IMF: Gulf economy recovering but faces oil volatility

The IMF welcomed the imposition of value-added tax by Saudi Arabia and the UAE. (AFP)
Updated 13 November 2018
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IMF: Gulf economy recovering but faces oil volatility

  • ‘The growth outlook for oil exporters remains subject to significant uncertainty about the future path of oil prices’
  • Oil revenues for MENA exporters have increased by about $260 billion over the period 2016 to 2018

DUBAI: Economic growth in the energy-rich Gulf will recover in 2018 from a contraction last year but remains vulnerable to volatility in crude oil prices, the IMF forecast on Tuesday.
The global lender predicted that an overall energy price recovery from 2015-2016 lows would spur the economies of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council to grow by 2.4 percent in 2018 and 3.0 percent in 2019, after a contraction of 0.4 percent last year.
Grouping Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, the GCC states together pump over 17 million barrels per day and depend heavily on crude revenues.
But “the growth outlook for oil exporters remains subject to significant uncertainty about the future path of oil prices,” the IMF said in its Regional Economic Outlook for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).
After their earlier extended recovery, oil prices have shed a fifth of their value in just one month, with Brent crude trading near its lowest price since April.
Growth in non-GCC oil exporters in MENA, which includes Iran, Iraq, Algeria and Libya, is projected to slow to 0.3 percent in 2018, from three percent the previous year, and pick up modestly to 0.9 percent in 2019, the IMF said.
“This largely reflects the expected impact of the re-imposition of US sanctions on Iran, which is likely to reduce Iranian oil production and exports significantly over the next two years at least,” the IMF said.
It projected Iran’s economy to shrink by 1.6 percent this year and 3.6 percent in 2019.
For oil-importing countries in MENA, growth is expected to continue at a modest pace of 4.5 percent in 2018, before dropping back to four percent next year, the IMF said.
This level of growth is not sufficient to create the required jobs for a region marred by instability and civil strife, it said.
Oil revenues for MENA exporters have increased by about $260 billion over the period 2016 to 2018.
This has mostly been due to a price rise generated by production cuts in nations belonging to OPEC, as well as non-OPEC producers.
The current account balance will turn from a deficit into a surplus and overall budget shortfalls will decline, the lender said.
The IMF urged GCC states to continue with and expand reforms, welcoming the imposition of value-added tax by Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
It also called on GCC countries to impose corporate and personal income tax in order to diversify their revenue streams.


Former Nissan chairman Ghosn appears in Tokyo court

Updated 7 min 17 sec ago
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Former Nissan chairman Ghosn appears in Tokyo court

  • It is the first of a series of hearings to iron out logistics for Carlos Ghosn’s actual trial
  • Nissan’s former chairman has hired a strong legal team as he fights to clear his name

TOKYO: Nissan’s former chairman, Carlos Ghosn, appeared in a Japanese courtroom Thursday for a hearing ahead of his trial on accusations of financial misconduct.
It was the first of a series of hearings to iron out logistics for Ghosn’s actual trial. The trial date has not been set, and experts say it could be months away.
Ghosn, who led the Japanese automaker for two decades, was arrested in November and charged with underreporting his income and breach of trust. He was released on bail in March, rearrested in April on fresh accusations and then released again on bail on April 25.
Ghosn insists he is innocent and says he was targeted in a “conspiracy” by others at Nissan Motor Co.
Nissan, which is allied with Renault of France, has seen profits nose-dive amid the fallout from Ghosn’s arrest.
Ghosn has hired a strong legal team as he fights to clear his name. One of his top lawyers, Junichiro Hironaka, was seen walking into the courtroom Thursday with Ghosn.
One of the conditions of Ghosn’s release on bail is that he is forbidden to contact his wife. Prosecutors say that’s to prevent evidence tampering.
Ghosn’s lawyers challenged that restriction, saying it is a violation of human rights, but the Supreme Court rejected their appeal Tuesday.
The lawyers can appeal again to have the restriction removed.
In a briefing Thursday, Deputy Chief Prosecutor Shin Kukimoto welcomed the Supreme Court’s decision.
“For married people to be together is important, but I feel there was enough reason for the Supreme Court to support us in this restriction,” he said.
Kukimoto declined comment on the hearing, which was closed to reporters and the public.
Kukimoto also said the maximum penalty upon conviction of all 15 counts of the charges Ghosn is facing is 15 years in prison and a fine of ¥150 million ($1.4 million).