Quality of Saudi growth spreads to more sectors

Quality of Saudi growth spreads to more sectors
Updated 03 July 2014

Quality of Saudi growth spreads to more sectors

Quality of Saudi growth spreads to more sectors

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s economic growth eased to an annual rate of 4.7 percent in the first three months of 2014 as labor market measures curbed activity in some sectors, but the expansion was still stronger and more widespread than growth a year ago, data showed.
Economic growth in the Kingdom reached 5.0 percent in October-December, the fastest pace since the third quarter of 2012.
“It is certainly the change in the labor market affecting the annual growth,” said Fahad Al-Turki, head of research at Jadwa Investment in Riyadh.
“(But) the quality of growth is improving. It’s spread over more sectors than the top three.”
On a quarterly basis, inflation-adjusted gross domestic product growth accelerated to 3.4 percent, the fastest clip in a year, from 2.7 percent in the previous quarter, the Central Statistics Office data show.
Economic growth is usually at its most robust early in the year, when the weather is at its most favorable and few public holidays halt work.
Overall, the nonoil private sector growth slowed to 4.4 percent year-on-year from 6.2 percent in the previous quarter, the slowest pace in at least a decade, analysts said.
Around a million foreign workers left Saudi Arabia last year after a crackdown on visa irregularities as a part of labor reforms aimed at putting more Saudi nationals into jobs.
Another reason for the slowdown may be that households balance sheets are stretched after a surge in consumer borrowing over the past few years, said William Jackson, emerging markets economist at Capital Economics in London.
In the first quarter, growth in all three sectors that relied on cheap foreign labor — construction, retail and transport — slowed markedly from a year ago.
For example, construction output growth shrank to 5.6 percent in January-March, the slowest pace since end-2012 and down from 9.9 percent in the final three months of 2013.
Manufacturing, however, grew 6.5 percent, the fastest pace in two years and up from 4.0 percent in October-December, as new investment projects come on stream.
In the Kingdom’s north, Saudi Arabian Mining Co, or Maaden, is in the middle of a large $9 billion project that includes a phosphate mine, several major processing facilities, smaller downstream factories and a residential area.
Crude oil sector output, which accounts for almost half of the $748 billion Saudi economy, quickened to an annual 5.8 percent in the first quarter, the fastest rate since mid-2012, from 4.1 percent in the previous three months.
“This effect is likely to be weaker in the third and fourth quarter as the base is higher,” said Khatija Haque, head of MENA research at Emirates NBD. “Nonoil growth should pick up in the coming quarters, however.”
Saudi Arabia may raise oil output in the second half of the year to meet expected higher seasonal demand, despite Libya’s deal with rebels to resume oil exports. Iraq’s exports are unaffected by the security situation, but any disruption in crude supplies would put the onus on Riyadh to lift output.
In a separate survey, the Saudi purchasing managers index (PMI) rose to a five-month high in June, suggesting that activity in the non-oil sector have stabilized in the second quarter.
“In practice, though, it has been difficult to square the upbeat readings from the PMI with the more downbeat activity data,” Jackson said.
“Putting all of this together, we think overall Saudi GDP growth is likely to slow further, averaging around 3.5-4.0 percent over the next year or so,” he said.
A Reuters poll in April forecast the Saudi economic growth would ease to 3.8 percent in 2014 from 4.0 percent last year and then accelerate to 4.3 percent in 2015.
In Bahrain, real economic growth slowed to 3.1 percent year-on-year in the first quarter, the weakest performance since end-2012, and to a quarterly 0.1 percent, a separate data showed.
Oman saw its nominal GDP expand by an annual 4.6 percent in January-March as an 8.3 percent rise in non-oil activity offset a 0.2 percent contraction in the hydrocarbon sector, data also showed on Thursday.

Oman becomes fourth GCC country to introduce VAT

Oman becomes fourth GCC country to introduce VAT
Updated 16 April 2021

Oman becomes fourth GCC country to introduce VAT

Oman becomes fourth GCC country to introduce VAT
  • Tax starts April 16 at 5%
  • Zero-rated items include essential foodstuffs

OMAN: Oman introduced a 5 percent value-added tax (VAT) on Friday, the fourth Gulf Cooperation Council country to implement a so-called consumption tax.

