Kuwait Posts Record $47bn Budget Surplus Last Fiscal Year

The Gulf state’s surplus for 2011/2012 was boosted by increased oil income and lower spending.

Kuwait booked a record budget surplus of KD13.2 billion ($47 billion) in the fiscal year that ended in March thanks to robust oil income and lower spending than planned, a consultancy said on Sunday, citing preliminary finance ministry figures.

The fiscal surplus of the major oil exporter reached 27.1 per cent of 2011 gross domestic product, according to a Reuters calculation based on an April GDP estimate by the International Monetary Fund.

That is well up from KD5.3 billion, or 14.8 per cent of 2010 GDP in 2010/11. A Reuters poll in July forecast the surplus to reach 22.3 per cent of GDP in the current fiscal year.

The finance ministry was not immediately able to confirm the budget figures when contacted by Reuters.

Kuwait originally set its 2011/12 budget with a deficit of KD6 billion based on an assumed oil price of $60 per barrel.

Spending stood at KD17 billion in 2011/12, a note by al-Shall Consulting said, KD2.4 billion short of what was planned but above 16.2 billion spent in the previous fiscal year. The OPEC member usually undershoots its expenditure plans.

Revenues were KD30.2 billion with oil income making up nearly 95 per cent of the total, the report said. That is more than double what was envisaged in the budget and the highest income ever, central bank data shows.

Despite its healthy fiscal position, Kuwait is struggling to diversify its heavily oil-reliant economy as a long-running political row holds up investment.

Kuwait’s parliament failed to swear in a new cabinet last week after lawmakers boycotted the session, making the dissolution of the assembly likely and throwing the country into more political upheaval.

The parliament, which will attempt to meet again on Tuesday, has yet to approve the budget for 2012/13, although the fiscal year started in April.

Kuwait’s emir reappointed Nayef al-Hajraf as finance minister last month. He took over in May after the resignation of ministry veteran Mustapha al-Shamali, who had voiced concerns about the country’s dependency on oil revenues.

Analysts and policymakers say Kuwait’s wealth has led to complacency. The IMF said in May that the Gulf Arab state risks exhausting all of its oil savings by 2017 if it keeps on spending money at the current rate.

It said Kuwait, one of the world’s richest countries per capita, would have to cut the fiscal deficit excluding oil and debt servicing by at least KD7 billion by 2017 to ensure long-term fiscal sustainability.