Estimating the Output Gap for Saudi Arabia

  •  Ryadh Alkhareif    
  •  William Barnett    
  •  Nayef Alsadoun    


The objective of this paper is to estimate annual potential output growth and the output gap for the Saudi economy over the period 1980 to 2015, looking at both total output and non-oil output. The focus on the latter is so that the progress in diversifying the economy might be examined and the possible impact of diversification on potential output might be measured. We use three methods for estimating potential output proposed in the macroeconomic literature. The methodologies include the Hodrick-Prescott filter, Kalman filter, and the production function approach. We compare the three over the entire sample and the last five years. Our findings suggest that the output gap (the difference between actual and potential output, as measured by real GDP) is positive on average over the entire period (i.e., actual output has on average exceeded potential); however, the gap has turned negative and has shrunk in recent years, as fiscal expenditures, particularly in infrastructure, have acted to better align actual and potential. Our analysis also indicated that growth in both potential GDP and total factor productivity have accelerated in the 2011-2015 period. In contrast, growth in these factors has slowed in many other countries, particularly the advanced economies. This better performance of the Saudi economy is possibly due to the development of a resilient financial sector in the Saudi economy.

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