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.


OPEC nears oil output deal ahead of key Vienna meeting

Updated 17 min 31 sec ago
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OPEC nears oil output deal ahead of key Vienna meeting

VIENNA: OPEC energy ministers expressed optimism Thursday they were nearing a compromise on oil output policy, with Saudi Arabia acknowledging that a big production hike would be “politically unacceptable” to archfoe Iran.
OPEC and non-OPEC partner countries are due to hold crunch talks in Vienna on Friday and Saturday to decide the fate of an 18-month-old supply-cut pact that has cleared a global oil glut and lifted crude prices to multi-year highs.
Saudi Arabia, backed by non-member Russia, is now racing to convince the alliance to raise production again in order to meet growing demand in the second half of 2018.
Adding an extra one million barrels per day to the market “sounds like a good target to work with,” Saudi Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih said at a seminar organized by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).
Regional rival Iran however is fiercely opposed to unwinding the agreed production curbs, as its oil industry is bracing for fresh sanctions following US President Donald Trump’s decision to quit the international nuclear pact.
Several other OPEC members, including Venezuela and Iraq, are also against major changes to the pact as they are unable to immediately boost production.
Signaling that positions might be softening, Saudi’s Falih acknowledged that “not every country can respond to an allocation of higher production” and said it was important to be “sensitive” to those concerns.
Allowing countries like dominant player Saudi Arabia to make up for the shortfalls of other members “may be a technical solution but it may not be politically acceptable to others,” he said at the Vienna seminar.
As the clock ticks down to the upcoming ministerial meetings, a face-saving compromise appeared to be in the works.
“We hope that there will be an agreement,” Iraqi Oil Minister Jabbar Al-Luaibi told reporters.
“Iraq is trying very hard to narrow the gap between the two blocs.”
UAE Energy Minister Suhail Mohammed Al-Mazrouei added: “I am very optimistic.”
Observers say the participating countries could simply agree to stop exceeding their quotas for cutbacks, and stick to the agreed target of trimming production by 1.8 million barrels per day (bpd).
The 24 nations in the pact, known as OPEC+, are currently keeping more than two million bpd off the market.
Most of the shortfall has come from Venezuela, where an economic crisis has savaged the nation’s petroleum production.
Output has also plummeted in Libya, where fighting between rival factions has damaged key oil infrastructure.