Middle East

Tunisia

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

Oil rallies, Bahrain VAT hike, Tunisia gets a new PM

The price of oil hit its highest level in nearly three years this week and, combined with rising oil output, will help support an improvement in budget and current account positions in the Gulf. This could open the door for some governments to loosen fiscal policy. Bahrain looks set to be an exception and tighten policy by doubling the rate of VAT. Elsewhere, Tunisia’s President Kais Saied unveiled his prime minister nearly two months after his power grab. Even if a new government is formed soon, there is growing concern that addressing Tunisia’s poor public finances is not on the agenda.

30 September 2021

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.

28 September 2021
More Publications

Qatar gas, Morocco FX purchases, Tunisian turmoil

The continued rise in global gas prices will provide a substantial boost to Qatar's export revenues and provide scope for policymakers to loosen the purse strings to support the economic recovery. Elsewhere, moves by Morocco’s central bank suggest that the currency could appreciate further. Finally, Tunisia’s President Kais Saied's moves on Wednesday add to signs that his power grab is leading to a one-man rule. This will reinforce concerns about the future of Tunisia’s democracy and the government’s capacity to service its debts.

Debt risks come back to the fore

Problems at Evergrande in China have dominated the headlines recently, but (sovereign) debt risks are brewing in other EMs too. Concerns about higher government spending and rising public debt levels are building in parts of Latin America. Meanwhile, sovereign dollar bond spreads have surged in a handful of frontier markets including Sri Lanka, Tunisia and Ethiopia. These economies all face the worrying combination of large external foreign-currency debt burdens, low FX reserves and weakening currencies. We are most worried about Sri Lanka. While the country will probably muddle through this year, it will face a crunch point in early 2022 when large bond repayments are due. A default is now looking the most likely option.

Evergrande & frontier sovereign debt risks build

The combination of large foreign-currency debt burdens, low FX reserves and weakening currencies means that the risk of sovereign defaults in Sri Lanka and Tunisia is growing. Elsewhere, China’s largest property developer, Evergrande, appears to be close to collapse, which would cause large losses for banks and bondholders. Were this to cause stress in the banking sector, the government would ultimately step in to restore stability. Elsewhere, banking sectors in Turkey, India and the UAE are points of concern.

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.

Egypt’s COVID outbreak, Tunisia’s president tightens grip

Fears are growing that Egypt is on the cusp of a fresh wave of COVID-19 driven by the Delta variant, but past experience suggests that restrictions will remain light touch and there is growing hope that the vaccine rollout will speed up in the coming months. Elsewhere, Tunisia’s President Kais Saied appears to be tightening his grip on power and leading the country back towards autocracy. As well as the risk that this pushes Tunisia closer to a debt restructuring, the fresh erosion of the country’s institutions will weigh on long-term economic prospects.

1 to 8 of 16 publications
See More ↓