01 August, 2014 / Shawwal 4, 1435

DUBAI, July 30: Qatar raised its budget surplus estimate notably to 54.3 billion riyals ($15 billion) for the fiscal year ended in March as revenue was higher than previously expected, preliminary data showed on Monday.

The 2011/12 fiscal surplus of the world's top exporter of liquefied natural gas was equivalent to 8.6 per cent of gross domestic product, according to the economy and finance ministry calculation, up from the original 22.5 billion-riyal plan.

The surplus, the highest since at least 2005/06, is well up from 44.5 billion riyals reported earlier in July in a prospectus for the country's Islamic bond. That gives the government a comfortable cushion as it plans to spend more than 10 per cent of GDP on average on infrastructure in the run-up to hosting the soccer World Cup tournament in 2022.

In the previous fiscal year, Qatar posted a revised surplus of 13.5 billion riyals, or 2.9 per cent of GDP, the data showed.

It previously reported a surplus of 12.8 billion riyals.

The OPEC member's expenditure surged over 16 per cent to a record 165.8 billion riyals last fiscal year, according to the data, above 158.9 billion reported in the prospectus and 139.9 billion planned.

In September, Qatar, which has avoided the social unrest that rocked the Arab world last year, raised basic salaries and social benefits for state civilian employees by 60 per cent, while military staff received 50-120 per cent increases.

Spending on government wages and salaries jumped more than 28 per cent to an upwards revised 29.6 billion riyals in 2011/12 from a year ago, the ministry data released by the central bank also showed.

The Gulf Arab state plans to boost spending further to 178.6 billion riyals in the fiscal year that began in April, including on wages, services and infrastructure, but expects to see a still comfortable surplus of 27.8 billion.

Revenue soared by over 41 per cent to a revised all-time high of 220.1 billion riyals in 2011/12 thanks to a jump in hydrocarbon and other income, the data showed. The country's prospectus previously reported revenue of 203.4 billion riyals. The original revenue plan was 162.5 billion riyals based on a conservative oil price estimate of $55 per barrel.

Oil and gas-related revenue accounted for roughly 70 per cent of Qatar's overall budget income, according to the revised data.—Reuters

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