Middle East

Lebanon

Lebanon finally gets a government, Saudi education plans

The news that Lebanon finally formed a new government this week came as welcome relief amid the country’s economic, political and humanitarian crises. But there are still plenty of big hurdles to clear before the country emerges from its crisis. Elsewhere, the Saudi government is set to launch reform of the Kingdom’s education sector – an area of Vision 2030 we have long argued had been lagging.

16 September 2021

Gulf countries move to lift containment measures

High levels of vaccine coverage have paved the way for policymakers across the Gulf to lift measures to contain COVID-19 over the past month or so. The UAE remains ahead of the pack in the vaccine race and has started to deliver booster jabs in recent weeks. Vaccine rollouts elsewhere in the Gulf have gathered pace and most countries have now inoculated upwards of 60 out every 100 people with at least one dose. Easing restrictions, coming alongside rising oil production and higher oil prices providing scope for fiscal policy to be loosened, means that economic recoveries in the Gulf are likely to gather pace over the rest of this year and into 2022.

26 August 2021

OPEC+ agreement provides a boost to Gulf recoveries

The end of the impasse within OPEC+ this month will result in higher oil output and boost recoveries in the Gulf over the second half of this year and in 2022. Output quotas will rise by 400,000bpd each month after the UAE backed down in return for having its baseline production raised from next year. More supply on the market is likely to weigh on oil prices, but we think that the impact on Gulf oil export revenues will be more than offset by rising production volumes. As a result, budget and account positions in the Gulf will improve, providing policymakers with a small window to loosen fiscal policy and support recoveries in the region’s non-oil sectors.

28 July 2021
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A two-speed recovery

Strong COVID-19 vaccine rollouts in most of the Gulf and Morocco mean that remaining virus restrictions should be lifted by the end of this year, providing a boost to recoveries that, in the Gulf, will be turbo-charged by the recent OPEC+ deal to raise oil output. Elsewhere, though, vaccination programmes are progressing more slowly and fresh virus outbreaks will remain a key threat to the outlook. At the same time, many of these economies will suffer as international tourists return only slowly and officials turn back to fiscal consolidation in order to address high public debt-to-GDP ratios.

Higher oil prices to help narrow twin deficits

The price of oil has continued to rise and will help to improve balance sheets in the Gulf. With oil prices at $75pb, all Gulf economies with the exceptions of Bahrain and Oman are likely to be running current account surpluses, having run deficits in 2020. Budget deficits will have narrowed too and this may open the door to looser fiscal policy. Indeed, there have been signs recently that policymakers in Kuwait, Oman and Saudi Arabia are moving in this direction. However, we expect that the price of oil will fall later in the year, meaning that the window to raise spending may be limited.

The latest on COVID-19 and vaccines in MENA

Virus numbers have fallen in the past few months in the MENA region and a rapid vaccine rollout should allow most of the Gulf economies, as well as Morocco, to lift restrictions further over the second half of the year. Elsewhere in the region, where the vaccine rollout is much slower, containment measures will stay in place for longer and the key summer tourist season will be lost for the second year in a row.

The impact of the Beirut blast

The major blast in Beirut yesterday has severe humanitarian consequences, and the incident threatens to deepen the country’s economic and political crises.

5 August 2020

Lebanon’s crisis goes from really bad to even worse

Lebanon’s government has made little progress with its economic rescue plan and there’s a growing likelihood that the sovereign debt and currency crises already underway will ultimately lead to series of bank failures. We already expected the economy to contract by around 12% this year, but the risks are increasingly skewed towards an even steeper downturn.

15 June 2020
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