It followed the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. Saudi Arabia tripled its VAT rate to 15 percent last July to help fund its coronavirus relief efforts.

Oman has predicted it will raise OMR400 million ($1.04 billion) from the tax this year, equivalent to 1.5 percent of GDP, as it looks to narrow a widening fiscal deficit.

In June 2016, all six GCC states signed the Common VAT Agreement, pledging to introduce a 5% VAT rate. Kuwait’s parliament has pushed back the implementation date several times but the International Monetary Fund said last year that it expects it to be introduced by 2022. Qatar is expected to go ahead with VAT in the second or third quarter of this year and is said to be close to finalizing its tax administration system, Dhareeba.

Omanis had 6 months to prepare for the introduction of VAT, which may be followed by the Gulf’s first income tax in the coming years.

Goods and services exempt from VAT include financial services, health care, education, local passenger transport, bare land, resale of residential real estate and residential rents. Zero-rated goods and services include all exports, basic foodstuffs, medicine and medical equipment, investment in gold, silver and platinum, crude oil and derivatives and natural gas, among certain transport goods.

ADNOC to explore potential of hydrogen market with India

ADNOC to explore potential of hydrogen market with India
Updated 16 April 2021

ADNOC to explore potential of hydrogen market with India

ADNOC to explore potential of hydrogen market with India
  • Key to hydrogen economy will be aligning supply and demand - Al Jaber

RIYADH: The Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) sees a potential market for hydrogen in public and private Indian companies to serve the country’s growing demand for energy and need for cleaner fuels, said Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, minister of industry and advanced technology and CEO of ADNOC.

“Today, India is one of our biggest and most important trading partners, particularly in the field of energy,” Al Jaber said during a high-level ministerial session at a virtual hydrogen roundtable on Thursday, WAM reported. “And as India’s demand for energy grows, we stand ready to help meet that demand by making the full portfolio of our products available to the Indian market.”

“Granted Hydrogen is still in its infancy, it could be a game-changer and a real opportunity to accelerate the broader energy transition, an opportunity that ADNOC and the UAE are well placed to capitalize on,” Al Jaber said. The “key to developing the hydrogen economy of the future will be aligning supply and demand,” he said.

ADNOC currently produces about 300,000 tons of hydrogen a year as part of its current industrial processes, and can become a major player in the developing blue hydrogen market, Al Jaber said.

The company is also exploring the potential of green Hydrogen through the Abu Dhabi Hydrogen Alliance, which was recently established by ADNOC, Mubadala Investment Company and ADQ, he said.

Sakani housing program served 70,000 families in the first quarter of 2021

Sakani housing program served 70,000 families in the first quarter of 2021
Updated 16 April 2021

Sakani housing program served 70,000 families in the first quarter of 2021

Sakani housing program served 70,000 families in the first quarter of 2021
  • Sakani beat target of 51,000 familes in Q1
  • Sakani announces launch of home finance app

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Sakani program helped 70,000 families in the first quarter of 2021, surpassing its target of serving 51,000 families.

Sakani was formed in 2017 by the Ministry of Housing and the Real Estate Development Fund with the aim of facilitating home ownership in the Kingdom through the creation of new housing stock, allocating plots and homes to nationals and financing their purchase. It has a goal of reaching 70% home ownership by 2030.

Sakani revealed the data at an event in Riyadh on Thursday where it announced the launch of an online home finance app, SPA reported.

The program aims to serve 220,000 Saudi families this year, through the creation of 50,000 housing units, facilitating the reservation of 30,000 residential land plots and arranging 140,000 real estate loans, said CEO Marwan Zawawi.

More than 66,000 financing contracts were signed in the first quarter of 2021, supported by SR40 billion, a 23 percent increase compared to the same period of 2020. This brings the total number of families benefiting from the subsidized mortgage since its inception in mid-2017 until the end of the first quarter of 2021, to more than 487,000 families in various regions of the Kingdom, said Mansour bin Madi, general supervisor of the Real Estate Development Fund.

Sakani has enabled more than 350 thousand families to own homes to date, Bin Madi said.

