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Saudi Arabia to get sovereign wealth fund dividend, has no tax hike plan: FM

Saudi Arabia expects to receive up to 25 billion riyals ($6.7 billion) in dividends this year from its sovereign wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund (PIF), in a one-off measure aimed at boosting coffers battered by low oil prices.

“We called for part of the dividends, so we are possibly going to receive around 15 to 25 billion Saudi riyals in dividends from PIF,” Finance Minister Mohammed al-Jadaan told Reuters late on Tuesday, after the announcement of Saudi Arabia’s 2021 budget.

He said receiving dividends from PIF’s profits was an exceptional decision and that the government generally does not plan to call for dividends from the fund in the future.

PIF is Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s vehicle of choice for his ambitious plan to transform the economy and wean it off oil revenues.

Due to a collapse in oil prices and output cuts after the coronavirus pandemic curbed global demand for crude, Saudi Arabia’s oil revenues are expected to drop by over 30% this year. To partly offset that, the kingdom tripled a value-added tax in July to 15%.

Jadaan said there were no immediate plans to raise taxes and, when asked, said introducing an income tax was not on the cards.

Jadaan said this year’s $40 billion transfer from the Saudi central bank to the PIF to back its investments was “a very exceptional transfer in a very exceptional year,” adding there were no plans currently to make further such transfers.

PIF invested most of those funds abroad and made a profit of more than 19% in a seven-to-eight month period, Jadaan said.

Next year’s deficit, expected to amount to 141 billion riyals, will be covered through debt sales, a “very limited drawdown” from Saudi reserves, and, if needed, by selling finance ministry assets, he said.

Saudi Arabia had 10 privatisations this year in the healthcare, education, water desalination and treatment and other sectors, Jadaan said. Going forward he expected more privatisation deals in those sectors, as well as in ports.
Source: Reuters (Reporting by Marwa Rashad and Davide Barbuscia; Writing by Yousef Saba; Editing by Chris Reese and Richard Pullin)

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