Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih speaks to the media during Saudi government ministers brief in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia December 19, 2018. REUTERS/Faisal Al Nasser
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Saudi Arabia is slowing a drive to cut its huge fiscal deficit in order to revive the economy, but the state budget plan for 2019 suggests it may not have room to boost growth by much.For three years -- ever since Riyadh ran an eye-popping deficit of 367 billion riyals ($98 billion) in 2015, or about 15 percent of gross domestic product, threatening its financial stability -- fiscal policy focused to a large extent on reassuring markets by cutting the deficit.The Finance Ministry said Tuesday that the deficit shrank to 136 billion riyals, or an estimated 4.6 percent of GDP this year, from 230 billion riyals in 2017 .The 2019 budget, however, projected the deficit would shrink only marginally to 131 billion riyals or 4.2 percent of GDP next year.Riyadh originally set a 2020 date for balancing its budget, pushing that back to 2023 a year ago as the economy struggled.
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