IMF reverses Iran growth, lifts Saudi forecast

Iranian MP's display their disagreement over the a bill to counter terrorist financing in parliament in Tehran on October 7, 2018. The International Monetary Fund on Tuesday predicted Iran’s economy will sink deep in the red due to renewed US sanctions. (AFP)
Updated 09 October 2018
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IMF reverses Iran growth, lifts Saudi forecast

  • Iran's oil-dependent economy is expected to shrink by 1.5 percent this year and by 3.6 percent in 2019
  • Saudi economy is expected to grow by 2.2 percent in 2018 and 2.4 percent next year

DUBAI: The International Monetary Fund on Tuesday predicted Iran’s economy will sink deep in the red due to renewed US sanctions but forecast increased Saudi growth on the back of higher oil production.
In its World Economic Outlook, the IMF said the oil-dependent economy of the Islamic republic is expected to shrink by 1.5 percent this year and by 3.6 percent in 2019.
In May, before US President Donald Trump announced reinstating sanctions against Tehran, the IMF had projected Iran’s economy would grow by 4.0 percent in 2018 and again next year.
The IMF said the Iranian economy was now expected to contract over the next two years “on account of reduced oil production, before returning to modest positive growth in 2020-23.”
Trump withdrew the United States from the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers in May, and his administration reimposed a round of sanctions on the Islamic republic in August.
Iranian crude exports, which reach some 2.5 million barrels per day normally, have plunged by over half a million bpd and are expected to dive further when expanded sanctions on oil take effect next month, depriving Tehran of its main source of income.
The IMF also sharply slashed growth forecasts for the whole Middle East and North Africa region due to the slump in the Iranian economy and increased energy costs.
It now projects the MENA region to grow by 2.0 percent this year and 2.5 percent in 2019, 1.2 percent and 1.1 percent lower, respectively, than it forecast in April.
“The downward revisions reflect to an important extent the worsening of growth prospects for Iran, following the reimposition of US sanctions,” it said.
The IMF, however, lifted its projections for economic growth in Saudi Arabia, the region’s biggest economy, and its oil-rich neighbors in the Gulf.
It said the Saudi economy, which contracted by 0.9 percent last year, is expected to grow by 2.2 percent in 2018 and 2.4 percent next year, raising previous projections by 0.5 percent.
The growth is being “driven by a pickup in non-oil economic activity and a projected increase in crude oil production in line” agreed by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and independent producers, the IMF said.
Oil prices, which account for about 80 percent of Saudi public income, have increased by more than 70 percent since June last year to over $80 a barrel.
The London-based Capital Economics think-tank said last week that revenues of Saudi Arabia and the five other Gulf states are expected to rise by $200 billion this year compared to 2017 due to high oil prices and output.


Libya’s National Oil against paying ‘ransom’ to reopen El Sharara field

Updated 14 December 2018
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Libya’s National Oil against paying ‘ransom’ to reopen El Sharara field

  • Ransom payment would set dangerous precedent
  • NOC declared force majeure on exports on Monday

BENGHAZI: Libya’s state-owned National Oil Corp. (NOC) said it was against paying a ransom to an armed group that has halted crude production at the country’s largest oilfield.
“Any attempt to pay a ransom to the armed militia which shut down El Sharara (oilfield) would set a dangerous precedent that would threaten the recovery of the Libyan economy,” NOC Chairman Mustafa Sanalla said in a statement on the company’s website.
NOC on Monday declared force majeure on exports from the 315,000-barrels-per-day oilfield after it was seized at the weekend by a local militia group.
The nearby El-Feel oilfield, which uses the same power supply as El Sharara, was still producing normally, a spokesman for NOC said, without giving an output figure. The field usually pumps around 70,000 bpd.
Since 2013 Libya has faced a wave of blockages of oilfields and export terminals by armed groups and civilians trying to press the country’s weak state into concessions.
Officials have tended to end such action by paying off protesters who demand to be added to the public payroll.
At El Sharara, in southern Libya, a mix of state-paid guards, civilians and tribesmen have occupied the field, camping there since Saturday, protesters and oil workers said. The protesters work in shifts, with some going home at night.
NOC has evacuated some staff by plane, engineers at the oilfield said. A number of sub-stations away from the main field have been vacated and equipment removed.
The occupiers are divided, with members of the Petroleum Facilities Guard (PFG) indicating they would end the blockade in return for a quick cash payment, oil workers say. The PFG has demanded more men be added to the public payroll.
The tribesmen have asked for long-term development funds, which might take time.
Libya is run by two competing, weak governments. Armed groups, tribesmen and normal Libyans tend to vent their anger about high inflation and a lack of infrastructure on the NOC, which they see as a cash cow booking billions of dollars in oil and gas revenues annually.