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Saudi Arabia will become the fastest-growing economy this year thanks to its ambitious Vision 2030 reform program, the kingdom’s foreign minister, Faisal bin Farhan said at this year’s World Economic Forum summit in Davos.
The official noted that the reform program aims to address all issues facing the economy of OPEC’s biggest oil producer and, among other things, reduce its dependence on oil as a source of budget revenues.
During his speech, he noted a decline in Saudi unemployment and the opening up of the labor market to more women.
Vision 2030, the brainchild of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the de facto ruler of the kingdom, envisages the transformation of Saudi Arabia into a renewable energy power and home of the Neom smart city—the jewel in the reform crown of Prince Mohammed—that will cost an estimated $500 billion.
This transformation, however, will be financed with oil money so Saudi Arabia has been busy maximizing its revenues from the export of its most abundant commodity.
Last year was a good one for the Saudi economy thanks to higher oil prices for much of the year, which helped its economy register strong growth, especially in the third quarter, when GDP expanded by 8.8% from a year earlier.
Thanks to the stronger performance of its oil industry, Saudi Arabia has forecast a budget surplus for this year, albeit a lot smaller than last year’s, at just 0.4 percent of GDP.
The budget for this year, announced in December 2022, totals some $296 billion, or 1.114 trillion riyals. Spending was reduced moderately and so were forecasts for budget revenues this year.
"The economic impact (of a moderate reduction in spending) is expected to be limited, especially with the PIF driving much of the investment activity," the chief economist of Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank told Reuters.
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
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Irina is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing on the oil and gas industry.