Saudi GDP growth speeds up in Q3, non-oil sector still slow

Riyadh earlier released a state budget for 2019 that would increase spending by 7 percent from this year’s actual level. (AFP)
Updated 31 December 2018

Saudi GDP growth speeds up in Q3, non-oil sector still slow

  • The Saudi economy has been hit hard in recent years by low oil prices and state austerity measures to curb a huge budget deficit
  • Growth in the non-oil sector slowed to 2.1 percent from 2.4 percent

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia’s economy grew in the third quarter at its fastest rate since early 2016, boosted by expansion of the oil sector while non-oil growth stayed sluggish, statistics agency data showed on Monday.
Gross domestic product grew 2.5 percent from a year earlier. That was an acceleration from the second quarter, when GDP rose 1.6 percent, and the fastest since the first quarter of 2016, when the same rate was registered.
The Saudi economy has been hit hard in recent years by low oil prices and state austerity measures to curb a huge budget deficit. In 2017, it shrank for the first time since the global financial crisis nearly a decade earlier.
Monday’s data suggested the recovery from that slump was still tentative. GDP growth picked up largely because of higher oil output. The oil sector expanded 3.7 percent from a year ago in the third quarter, after 1.3 percent in the second.
Growth in the non-oil sector, key for job creation and Saudi Arabia’s effort to diversify its economy, slowed to 2.1 percent from 2.4 percent.
Saudi officials have predicted a gradual acceleration of the non-oil economy next year. Bank lending to the private sector rose 2.3 percent from a year earlier in November, its fastest growth since 2016.
This month Riyadh released a state budget for 2019 that would increase spending by 7 percent from this year’s actual level. Investment spending and bonuses for state employees in the budget could revive the private sector.
But senior officials have refused to rule out further austerity steps next year, including a planned hike in fees for hiring foreign workers and a possible increase in domestic fuel prices. Such steps have weighed heavily on private sector firms.
Meanwhile, global producers agreed early this month to cut oil production in an attempt to prop up prices. Saudi Arabia said it would cut output in January by almost 5 percent from December, which would shrink the oil sector and dampen headline GDP growth.


Saudi defense contractor to invest up to $16 million to further localize services

Updated 18 November 2019

Saudi defense contractor to invest up to $16 million to further localize services

DUBAI: Saudi-based defense contractor Middle East Propulsion Company (MEPC) plans to invest between $13 million and $16 million over the next two years to build test cells for aircraft engines and establish new production lines.
These expansion activities should complement the company’s objective to localize high-tech repairs and combine them in one roof for the Saudi defense ministry, which is a major customer, CEO Abdullah Al-Omari told Arab News.
Instead of sending aircraft engines and engines modules overseas for further servicing, thus take up more time before military assets return to actual service, localization not only cuts the turn-around period but also reduces Saudi government spending for the repairs.
“We have accomplished more than 1,600 engine and engine modules [since 2001, they] have been maintained totally in Saudi Arabia,” Al-Omari said at the sidelines of the Dubai Airshow. “The engines consume 45 percent of what you spend on aircraft.”
The company works on 150 to 160 engines and engine modules every year.
MEPC is the first specialized MRO (maintenance, repair and overhaul) company operating in the Middle East, according to its website. It has invested over $26 million during the previous two years for the localization of its MRO services.
“We used to send these parts to outside, it takes 6 months to 24 months sometimes … in case of the Apache engines, minimum turn around is 24 months,” Al-Omari said, but their localization efforts have greatly improved their capability by cutting the turn-around period to only 150 days.
The speed at which MEPC is able to repair engines and modules, boosts the readiness of Saudi military, Al-Omari added.
The company is in talks with major defense contractors, including Honeywell for the Abrams talks and GE T700 engines, for possible tie-ups to further improve their capability, he said.
“Currently there is a potential with the Kuwait army to provide them with similar services [being delivered to the Saudi defense ministry],” Al-Omari said, and expects that cooperation would start “within the next two years or so.”