About 178 infrastructure projects covering 244 million square meters have been developed at a cost of more than SR8 billion, said National Housing Company CEO Mohammed bin Saleh Al-Bati.

“In 2017, housing options under construction were limited, but now developers are racing to obtain licenses,” said General Supervisor of Real Estate Development Deputyship at the Ministry of Housing, Sultan Al-Sheikh. “Reservation of residential units on new developments is often complete within a few days and in some cases hours.”

Oil rises above $67 in fifth day of gains on demand hopes

Oil rises above $67 in fifth day of gains on demand hopes
Updated 16 April 2021

Oil rises above $67 in fifth day of gains on demand hopes

Oil rises above $67 in fifth day of gains on demand hopes
  • Brent on track for weekly gain of about 7%
  • U.S., China economic recoveries bolster sentiment

LONDON: Oil rose above $67 a barrel on Friday, gaining for a fifth session, as a stronger demand outlook and signs of economic recovery in China and the United States offset rising COVID-19 infections in some other major economies.
China’s first-quarter gross domestic product jumped 18.3% year on year, official data showed on Friday. On Thursday figures showed a rise in US retail sales and a drop in unemployment claims.
“Given the improving outlook for the world’s two biggest economies, there is little chance of the market’s feel-good glow being extinguished any time soon,” said Stephen Brennock of oil broker PVM.
Brent crude rose 26 cents, or 0.4 percent, to $67.20 a barrel by 0950 GMT, heading for a weekly gain of about 7 percent. US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude added 16 cents, or 0.3 percent, to $63.62.
New US sanctions imposed on Russia, one of the world’s top oil producers, over alleged election interference and hacking could also support prices.
“Though they do not affect the oil sector directly, they could lead to higher financing costs and general uncertainty in trade with Russia,” said Eugen Weinberg of Commerzbank.
Helping the rally this week, the International Energy Agency and the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) both made upward revisions to oil demand growth forecasts for 2021.
Figures on Wednesday also showed US crude inventories fell by 5.9 million barrels.
Demand hopes offset concern about rising coronavirus cases in other big economies. India’s infection rate hit a record high while Germany’s chancellor on Friday said a third wave of the virus has the country in its grip.
Oil has recovered from pandemic-induced lows last year, helped by record cuts to oil output by OPEC and its allies, a group known as OPEC+.
Some of the OPEC+ cuts will be eased from May, with the group meeting on April 28 to consider further tweaks to the supply pact.

Ramadan harvest begins in Saudi Arabia’s city of roses

Ramadan harvest begins in Saudi Arabia’s city of roses
Updated 16 April 2021

Ramadan harvest begins in Saudi Arabia’s city of roses

Ramadan harvest begins in Saudi Arabia’s city of roses
  • Smallest vials sell for SR400 ($106).
  • Harvest falls during Ramadan this year

TAIF: Every spring, roses bloom in the western Saudi city of Taif, turning pockets of the Kingdom’s vast desert landscape a vivid and fragrant pink.
In April, they are harvested for the essential oil used to cleanse the outer walls of the sacred Kaaba in Makkah.
This year, the harvest falls during Ramadan.
Workers at the Bin Salman farm tend rose bushes and pick tens of thousands of flowers each day to produce rose water and oil, also prized components in the cosmetic and culinary industries.
The perfumed oil has become popular among the millions of Muslims who visit the Kingdom every year for pilgrimages.
Patterns of plants and flowers have long been part of Islamic art.
Known as the city of roses, with approximately 300 million blooms every year, Taif has more than 800 flower farms, many of which have opened their doors to visitors.
While workers pick flowers in the fields, others labor in sheds, filling and weighing baskets by hand.
The flowers are then boiled and distilled.
“We start boiling the roses on high heat until they are almost evaporated, and this takes around 30 to 35 minutes,” Khalaf Al-Tuweiri, who owns the Bin Salman farm, told AFP.
“After that we lower the heat for around 15 to 30 minutes until the distilling process starts, which lasts for eight hours.”
Once the oil floats to the top of the glass jars, the extraction process begins.
The oil is then extracted with a large syringe to fill different-sized vials, the smallest going for SR400 ($106).