Kuwait announces deficit for first time in 16 years

Kuwait announces deficit for first time in 16 years
Kuwait is projecting a rare budget deficit during the current fiscal year that began on 1 April following continued low oil prices.
2 min read
09 August, 2016
The cabinet decided to raise petrol price by up to 83 percent [AFP]
Kuwait is facing a rare economic woes as low oil prices pushes the country's economy into the red.

Lower oil prices have given the Gulf state a rare budget deficit, ending 16 straight years of surpluses for the energy-rich Gulf state, the finance minister said.

The OPEC member recorded a budget shortfall of 4.6 billion dinars ($15.3 billion) in the fiscal year, which ended on 31 March, Anas al-Saleh said in a statement carried by the KUNA news agency late on Monday.

It was the first shortfall since the fiscal year to March 1999. Gulf states including Kuwait were hoping oil prices would stabilise in 2016. 

The continued lows pushed revenues down by 45 percent to $45.2 billion while spending was cut by 14.8 percent to $60.5 billion, the minister said.

Oil income was $40.1 billion, a slump of 46.3 percent from the previous year, he said.

Oil accounted for 89 percent of total revenues, down from 95 percent in previous years.

Saleh told parliament last month that Kuwait plans to tap international debt markets through bond issues to finance the deficit.

He said the emirate would borrow up to $10 billion in US-denominated bonds from international markets, in both conventional and (Islamic) sukuk issuance.

The ministry will borrow another $6.6 billion in both conventional and Islamic instruments from the domestic market, Saleh said.

In previous years Kuwait built up a sovereign wealth fund worth around $600 billion that is invested mostly in the United States, Europe and Asia.

Kuwait is projecting a deficit of $28.9 billion in the current fiscal year which began on 1 April.

As part of efforts to reduce the shortfall, the cabinet last week decided to raise the price of petrol by up to 83 percent, the first increase in almost two decades.

Last year, it raised the prices of diesel and kerosene. It has also decided to lift electricity and water charges on foreign residents.

The ratings agency Moody's said late Monday that the fuel price reforms will boost Kuwait's credit ratings because they will lower current expenditures and bolster government finances.