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Saudi 2019 budget boosts spending in bid to spur sluggish economy

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Saudi 2019 budget boosts spending in bid to spur sluggish economy
Cars drive past the King Abdullah Financial District in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia December 18, 2018. REUTERS/Faisal Al Nasser   -   Copyright  FAISAL AL NASSER(Reuters)
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By Marwa Rashad and Stephen Kalin

RIYADH (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia plans to increase state spending by 7 percent next year in an effort to spur economic growth, which has been hurt by low oil prices, according to a 2019 state budget announced by King Salman on Tuesday.

Spending is projected to rise to an all-time high of 1.106 trillion riyals (£233.96 billion), the king said in a nationally televised speech.

“We are determined to go ahead with economic reform, achieving fiscal discipline, improving transparency and empowering the private sector,” he said.

The economy shrank last year and, although the government estimates it grew 2.3 percent in 2018, that is much slower than the boom years early this decade — and not enough to put much of a dent in a record jobless rate of 12.9 percent among Saudis.

The government has been struggling to cut a big state budget deficit caused by the oil price slump. Officials projected a deficit of 131 billion riyals next year, according to state news agency SPA.

(Writing by Andrew Torchia; Editing by Gareth Jones)

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