DUBAI, Nov 13 (Reuters) - Qatar’s government budget slipped into a deficit of 18.5 billion riyals ($5.1 billion) in the first quarter of its 2012/13 fiscal year, preliminary data from the central bank showed on Tuesday.
The fiscal shortfall of the world’s No. 1 exporter of liquefied natural gas was equivalent to 10.7 percent of gross domestic product in the period, according to the central bank.
It was wider than the 2.2 billion-riyal gap, or 1.4 percent of GDP, seen in the same quarter of last year.
Because of the timing of revenue flows, Qatar’s budget usually records deficits in the first quarter of its fiscal year, which begins in April, and then bounces back into surplus for the rest of the year.
The OPEC member booked a robust 54.3 billion-riyal surplus in last fiscal year, the biggest since at least 2005/06, despite a surge in spending on public sector wages.
Expenditure fell about 14 percent from a year earlier to 29.5 billion riyals in April-June, accounting for some 17 percent of the full-year spending plan, the data showed.
Revenue stood at 11.0 billion, 66 percent down from the same period a year ago. Oil and gas-related revenue accounts for roughly 70 percent of Qatar’s overall budget income.
The Gulf Arab state, which pegs its riyal currency to the U.S. dollar, plans to boost spending to 178.6 billion riyals in the current fiscal year, including wages, services and projects, but expects a comfortable surplus of 27.8 billion riyals.
In September 2011 Qatar, which has avoided social unrest that swept the Arab world last year, raised basic salaries and social benefits for state civilian employees by 60 percent, while military staff received 50-120 percent increases.
It plans to spend over 10 percent of GDP on average on infrastructure in the run-up to hosting the soccer World Cup tournament in 2022.