Saudi king extends allowances as biggest budget ever is announced
Saudi Arabia's King Salman on Tuesday ordered the continuation of public sector cost-of-living allowances and then announced a $295bn budget for 2019, the kingdom's biggest ever, Trend reports referring to Aljazeera.
The budget announcement projected a $35bn shortfall, amounting to a deficit for the sixth year in a row because of low oil prices.
"We are determined to go ahead with economic reform, achieving fiscal discipline, improving transparency and empowering the private sector," King Salman said in a televised speech.
In a pre-budget statement in September, the government said it would increase spending by more than 7 percent in 2019 to help cut unemployment and increase sluggish economic growth.
Unemployment - hovering at about 12 percent as of last summer - is at its highest level in a decade.
Under the Vision 2030 plan pushed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Riyadh is seeking to create more jobs for Saudis, but businesses have been hit hard by tax rises and other steps to narrow the government's budget deficit.
Quotas and fees on hiring foreign workers have pushed hundreds of thousands of foreign workers to leave the country in the past 12 months, hurting domestic demand and causing the economy to shrink last year for the first time since the global financial crisis in 2009.