Oil Report

Saudi sees 09 budget deficit, first time since 2002

(Corrects conversion in lead)

RIYADH, Dec 22 (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia expects to post a 65 billion riyals ($17.33 billion) budget deficit in 2009, its first since 2002, amid a steep decline in oil prices, the finance ministry said on Monday.

The world’s largest oil exporter expects to post a record budget surplus of 590 billion riyals in 2008, which is more than three times its level in 2007, the ministry said in a statement.

Economic growth is seen accelerating to 4.2 percent in 2008 up from 3.4 percent in 2007 after it netted 1.1 trillion riyals in revenues -- 90 percent of it from oil, it added.

Government debt would fall to 13.5 percent of gross domestic product by the end of 2008 compared with 18.7 percent of GDP in 2007, the finance ministry added.

Saudi Arabia last posted a budget deficit in 2002, according to SABB data.

Reporting by Souhail Karam; editing by Amran Abocar