(Bloomberg) -- Saudi Arabia started the year with a quarterly budget surplus for the first time since the 2014 collapse in oil prices.

The biggest Arab economy posted a surplus of 27.8 billion riyals ($7.4 billion) in the first quarter, helped by an increase in non-oil revenue as well as income from crude exports, Finance Minister Mohammed Al-Jadaan told an audience of Saudi and international bankers gathered in Riyadh on Wednesday.

Total spending increased by 8 percent while revenue jumped 48 percent. “These results clearly illustrate the remarkable progress achieved in the performance of our fiscal position,” he said.

Higher oil revenue and the introduction of value-added taxation as well as subsidy cuts have helped the kingdom repair public finances battered by lower crude prices. The budget deficit narrowed to 5.9 percent of gross domestic product last year from 9.3 percent in 2017.

Other figures released by al-Jadaan:

  • The Saudi economy grew 2.2 percent in 2018; with the non-oil sector accounting for 56.2 percent of total GDP
  • First-quarter oil revenue climbed to about 149 billion riyals, compared with 114 billion riyals in the same period a year earlier
  • Income from non-oil activities rose to 76.3 billion riyals, compared with 52.3 billion.

To contact the reporter on this story: Vivian Nereim in Riyadh at vnereim@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Alaa Shahine at asalha@bloomberg.net, Paul Abelsky

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