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.


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.