DUBAI Dec 22 Saudi Arabia, at war in Yemen and
competing for regional influence with arch-rival Iran, projects
a 6.7 percent rise in defence spending in 2017 to 191 billion
riyals ($50.8 billion), according to official budget figures
released on Thursday.
The kingdom, one of the world's biggest military spenders,
forecasts a decline in Security and Regional Administration, a
separate spending category that is military-related, to 96.7
billion riyals from 102.3 billion.
Military spending was originally projected at 179 billion
riyals in 2016 but actual military spending has been around
205.1 billion. Security and Regional Administration spending
will be 100.6 billion in 2016, according to the budget's
A Saudi-led Arab coalition intervened militarily in Yemen in
March 2015 in support of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, a
Saudi ally, and to push back Iran's influence in the region.
The first collective Gulf Arab effort at exercising armed
'hard power' without direct military U.S. backing, the war has
gone on for 21 months, eating up ammunition and spare parts and
requiring extensive logistical support.
Riyadh is expected to continue buying billions of dollars
worth of weapons, mainly from Western suppliers such as the
United States, Britain and France, for its land, sea and air
forces in coming years.
Defence Minister and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin
Salman, pursuing wide economic reforms to reduce reliance on
oil, said in an interview in April that military-related
spending was a "problem", suggesting some was extravagant.
The budget statement said military spending would cover
equipment, installations, weaponry, ammunition, and facilities
to boost military, institution and housing capabilities.
The security budget included money for the establishment of
naval bases for border guards, it said.
(Reporting by William Maclean; Editing by Catherine Evans)