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.


Egypt banks step up anti-virus efforts

Updated 38 min 5 sec ago

Egypt banks step up anti-virus efforts

  • asures recommended by the Federation of Egyptian Banks also include a ban on face-to-face meetings.

CAIRO: Up to half of bank employees in Egypt will be encouraged to work from home under guidelines to counter a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic.

Measures recommended by the Federation of Egyptian Banks (FEB) also include a ban on face-to-face meetings.

In a letter to banks, the FEB said its guidelines were aimed at ensuring sustainable operations “in the current circumstances.”

Banks will continue to operate from 8.30 a.m. to 3 p.m. for the public and from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. for employees.

Previous guidelines were issued by the FEB on March 30 and April 5.

The federation's latest plan includes a follow-up on alternative workplaces to allow departments to continue working in cases of forced interruption.

The plan also issues strict instructions on wearing face masks in the workplace and while using the bank’s buses.

Employees also have been urged to follow precautionary measures while using public or private transport, and to avoid crowded places.

The FEB banned face-to-face meetings, replacing these with video conference meetings, and also underlined instructions to sanitize all surfaces using alcohol-based sanitizers, to regularly sanitize all workplaces at weekends, to provide sanitizers in areas that host employees and clients, and to regularly sanitize all main elevators.

Office boys and janitors have been instructed to wear face masks and to use paper cups instead of glass or metal ones.

The FEB said it will continue to post awareness videos and statements on combating the coronavirus.

It has urged banks to use e-payments, to continue banning delivery persons from entering the workplace, to continue halting the delivery of daily newspapers and magazines, and to continue temperature testing by security officials at workplace entrances.