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Last Updated: Friday, 3 September, 2004, 23:58 GMT 00:58 UK
Oil bonanza boosts Saudi finances
Saudi official watching oil well
Surging oil prices have provided a boon to Saudi's economy
Soaring world oil prices have provided Saudi Arabia with a budget surplus, the country's crown prince has said.

Crown Prince Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz said that most of the proceeds would go toward debt repayments.

However, he added that some 41bn riyals ($10.9bn) would be spent on development projects in the country including education, housing and health projects.

"The surplus will all be spent in what realises the prosperity of the citizens," he added.

Speaking to the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA), he added that paying off the country's debts would have a positive effect on the economy and leave more money for future surpluses and development projects.

'Blessing'

"The surplus realised because of the unexpected rise in oil prices is a blessing from God," he said.

The government had previously forecast a deficit of $8bn for 2004, with total revenues estimated at $53.3bn and expenditures at $61.3bn.

The Crown Prince would not say how large the estimated surplus would be, but some private forecasts now estimate that the country's revenues will be double the amount the government had expected.

Experts now claim the Saudi surplus could be as high as $35bn.

In July, Samba Financial Group predicted that with oil prices at an average of $31 .50 a barrel, that would produce a surplus of $28.8bn.

Last year, Saudi public debt stood at $173bn - or 94% of gross domestic product.




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