Saudi Arabia: Diversification from the oil sector will take time

Country Report

Real GDP growth dropped to +1.4% in 2016 from 4.1% in 2015, triggered by markedly lower oil prices (benchmark Brent was USD45/bbl on average, down from USD53/bbl in 2015) and a reduction in oil production which was due to lower external demand as well as the November 2016 OPEC agreement to cut output (in which Saudi Arabia pledged a cutback to 10.06mn bpd). 

Moreover, as oil revenues fell, the government implemented some fiscal consolidation measures. Nonetheless, the fiscal deficit remained a hefty -15.5% of GDP and public debt surged to 14% of GDP in 2016 (from just 5% in 2015) although this is still very low compared to most regional and global peers. Meanwhile, deflationary risks have emerged as well as inflation entered negative territory in January 2017 (-0.4% y/y) though new cuts in subsidies should relieve the downward pressures going forward. ​