Middle East

Egypt

Gulf to outperform

Economic recoveries in the Gulf will continue to gather pace over the coming year on the back of successful vaccine rollouts and higher oil output, and our GDP growth forecasts lie above the consensus. Outside the Gulf, though, recoveries are likely to be slower, particularly in the more tourism-dependent economies. We think a sovereign default in Tunisia is more likely than not, and we have long-standing worries about public debt in Bahrain and Oman as well as Dubai’s corporate debts.

19 October 2021

Egypt and UAE inflation, OPEC+, austerity in Algeria

Inflation figures for Egypt showed the headline rate jumped to a 20-month high in September and we think that this will delay a turn towards interest rate cuts. Elsewhere, the UAE emerged from deflation in August amid signs that the property sector has turned a corner. But disappointing news on the number of visitors to the World Expo reinforce our bearish view on the sector. Meanwhile, the rally in oil prices has ratcheted up the pressure on the OPEC+ to raise output quotas, which would most likely involve higher quotas for the Gulf. Finally, Algeria’s turn to fiscal austerity is unlikely to be enough to prevent a sharp devaluation in the coming years.

14 October 2021

OPEC+ fallout, Oman’s upgrade, TUI cancellations

The OPEC+ meeting this week triggered a rise in oil prices and, while we expect prices to fall by next year, rising production means that overall oil export revenues for the Gulf economies should increase in 2022. In turn, that will open the window for some governments to loosen fiscal policy. The exceptions to this are Oman and Bahrain. Although Oman had its outlook upgraded by S&P this week, both governments will still need to tighten fiscal policy further. Finally, the decision by travel company TUI to cancelled flights to Tunisia and Egypt until later this month highlights that recoveries in the tourism-dependent economies will be bumpy.

7 October 2021
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Egypt’s recovery facing several headwinds

Egypt’s economy has emerged from the COVID-19 crisis relatively well, but the country’s lagging vaccine rollout, a slow return of international tourists and tight fiscal policy mean that the recovery from here is likely to be slow-going. GDP is likely to be around 3% below its pre-virus trend by end-2023.

Whole Economy PMIs (Sep.)

September’s batch of whole economy PMIs showed that recoveries in non-hydrocarbon private sectors in Saudi Arabia and Qatar gathered pace as domestic activity strengthened on the back of easing virus restrictions. In contrast, recoveries in Egypt and the UAE appear to have eased a touch at the start of Q3.

Rise in inflation to prove short-lived

Inflation in many economies in the region has risen to multi-year highs in recent months. In general, this has been driven higher by a combination of unfavourable base effects from the pandemic, as well as some re-opening inflation and the effects of rising global commodity prices. In Oman, those effects have been compounded by the introduction of VAT in April. Most of the drivers appear to be transient and inflation is likely to slow again over 2022-23 and, in Egypt, this is likely to bring interest rate cuts back on to the agenda. One key exception is Lebanon, where inflation is already running at over 100% and will remain elevated amid the effects of the collapse in the pound and the repeal of subsidies.

Central Bank of Egypt keeps rates on hold for now

The Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) kept interest rates unchanged at Thursday’s MPC meeting amid rising price pressures. However, we still think that inflation will slow in the final months of this year and re-open the door for the CBE to resume its easing cycle.

17 September 2021

The pandemic and EM scarring risks

The pandemic is likely to inflict lasting damage on potential growth in economies in much of Latin America, Africa and South and Southeast Asia, adding to the structural headwinds that they already faced. However, the risk of permanent scarring in many other emerging markets – including much of East Asia and Emerging Europe – is overstated. In view of the wider interest, we have made this Emerging Markets Update available to clients of our Long Run Service

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