Inter-GCC trade exchange hits SR431 billion in 2015

Updated 08 December 2016
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Inter-GCC trade exchange hits SR431 billion in 2015

RIYADH: The volume of trade between the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries rose to SR431.25 billion ($115 billion) in 2015, compared to SR22.5 billion in 1984, according to a report by the GCC Secretariat General.
The establishment of the GCC Customs Union in 2003 contributed to the rapid growth of the inter-GCC trade, the report said.
In the last 10 years, the volume of the inter-GCC trade rose from SR56.25 billion ($15 billion) in 2002 to SR431.25 billion in 2015, or an increase of 657 percent, the report said.
From the early years of the inception of the GCC Customs Union, the member states have worked to remove trade barriers and exempt GCC-produced commodities from customs duties and, instead, treated these products as national commodities, the report said.
In 1983, the GCC countries established a free-trade zone, which was developed into a customs union by the beginning of 2003.
Since then, a series of laws and policies have been implemented to facilitate flow of commodities and services between the GCC member countries.
These laws and policies have encouraged national products and activated the role of the private sector in the development of the GCC exports, the report said.
Other steps have considerably contributed to promote inter-GCC trade, the report said.
In a related development, the volume of non-oil trade between Saudi Arabia and other GCC countries hit nearly SR63.5 billion in the first nine months of the current year, according to data released by the General Authority of Statistics.
This figure represented the overall non-oil commodities exported to or imported by the Kingdom from the GCC countries, with a balance of more than SR6 billion in favor of Saudi Arabia.
Saudi exports of non-oil commodities to the GCC countries stood at SR34.79 billion while its imports from the GCC countries reached SR28.69 billion, the data showed.
Saudi non-oil exports to the GCC countries, meanwhile, represented 28.2 percent of the Kingdom’s total non-oil exports to other world countries, which stood at SR123.53 billion.  Likewise, Saudi non-oil imports from the GCC countries represented 7.5 percent of the Kingdom’s non-oil imports from other world countries, which stood at SR383.7 billion in the last nine months.
According to data, the Kingdom achieved a trade surplus with all GCC countries with the exception of the UAE with a deficit of SR1.66 billion.  
Saudi Arabia’s trade balance registered the highest rate with Qatar at SR3.82 billion, followed by Kuwait at SR3.8 billion.
Saudi Arabia’s non-oil trade exchange with the UAE registered the highest among the GCC countries at SR37.56 billion with exports worth SR18.1 billion and imports worth SR19.76 billion, or a deficit of SR1.66 billion. 
Saudi Arabia’s trade with the UAE represented nearly 60 percent of the Kingdom’s total trade with other GCC countries in the last nine months.
The volume of Saudi Arabia’s non-oil trade exchange with other GCC countries in the last nine months were as follows: Qatar SR5.7 billion (9 percent), Bahrain SR6.15billion (9.7 percent), Kuwait SR6.2 billion (9.8 percent), and Oman SR7.55 billion (11.9 percent), the report said.


Palestinians in financial crisis after Israel, US moves

Updated 22 March 2019
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Palestinians in financial crisis after Israel, US moves

  • A Ramallah-based economics professor said the Palestinian economy more generally, remain totally controlled by and reliant on Israel
  • Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts have been at a standstill since 2014

RAMALLAH, Palestinian Territories: The Palestinian Authority faces a suffocating financial crisis after deep US aid cuts and an Israeli move to withhold tax transfers, sparking fears for the stability of the West Bank.
The authority, headed by President Mahmud Abbas, announced a package of emergency measures on March 10, including halving the salaries of many civil servants.
The United States has cut more than $500 million in Palestinian aid in the last year, though only a fraction of that went directly to the PA.
The PA has decided to refuse what little US aid remains on offer for fear of civil suits under new legislation passed by Congress.
Israel has also announced it intends to deduct around $10 million a month in taxes it collects for the PA in a dispute over payments to the families of prisoners in Israeli jails.
In response, Abbas has refused to receive any funds at all, labelling the Israeli reductions theft.
That will leave his government with a monthly shortfall of around $190 million for the length of the crisis.
The money makes up more than 50 percent of the PA’s monthly revenues, with other funds coming from local taxes and foreign aid.

While the impact of the cuts is still being assessed, analysts fear it could affect the stability of the occupied West Bank.
“If the economic situation remains so difficult and the PA is unable to pay salaries and provide services, in addition to continuing (Israeli) settlement expansion it will lead to an explosion,” political analyst Jihad Harb said.
Abbas cut off relations with the US administration after President Donald Trump declared the disputed city of Jerusalem Israel’s capital in December 2017.
The right-wing Israeli government, strongly backed by the US, has since sought to squeeze Abbas.
After a deadly anti-Israeli attack last month, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he would withhold $138 million (123 million euros) in Palestinian revenues over the course of a year.
Israel collects around $190 million a month in customs duties levied on goods destined for Palestinian markets that transit through its ports, and then transfers the money to the PA.
Israel said the amount it intended to withhold was equal to what is paid by the PA to the families of prisoners, or prisoners themselves, jailed for attacks on Israelis last year.
Many Palestinians view prisoners and those killed while carrying out attacks as heroes of the fight against Israeli occupation.
Israel says the payments encourage further violence.
Abbas recently accused Netanyahu’s government of causing a “crippling economic crisis in the Palestinian Authority.”
The PA also said in January it would refuse all further US government aid for fear of lawsuits under new US legislation targeting alleged support for “terrorism.”

Finance Minister Shukri Bishara announced earlier this month he had been forced to “adopt an emergency budget that includes restricted austerity measures.”
Government employees paid over 2,000 shekels ($555) will receive only half their salaries until further notice.
Prisoner payments would continue in full, Bishara added.
Nasser Abdel Karim, a Ramallah-based economics professor, told AFP the PA, and the Palestinian economy more generally, remain totally controlled by and reliant on Israel.
The PA undertook similar financial measures in 2012 when Israel withheld taxes over Palestinian efforts to gain international recognition at the United Nations.
Abdel Karim said such crises are “repeated and disappear according to the development of the relationship between the Palestinian Authority and Israel or the countries that support (the PA).”
Israel occupied the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including now annexed east Jerusalem in the Six-Day War of 1967 and Abbas’s government has only limited autonomy in West Bank towns and cities.
“The problem is the lack of cash,” economic journalist Jafar Sadaqa told AFP.
He said that while the PA had faced financial crises before, “this time is different because it comes as a cumulative result of political decisions taken by the United States.”
Abbas appointed longtime ally Mohammad Shtayyeh as prime minister on March 10 to head a new government to oversee the crisis.
Abdel Karim believes the crisis could worsen after an Israeli general election next month “if a more right-wing Israeli government wins.”
Netanyahu’s outgoing government is already regarded as the most right-wing in Israel’s history but on April 9 parties even further to the right have a realistic chance of winning seats in parliament for the first time.
Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts have been at a standstill since 2014, when a drive for a deal by the administration of President Barack Obama collapsed in the face of persistent Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank.