Saudi budget squeeze

DUBAI: Pressure on Saudi Arabia’s state finances is mounting as oil prices fall but the latest official figures suggest the world’s top crude exporter still has at least several years before it faces a budget crunch. Brent oil sank last week below $50 a barrel, near six-year lows, from $70 three months ago. That promises to increase the rate at which the kingdom is drawing down its foreign reserves to cover its budget deficit. A study by a former Saudi central bank official released last week said the world might have entered a sustained period of low oil prices, leaving Riyadh vulnerable down the road. But central bank data released last week showed the kingdom still far from any fiscal crisis. Net foreign assets at the bank fell $59.8 billion from the end of 2014 to $664.5 billion in June.