Lebanon crisis, Saudi privatisation law, vaccine latest

The long-running crisis in Lebanon hit a fresh low this week and, with the formation of a new government nowhere in sight, conditions are unlikely to improve any time soon. Elsewhere, the passing of a new privatisation law in Saudi Arabia adds to the efforts to attract foreign investment into the Kingdom, but more still needs to be done to get anywhere close to targets laid out in Vision 2030. And finally, COVID-19 vaccination programmes have been stepped in parts of the region over the past week or so which, if sustained, should mean restrictions are lifted sooner.
James Swanston Middle East and North Africa Economist
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Middle East Economic Outlook

Gulf to drive a pick-up in regional growth in 2022

The recovery across the Middle East and North Africa is likely to gather pace this year, due in large part to the Gulf where rising oil output will cause GDP growth to pick up to rates well above current consensus expectations. Recoveries elsewhere are likely to lag behind amid a slow return of tourists and fiscal austerity. In Tunisia, though, fiscal consolidation is unlikely to be enough to avoid a sovereign default. Elsewhere, we think that concerns about Dubai’s corporate debt could resurface this year too.

25 January 2022

Middle East Economics Weekly

Oil prices, UAE drone attack, Gulf monetary tightening

The recent upwards revision to our oil price forecast means that the window for looser fiscal policy in the Gulf will remain open for a little longer than we anticipated. One of the factors driving oil higher this week was the Houthi drone strike in the UAE, which highlighted the risks to the Emirates’ recovery – particularly the tourism sector. Finally, central banks in the Gulf will have to follow the Fed in tightening monetary policy – which now seems likely to start in March. That will add a headwind to non-oil sectors.

20 January 2022

Middle East Economics Weekly

Oil and Gulf fiscal policy, Egypt joins GBI-EM, Tunisia

We think that the recent rally in oil prices is likely to be short lived and, as prices fall back, the window for governments in the Gulf to loosen fiscal policy will shut. Elsewhere, Egypt’s inclusion in JP Morgan’s GBI-EM bond index at the end of the month could boost capital inflows, but also cause external imbalances to increase. Finally, despite some support from Saudi Arabia this week, the Tunisian government will still need to pass much-needed fiscal consolidation to repair its balance sheets. Otherwise, it will continue to edge closer to a sovereign default.

13 January 2022

More from James Swanston

Middle East Data Response

Egypt Consumer Prices (Jun.)

Egypt’s headline inflation rate edged up to 4.9% y/y in June and is likely to increase further over the coming months. Against this backdrop, we think the Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) will keep interest rates on hold until later in the year.

8 July 2021

Middle East Data Response

Whole Economy PMIs (Jun.)

June’s whole economy PMIs for the Gulf were a mixed bag, although one common thread was that weaker external demand offset a pick up in domestic demand. Strong vaccine rollouts mean that most virus restrictions will be lifted in the coming months, paving the way for a further pick-up in domestic activity.

5 July 2021

Middle East Economics Weekly

Saudi transport & labour market, Egypt CA deficit

The National Transport and Logistics Strategy launched in Saudi Arabia this week is the latest effort to boost the Kingdom’s non-oil sector, but it will raise more concerns whether resources are being misallocated. Meanwhile, the Kingdom’s unemployment rate fell further in Q1, which has been mostly driven by improving labour market outcomes for Saudi women – an encouraging sign that social reforms are having positive effect. Elsewhere, the widening of Egypt’s current account deficit to its highest level in nearly four years in Q1 reinforces our concerns that the pound is looking overvalued.

1 July 2021
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