RIYADH, Jan 17 (Reuters) - Top OPEC exporter Saudi Arabia will keep increasing annual budgets to diversify its oil-based economy and invest in infrastructure, King Abdullah said in remarks published on Monday.
“Fiscal budgets in future years will not decrease but rise and rise,” Abdullah told Kuwaiti newspaper al-Seyassah.
It was the elderly monarch’s first interview since leaving for medical treatment in New York on Nov. 22 after a blood clot complicated a slipped disk.
Last month, Saudi Arabia, a member of the G20, said it would spend 580 billion riyals ($155 billion) in 2011, its third straight record budget for planned spending. [ID:nLDE6BJ1C3]
Abdullah gave no spending figures but said policy focus is to keep building up industries outside the oil sector and improving infrastructure in the biggest Arab economy, which is rolling out a $400 billion stimulus until 2013.
King Abdullah, who came to power in 2005, is the sixth leader of the OPEC oil exporter and U.S. ally, whose political stability is of regional and global concern. Abdullah, who is around 87, started a series of cautious reforms in the kingdom.
Saudi Arabia controls more than a fifth of the world’s crude oil reserves and is a major investor in U.S. government bonds.
Crown Prince Sultan, who has health problems of his own, returned from abroad before Abdullah’s departure to govern the world’s largest oil exporter. (Reporting by Ulf Laessing; Editing by Dinesh Nair)