(Bloomberg) -- Saudi Arabia hasn’t had a busier stretch in the debt market since the 2014-2016 oil crash left its budget with a double-digit deficit.

Even with crude prices up 10% this year, it’s trying to borrow its way through a fiscal squeeze caused by the need to fund huge projects championed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, widely known as MBS, to transform the economy.

A $5 billion sukuk, or Islamic bond, on Tuesday brought total international debt sales from the kingdom this year to $17 billion, more than any other emerging-market sovereign, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

The government’s already issued more Eurobonds in 2024 than in any full-year since 2017. And it may break the record set then of $21.5 billion if it comes to the market again in the next few months, which some analysts expect.

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“They have a lot of spending needs,” said Zeina Rizk, partner and co-head of fixed income at Amwal Capital Partners in Dubai. “I don’t see why they wouldn’t tap the market again.”

It’s a similar story with local debt. The government’s sold the equivalent of $25.5 billion of riyal notes this year. That compares with just under $20 billion in the same period of 2023.

The ramp-up comes as Saudi Arabia struggles to raise enough money to fund the mega projects from oil exports and foreign direct investment.

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Despite steep production cuts from the de facto leader of the OPEC+ cartel, crude remains well below what the kingdom needs to balance its budget.

Brent trades at around $83 a barrel. Bloomberg Economics estimates Saudi Arabia needs $108 to break even if its sovereign wealth fund’s domestic spending — almost all of which is related to the crown prince’s Vision 2030 program — is included.

That’s changed Saudi Arabia’s fiscal outlook. Until late 2023, it was projecting fiscal surpluses for several years. But it now sees shortfalls until at least 2026. Until that changes, the kingdom’s likely to be a frequent issuer in international bond markets.

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. economist Farouk Soussa, in a report on May 22, said Saudi Arabia may sell $20 billion of external bonds this year in total and between $13.5 billion and $14.5 billion in the following two years.

The good news is that the country should have little difficulty doing that, given its ratio of debt to gross domestic product is just 26%.

It has “plenty of fiscal space to accumulate more debt,” Soussa said.

--With assistance from Matthew Martin.

(Updates with deckheads and with oil price movements.)

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