March 20, 2019 / 9:27 PM / 6 months ago

UPDATE 1-Canada's Saskatchewan balances the books for first time in 5 years

(Adds finance minister, details from document, background)

March 20 (Reuters) - The Canadian province of Saskatchewan forecast on Wednesday its first balanced budget since 2014-15, with resource revenues set to rise after the government proposed a change to how it calculates its return from potash sales.

Saskatchewan, home to major potash and uranium reserves, projected a C$34.4 million ($25.9 million) surplus for 2019-20, with increasing surpluses for future years, the province’s budget document showed.

For the fiscal year ending on March 31, the deficit was projected to rise to C$379.9 million ($285.6 million) from C$365.3 million forecast in November’s mid-year fiscal update.

“This budget contains no new taxes or tax increases, so it’s the right balance to keep our economy strong,” Finance Minister Donna Harpauer said.

The western Canadian province, which has a population of about 1.2 million, had balanced its books for two decades before its economy was weakened by the 2014 collapse in the price of oil.

The right-leaning Saskatchewan Party government, led by Scott Moe, has since moved to reduce the province’s reliance on oil revenue. In 2017, it bumped up the sales tax up by 1 percent and applied it to more items.

Tax revenue is forecast to rise 5.8 percent in 2019-20 from the current fiscal year to nearly C$7.6 billion, while there is a 7.1 percent projected increase in resource revenue that is mostly due to potash.

The budget includes changes to the Potash Production Tax, which eliminates some deductions.

Resource revenue has rebounded by 40 percent since 2016-17 but remains 30 percent below 2014-15 levels, the province said.

The price for potash is forecast by Saskatchewan to average $219.66 per tonne in 2019, up from $207.66 last year.

The province expects the average price of West Texas Intermediate oil to fall to $58 a barrel this year from $64.78 a barrel in 2018.

Net debt-to-GDP is projected to dip to 14.7 percent at the end of 2019-20 from 14.8 percent in the current fiscal year. It had climbed each year from 5.5 percent in 2014-15.

On Tuesday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government presented its 2019-20 budget, which lavished new spending on middle-class voters ahead of a federal election in October. ($1 = 1.3303 Canadian dollars) (Reporting by Fergal Smith in Toronto; Editing by Dan Grebler and Peter Cooney)

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