the Persian Gulf Arab country said its total public debt has reached $91.2 billion, with an outstanding debt of $53.3 billion in the year 2016 alone.

In October, Riyadh, for the first time, issued an international sovereign bond of $17.5 billion, the biggest emerging market bond sale on record, with a view to slowing the drawdown of its foreign exchange reserves, buying more time to adjust its economy, and eliminating the risk of currency devaluation for the foreseeable future.

In April, Saudi deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saudi launched a major economic reform to attract investments for profitable business projects to help the oil-rich country shake off its heavy dependence on oil.

Part of the reform is to privatize an estimated $400 billion worth of assets to promote the economy and create millions of jobs. Power generation, among others, is a key sector that the reform aims to privatize.

Earlier this month, Ziyad Al Shiha, chief executive officer of Saudi Electricity, told local news channel Al Arabiya that there will be a plan to privatize the sector in phases.

Meanwhile, 13 ministries and government agencies are also preparing to privatize part of their services. Employees, whose jobs are outsourced, will either retire, transfer to other government bodies, or work for the private firms that handle the outsourced jobs, local newspaper Al Madina reported.

 Setbacks

On top of the reform, Saudi Arabia has set up an investment fund of $2.7 trillion for its economic activities inside and outside the country, as the government aims to save $300 billion and increase non-oil revenues to $100 billion in four years.

Setbacks, however, have always been lying in wait for the cost-cutting reform.

The biggest setback is the reduction of deposits at the Saudi commercial banks, despite the fact that the $17.5 billion bond the government issued in October has eased part of its financial burden.

The private sector has also been handicapped by the spending cuts, as many companies have raised concerns about late settlement from the government.

The arrears have left foreign workers, mostly in the construction sector, struggling for months without getting paid.

But the Saudi crown prince promised in November that all overdue payments will be made by the yearend.

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