RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has set a record state budget for next year as high oil prices allow it to spend heavily on welfare and infrastructure projects, helping it avoid the severe social unrest seen in other parts of the Arab world.
The government plans to spend 820 billion riyals ($219 billion) in 2013, state television reported after Finance Minister Ibrahim Alassaf presented the budget to King Abdullah on Saturday.
That amount is 19 percent higher than the 690 billion riyals that the world's largest oil exporter budgeted for 2012, although it is below the estimated 853 billion riyals that the government actually spent.
Saudi Arabia traditionally makes conservative projections for both spending and oil revenue, leaving room for actual expenditure and budget surpluses to come in much larger than initially forecast.
Next year's budget plan envisages revenue of 829 billion riyals, state television reported. That implies a small budget surplus of just 9 billion riyals, but if global oil prices stay above $100 a barrel, the actual 2013 surplus will be far higher.
While the 2012 budget originally envisaged revenues of 702 billion riyals, they actually amounted to an estimated 1.24 trillion riyals, television reported.