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.
This was the first time for King Abdullah to chair the cabinet since he has undergone back surgery in November. The meeting to announce the budget was held in a room in his palace instead of the cabinet chamber where such meetings are usually held. In the footage below, aired by state television, the King asks in a frail voice about the surplus. “The surplus is around 386 billion,” Finance Minister Ibrahim Alassaf responds. Crown Prince Salman appears briefly at the end of the video speaking to the King, but it seems that his mike was not turned on.