Saudi economy grows 1.15% in the first quarter on rising oil prices

The growth report comes as Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman pushes a package of sweeping economic and social reforms in the kingdom. Above, the spectators in Jeddah prior to the 2018 FISE World Series tour last March. (AFP)
Updated 01 July 2018
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Saudi economy grows 1.15% in the first quarter on rising oil prices

  • Oil sector grows by 0.6 percent in the first quarter of 2018
  • Non-oil sector - the focus of economic reforms - grows by 1.6 percent

DUBAI: The Saudi Arabian economy bounced back into growth mode in the first quarter of this year, according to National Accounts figures from the General Authority for Statistics.

Gross domestic product (GDP) saw a 1.2 percent rise in the three months to the end of March, compared with the same period last year. This improvement follows four consecutive quarters of falling GDP, or recession, the Authority said.

“This indicates a recovery in the Saudi economy following the slowdown in 2017. Moreover, it is evidence of the resilience of the Saudi economy and its ability to recover from both the reduction in oil prices and the structural reforms,” it added.

The recovery came as a result of the accelerated growth both in the oil and non-oil sectors. The oil sector grew by 0.6 percent in the first quarter of 2018, as global oil prices continued to recover from the declines that began four years ago. The comparable figure in 2017 was a decline of 4.3 percent in oil GDP.

The non-oil sector, which has been the focus of policymaker’s initiatives at stimulus and expansionary budgeting, grew by 1.6 percent in the first quarter of 2018 compared to 1.3 percent in 2017.

“The main drivers behind the recovery was growth in the non-oil manufacturing and mining sectors by 4.6 percent and 6.3 percent, respectively. Moreover, pursuant to Vision 2030, these sectors are expected to lead the Kingdom’s future economic growth,” the Authority said.

Government services and financial services sectors also played a role in the non-oil sector growth. The government services sector grew by 3.4 percent, compared to 3.2 percent last year, while the financial services sector grew by 2.1 percent compared to 0.8 percent.

“The growth in both sectors is expected to continue rising due to listing the Saudi stock market in the MSCI as well as implementation of financial sector program initiatives,” the Authority added.

The Tadawul All Share Index ended the day 0.31 percent ahead at 8339.86 points, near its high for the year. Brent crude, the other crucial indicator for the Kingdom, is just short of $80 a barrel.

Activity in the construction sector continued to decline, but at a slower pace than last year — 2.4 percent compared to 3.5 percent, reflecting the completion of several major projects.

The retail and hospitality sectors contracted by 0.5 percent in the first quarter, compared to a growth by 1.4 percent in the final quarter in 2017. “This is expected behavior which came as a result of more rationalized spending for households due to implementation of value added tax,” the Authority said.

Monica Malik, chef economist at Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank, told Reuters: “To some degree we’re likely to return to Saudi Arabia’s old model of growth this year, with rising oil exports feeding through into the rest of the economy. Structural reforms to create other sources of growth may have an impact in coming years, but don’t look like they will be in time to have an effect this year.”


Aston Martin unveils ‘sports car for the skies’ at Farnborough Airshow

Updated 54 min 56 sec ago
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Aston Martin unveils ‘sports car for the skies’ at Farnborough Airshow

  • The Volante Vision Concept design has vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) capabilities and will be able to hit speeds of around 200mph
  • Aston Martin believes it could corner the market for luxury flying vehicles in the future

FARNBOROUGH: James Bond would love it. Aston Martin, maker of the luxury sports cars favored by the fictional British spy, has now come up with a futuristic personal aircraft it has dubbed “a sports car for the skies.”
Aston Martin unveiled the three-seater hybrid-electric vehicle this week at the Farnborough Airshow and, though the concept remains for now the stuff of science fiction, believes it could help one day to revolutionize travel.
The Volante Vision Concept design has vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) capabilities and will be able to hit speeds of around 200 miles per hour (322 kph), “so you can go from the center of Birmingham to the center of London in about 30 minutes,” Aston Martin’s Simon Sproule told Reuters.
Aviation and technology leaders are working to make electric-powered flying taxis a reality, including Airbus, US ride-sharing firm Uber and a range of start-ups including one backed by Google co-founder Larry Page, called Kitty Hawk.
Aston Martin believes it could corner the market for luxury flying vehicles in the future.
“The same way that you have Uber and you have an Aston Martin, you’ll have ‘Uber in the skies’ and you’ll have ‘Aston Martin in the skies’,” said Sproule, adding that such an aircraft won’t come cheap.
“This is clearly a luxury object — it’s a sports car for the skies — so pricing is going to be commensurate with that, so certainly into the seven figures.”

“FEELS LIKE A FIGHTER JET”
The company has partnered with Cranfield University, Cranfield Aerospace Solutions and British jet engine maker Rolls-Royce to develop the concept vehicle, including artificial intelligence-powered autonomous capabilities.
“It feels like a fighter jet but at the same time it has the Aston Martin luxury,” said David Debney, chief of future aircraft concepts at Rolls-Royce.
Commenting on how to pilot the vehicle, Cranfield’s Helen Atkinson said: “You’ve got to detect what’s going on in the external environment and then turn that around incredibly quickly in the computer system with the artificial intelligence built in to actually achieve the necessary level of autonomy.”
Separately at Farnborough, Rolls-Royce unveiled plans for a flying taxi — an electric vertical take-off and landing (EVTOL) vehicle which could carry four to five people at speeds of up to 250 miles (400 km) per hour for approximately 500 miles.
The company said it was starting a search for partners to help develop a project it hopes could take to the skies as soon as early next decade.