Top marks for economic reforms as Vision 2030 boosts confidence

Updated 08 August 2016
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Top marks for economic reforms as Vision 2030 boosts confidence

JEDDAH: The International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) encouraging assessment underscores the Saudi government's commitment to fiscal discipline and comes two years after it warned of the Kingdom's fiscal ruin, a top economist told Arab News Sunday.
“It's encouraging that the IMF sees a lower fiscal deficit albeit low growth for 2016 and 2017,” said John Sfakianakis, director of economic research at the Gulf Research Center.
“Saudi Arabia has embarked on the largest economic reform project over the last decades which the IMF acknowledges undoubtedly given its depth and breadth for an oil dominant economy,” Sfakianakis said.
A senior Saudi economist added that the Kingdom’s economy is stabilizing after the government implemented pivotal reforms.
Saudi Vision 2030 and the National Transformation Program (NTP) 2020 have made international financial institutions such as the IMF to change their views of the Kingdom’s economic progress, Said Al-Shaikh, chief economist at the National Commercial Bank, told Arab News.
“Over the course of 2016, several initiatives have been introduced, such as establishing of an SME commission and a venture capital fund besides passing of several laws including commercial laws,” the economist added.
In a recent report, Al-Rajhi Capital Research said the IMF expects the Saudi economy to stabilize its GDP growth to 2.25 percent, implying steady improvement over the next couple of years (1.2 percent in 2016).
Speaking to Bloomberg recently, Tim Callen, the IMF’s Saudi mission chief, commented: “The fiscal adjustment is under way. The government is very serious in bringing about that fiscal adjustment.
Callen added: “We’re happy with the progress that’s being made.”
In a related development, economists said that second-quarter earnings in Saudi Arabia’s petrochemical industry beat expectations as producers reaped the benefits of volatile oil prices.


Dubai real estate market recovery to be seen as of 2022: S&P

Updated 20 February 2019
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Dubai real estate market recovery to be seen as of 2022: S&P

  • The outlook on property was part of a challenging assessment of the credit-worthiness of the emirate
  • S&P was generally comfortable with the credit ratings of the emirate’s banking system

DUBAI: S&P Global, the ratings agency, painted a grim picture for the real estate sector in Dubai, with a meaningful recovery in property prices expected only after 2022.
At a presentation to journalists in the Dubai International Financial Center, S&P analyst Sapna Jagtiani said that under the firm’s “base case scenario,” the Dubai real estate market would fall by between 5 and 10 percent this year, roughly the same as the fall in 2018, which would bring property prices to the levels seen at the bottom of the last cycle in 2010, in the aftermath of the global financial crisis.
“On the real estate side we continue to have a very grim view of the market. While we expect prices to broadly stabilize in 2020, we don’t see a meaningful recovery in 2021. Relative to the previous recovery cycle, we believe it will take longer time for prices to display a meaningful recovery,” she said.
S&P’s verdict adds to several recent pessimistic assessments of the Dubai real estate market. Jagtiani said that conditions in the other big UAE property market, in Abu Dhabi, were not as negative, because “Abu Dhabi never did ramp up as much in 2014 and 2015 as Dubai.” S&P does not rate developers in the capital.
She added that a “stress scenario” could arise if government and royal family related developers — such as Emaar Properties, Meraas, Dubai Properties and Nakheel — which have attractive land banks and economies of scale, continue to launch new developments.
“In such a scenario, we think residential real estate prices could decline by 10-15 percent in 2019 and a further 5-10 percent in 2020. In this case, we expect no upside for Dubai residential real estate prices in 2021, as we expect it will take a while for the market to absorb oversupply,” she said.
S&P recently downgraded Damac, one of the biggest Dubai-based developers, to BB- rating, on weak market prospects.
However, Jagtiani said that, despite the “significant oversupply” from existing projects, several factors should held stabilize the market: Few, if any, major product launches; improved affordability and “bargain hunting” by bulk buyers; and a resurgence of Asian, especially Chinese, investor interest in the market.
Jagtiani also said that government measures such as new ownership and visa regulations and reduction in government fees could help prevent prices falling more sharply, as well as “increased economic activity related to Dubai Expo 2020, which is expected to attract about 25 million visitors to the emirate.”
The outlook on property was part of a challenging assessment of the credit-worthiness of the emirate. “In our view, credit conditions deteriorated in Dubai in 2018, reducing the government’s ability to provide extraordinary financial support to its government related entities (GREs) if needed,” S&P said in a report. “The negative outlook on Dubai Electricity and Water
Authority (DEWA) partly reflects our concern that a real estate downturn beyond our base case could out increased pressure on government finances,” the report said.
It pointed out that about 70 percent of government revenues come from non-tax sources, including land transfer and mortgage registration fees, as well as charges for housing and municipality liabilities, as well as dividends from real estate developers it controls, like Emaar and Nakheel.
S&P was generally comfortable with the credit ratings of the emirate’s banking system, which has an estimated 20 percent exposure to real estate. “Banks in the UAE tend to generally display a good level of profitability and capitalization, giving them a good margin to absorb a moderate increase in risks,” the report said.