Saudi finance ministry to close annual accounts early in austerity step

October 16, 2016 6:28 AM EDT

A Saudi man shows Saudi riyal banknotes at a money exchange shop, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, January 20, 2016. REUTERS/Faisal Al Nasser/File Photo

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RIYADH (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia's finance ministry will close its accounts for this year's budget on Nov. 15, the ministry said on Sunday in a fresh sign that it is clamping down on spending as low oil prices slash state revenues.

Traditionally, the ministry has closed its books in mid-December each year, but last year it brought this date forward to mid-November. Sunday's statement said it would follow a similar approach for 2016.

The early book-closing makes it easier for the ministry to reject new requests for funds and prevent other government agencies from wasting unspent funds on purchases of non-essentials in the final weeks of the year.

The government posted a record budget deficit of $98 billion last year, a massive 15 percent of gross domestic product, and has projected the gap will shrink to $87 billion this year through spending cuts and higher non-oil revenues.

(Reporting by Marwa Rashad; Writing by Andrew Torchia)

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