Saudi Arabia cuts deficit by half in first quarter - deputy economy minister

RIYADH (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia's deputy economy minister said on Saturday the kingdom had reduced its deficit in the first quarter of 2017 by more than half in part because of prudent public spending.

"The fact that the first quarter deficit was 26 billion riyals ($6.93 billion) when 54 billion riyals was projected at the beginning of the year. This is a very excellent step toward rationalized spending," Mohammed al-Tuwaijri, deputy minister of economy and planning told state-run Ekhbariya TV.

Saudi's deficit shrank to 297 billion riyals ($79 billion) in 2016, down from a record 367 billion-riyal gap in 2015. In its 2017 budget plan, Riyadh said the deficit would shrink further this year to 198 billion riyals because of higher oil prices and non-oil revenues.

(Reporting by Ali Abdelaty and Katie Paul; Writing by Tom Finn; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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