Revenues boost Saudi Arabia's first quarter budget, expenditure up 8 percent

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DUBAI (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia posted a surplus of 27.8 billion riyals (5.68 billion pounds) in the first quarter of this year, its first since 2014 and boosted by both oil and non-oil revenues.

The world's top oil exporter was hit hard by a slump in oil prices in 2014, leading to a budget deficit of 367 billion riyals, or about 15 percent of gross domestic product, in 2015.

Over the past few years it has embarked on a number of reforms aimed at diversifying the economy away from its dependence on oil.

In the first three months of this year the kingdom's oil revenues totalled 169 billion riyals, a 48 percent increase from the same period last year, the ministry of finance said in a statement late on Wednesday.

Non-oil revenues - which give a measure of the country's economic diversification achievements - amounted to 76.3 billion riyals, a 46 percent increase year-on-year, the ministry said.

Expenditures totalled 217.6 billion riyals in the first quarter, an 8 percent year-on-year increase.

The kingdom said in December it planned to increase state spending by 7 percent this year in an effort to spur economic growth and projected spending to rise to an all-time high of 1.106 trillion riyals, from an actual 1.030 trillion riyals in 2018.

The government spent 10.3 billion riyals in subsidies in the first quarter, up from 3 billion in the same period last year, according to the statement.

"Expenditure outlays on development projects are expected to increase during the remainder of the year," the ministry of finance said, particularly for private sector development programmes and because of increases in expenditure on social protection.

Public debt totalled 610.6 billion riyals at the end of the first quarter.

(Reporting by Davide Barbuscia and Tuqa Khalid; Editing by Kevin Liffey and Kirsten Donovan)

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