Kingdom imports 80% of food products

Updated 19 April 2014
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Kingdom imports 80% of food products

Saudi Arabia is importing 80 percent of its food requirements from foreign countries while the remaining 20 percent of foods are locally produced, local media said quoting a report released by the World Bank.
On average, the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) countries are importing 90 percent of food products from other countries. Qatar topped the GCC in terms of their dependence on foreign imports at 97 percent, followed by Bahrain at 92 percent, Kuwait (91 percent), and the UAE and Oman at 89 percent each, the report said.
Meanwhile, experts said political developments in Ukraine have a negative impact on the prices of agro commodities, as it produces 16 percent and 9 percent of global maize and wheat exports, respectively, the report said.
Accordingly, prices of maize and wheat have increased by 20 percent and 13.5 percent since the beginning of the current year, the report said.
On the other hand, the rate of self-sufficiency in the GCC countries is expected to drop in the next few years. The cost of supporting wheat production in Saudi Arabia exceeded SR5 billion annually in the period 1984-2000, the report said.
Poor soil condition, water scarcity and bad weather conditions have raised wheat production costs to become four times higher than global levels though the Kingdom remained the 6th largest wheat exporter in 1992, according to the report.
However, due to depletion of ground water by farmers, the Saudi authorities were forced to abandon the policy of increasing domestic production and, accordingly, production began to decline as from 2008 and expected to cease fully by 2016, the report said.
Taking into consideration the above facts, development of a sustainable agro sector is highly costly and ineffective, and the GCC countries have to look for other alternatives to increase food security, the exports said.
Among these alternatives are storing food products and acquisition of agro lands outside the region. Africa, notably the Sudan, captured the concern of investors, be they individuals or corporate.
The GCC investors purchased more than 2 million hectares of lands in the Sudan between 2006 and 2012, or three times of lands they bought in Australia, the second largest recipient of Gulf investments, the report said.


Lebanese PM: new budget start of “a long road” to economic safety

Updated 26 May 2019
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Lebanese PM: new budget start of “a long road” to economic safety

  • Lebanese PM said the new budget is only the start of the changes for the country
  • Lebanon has one of the biggest debts in the world

BEIRUT: The Lebanese draft state budget for 2019 is the start of a “long road” and shows Lebanon is determined to tackle public sector waste, Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri said, after his unity cabinet wrapped up marathon talks on the plan.
The budget finalized by the government on Friday cuts the deficit to 7.5% of GDP from 11.5% in 2018. It is seen as a critical test of Lebanon’s will to launch reforms that have been put off for years by a state riddled with corruption and waste.
“The 2019 budget is not the end. This budget is the beginning of a long road that we decided to take in order to lead the Lebanese economy to safety,” Hariri said in a speech at a Ramadan iftar meal on Saturday.
Lebanon’s bloated public sector is its biggest expense, followed by the cost of servicing a public debt equal to some 150% of GDP, one of the world’s heaviest debt burdens.
The government, which groups nearly all of Lebanon’s main political parties, met 19 times to agree on the budget. Hariri said the budget for 2020 would not take that much time “because now we know what we want to do.”
“The 2019 budget is the beginning of the process of what we want to do in 2020, 2021, 2022 and 2023,” he said, according to a transcript of his remarks sent by his office.
The cabinet is due to meet on Monday at the presidential palace to formally seal the process before the budget is referred to parliament.
The budget could help unlock some $11 billion in financing pledged at a Paris donors’ conference last year for infrastructure investment, if it wins the approval of donor countries and institutions.
Hariri said the budget was a message to the Lebanese, financial markets and friendly foreign states that Lebanon was determined to “address the weakness, imbalance and squander in the public sector.”
Measures to rein in the public sector wage bill include a three-year freeze in all types of state hiring and a cap on extra-salary bonuses. State pensions will also be taxed.
A big chunk of the deficit cut stems from tax increases including a 2% import tax and a hike in tax on interest payments.
The government also plans to cut some $660 million from the debt servicing bill by issuing treasury bonds at a 1% interest rate to the Lebanese banking sector.
Fears the budget would lead to cuts to state salaries, pensions or benefits triggered weeks of strikes and protests by public sector workers and military veterans.