By Khalil Hanware and PK Abdul Ghafour
JEDDAH, Dec 24 — Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah on Monday unveiled Saudi Arabia’s 2014 fiscal budget that projected both revenue and expenditure at SR855 billion and allocated SR210 billion for education and SR108 billion for health services.
In an address to the nation during the Cabinet’s budget session at Khoraim Gardens, King Abdullah said Saudi Arabia would continue to invest in its God-given resources and work for achieving balanced development across the Kingdom.
“Massive spending will continue in sectors that support sustainable development and create more jobs for citizens,” the king said in his keynote speech that was delivered on his behalf by Abdul Rahman Al-Sadhan, secretary-general of the Council of Ministers.
“This budget reflects the Kingdom’s huge economic progress. It also gives glad tidings of a bright future,” the king said. “We understand this is less than the ambitions of our citizens and will continue our endeavors to provide a decent living for them,” he added.
King Abdullah emphasized the need for greater integration between the public and private sectors to drive economic growth, improving performance of the government sector and activating the role of better management to achieve greater growth.
“We’ll continue our efforts to reform the education system that plays an important role in human resource development as well as to correct the imbalance in labor market to create more jobs for citizens,” he said.
Spelling out other strategies, the king said: “We’ll strengthen the link between the annual budget and five-year plans, ensure sound implementation of public projects, balance the requirements of present and future generations, and make optimum utilization of natural resources.”
He stressed the need for carrying out the budgeted projects in the best manner for enhancing the welfare of citizens. The king urged all ministers to carry out their projects without any negligence. He instructed monitoring authorities to report regularly about the performance of various government departments.
In an extempore speech at the end of the budget session, King Abdullah said Saudi Arabia would continue its efforts in the service of Islam and Muslims, and support any human being who required assistance. “I advise you again to carry out your duties and responsibilities sincerely, fearing God,” the king told the ministers. “I also advise you to meet all citizens, be they young or elderly.”
He specifically instructed Saudi ambassadors abroad to take care of all citizens who need their assistance.
Speaking at the Cabinet, Finance Minister Ibrahim Al-Assaf said the budget has allocated SR248 billion for new projects. He said the Kingdom’s GDP was expected to cross SR2.79 trillion in 2013 in current prices with an average growth of 1.54 percent compared to the previous year.
Nonoil GDP was expected to achieve a growth of 6.99 percent this year, with the public sector growth reaching 1.56 percent and private sector 9.38 percent. Oil sector revenue declined by 3.83 percent during the year.–Arab News