Higher oil price is virtuous economic cycle for GCC

Higher oil price is virtuous economic cycle for GCC
If current price levels are maintained in the short to mid-term, the effect on regional economies would be significant, and could start to show as early as this year. (Reuters)
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Updated 18 March 2021

Higher oil price is virtuous economic cycle for GCC

Higher oil price is virtuous economic cycle for GCC
  • Budgets drawn up in December assumed an oil price of around $50 a barrel

DUBAI: Reducing overdependence on oil has long been the rationale of economic policymakers in Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states, but the fundamental importance of the revenue regional governments derive from crude exports is enduring.

New research from Farouk Soussa, economist at Goldman Sachs, shows just how important, especially in the current climate of rising oil prices.

Brent crude hit a year high recently, back above the $70 per barrel level it reached some time before the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic was officially declared, on the back of stringent supply control by the OPEC+ alliance.

The medium-term effect on government balances across the GCC from this level of prices is significant, mainly because governments have had only limited success in reducing their economic reliance on the commodity.

“On average, the proportion of government revenues coming directly from oil activities in the GCC has fallen by 20 percent of the total in the past decade, but remains high at 60 percent,” Soussa said in his research findings.

The notion of oil “breakeven” prices was a contentious one for some regional policymakers, but Soussa pointed out that they were a fact of economic life. “Breakevens are a function of broader policy parameters, such as government spending and oil production rates, but they are also a measure of the extent to which the exposure to oil prices is affected by diversification policies,” he said.

The breakeven price for fiscal budgets is calculated at $70 per barrel across the GCC, while the figure for external trade breakeven is lower, at around $50.

The three countries that have so far introduced VAT have seen the greatest success in diversifying their revenues, with Saudi Arabia outperforming its peers.

Farouk Soussa, Economist at Goldman Sachs

If current price levels are maintained in the short to mid-term, the effect on regional economies would be significant, and could start to show as early as this year. Budgets drawn up in December assumed an oil price of around $50 a barrel, but that has been well overtaken in the first quarter. Goldman Sachs is forecasting a 2021 average of $73 a barrel.

That gives policymakers a significant amount of leeway. For all the talk recently of the drain of foreign reserves from big budgets and increasing debt, it is remarkable how responsive those indicators are to even a modest rise in the crude price.

Soussa estimates that the GCC would need to borrow an aggregate of $270 billion over the next three years if Brent had stayed at $45 a barrel, but this would virtually disappear – a meager $10 billion borrowing requirement – at $65 a barrel.

That could mean that budget deficits would be reversed, or that policymakers could continue to run deficits at the current levels, and borrow money to fund the big investment programs, such as Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 strategy, aimed at accelerating the diversification away from oil dependence.

Soussa also highlighted the apparent success of the introduction of value-added tax (VAT) into the economic equation in the region, and the role tax has played in diversifying government revenues.

“The three countries that have so far introduced VAT have seen the greatest success in diversifying their revenues, with Saudi Arabia outperforming its peers substantially, almost halving the share of oil in total revenues,” he said, pointing to the Kingdom’s “proactive” tax policy when it raised VAT to 15 percent at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns last summer.

Whatever future forays there may be into other forms of taxation in the GCC, the price of crude will continue to be the most important indicator of regional economic health for the foreseeable future.

It is a virtuous economic cycle: Higher oil prices give policymakers the resources to escape the necessity for higher oil prices.

Desert Storm: 30 years on
The end of the Gulf War on Feb. 28, 1991 saw the eviction of Iraq from Kuwait but paved the way for decades of conflict

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Oil rebounds above $76 on speculation virus fear overrated

Oil rebounds above $76 on speculation virus fear overrated
Updated 30 November 2021

Oil rebounds above $76 on speculation virus fear overrated

Oil rebounds above $76 on speculation virus fear overrated

LONDON: Oil rebounded by more than 5 percent on Monday to above $76 a barrel as some investors viewed Friday’s slump in oil and financial markets as overdone while the world awaits more data on the omicron coronavirus variant.

Brent crude was up $3.66, or 5 percent, at $76.38 a barrel by 1444 GMT, having slid by $9.50 on Friday. US West Texas Intermediate crude was up $4.36, or 6.4%, at $72.51, having tumbled by $10.24 in the previous session.

“We saw some correction as Friday’s plunge in oil prices has been overdone,” said Tatsufumi Okoshi, a senior economist at Nomura Securities.

Friday’s slide, the biggest one-day drop since April 2020, reflected fears that travel bans would hammer demand. The plunge was exacerbated by low liquidity owing to a US holiday and the expected demand hit does not justify such a fall, analysts said.

“The fear factor had its grip on financial markets on Friday,” said Norbert Ruecker of Swiss bank Julius Baer. “Fundamentally, the announced and enacted international air travel constraints cannot explain such a sharp slump.”

A semblance of calm also returned to wider markets on Monday as investors awaited more information about the new variant. European and Wall Street shares rose while safe haven bonds lost ground.

“I can’t help but feel that Friday’s lows were probably the bargain of the year if you were an oil buyer, speculative or physical,” said Jeffrey Halley of brokerage OANDA.


Egypt to issue $604m of treasury bonds

Egypt to issue $604m of treasury bonds
Updated 29 November 2021

Egypt to issue $604m of treasury bonds

Egypt to issue $604m of treasury bonds

CAIRO: The Central Bank of Egypt will issue 9.5 billion Egyptian pounds ($604.3 million) in treasury bonds on Monday to finance the country’s budget deficit.

The T-bonds will be issued in coordination with the Finance Ministry.

In a statement posted on its website, the central bank said the value of the first offering is 8 billion pounds for two years. The value of the second offering is 1 billion pounds for 5 years and the value of the third offering is 500 million pounds for a period of 10 years.

The government borrows through bonds and treasury bills and government banks are the largest purchasers of these financial instruments.

The Ministry of Finance estimated the financing gap for the state’s general budget during 2021/2022 at about 1.06 trillion pounds, compared to 997.733 billion pounds during the last fiscal year, an increase of 6.31 percent, which will be financed through borrowing and issuance of securities.

Egypt had received $2.7 billion from the International Monetary Fund.

The Monetary Policy Committee of the Central Bank of Egypt decided to keep the overnight deposit and lending rate and the central bank’s main operation rate unchanged at 8.25 percent, 9.25 percent, and 8.75 percent, respectively.

Last month, the committee announced that the interest rate would be fixed for the seventh time in a row this year.


Saudi Fund for Development signs two agreements with Pakistan worth $4.2 billion

Saudi Fund for Development signs two agreements with Pakistan worth $4.2 billion
Updated 29 November 2021

Saudi Fund for Development signs two agreements with Pakistan worth $4.2 billion

Saudi Fund for Development signs two agreements with Pakistan worth $4.2 billion

RIYADH: The Saudi Fund for Development on Monday signed two agreements worth $4.2 billion with Pakistan. The deals aim to support the Pakistani economy.

The first agreement includes a $ 3 billion deposit to the State Bank of Pakistan to support the country’s foreign currency reserve levels and mitigate the impact of the coronavirus disease pandemic. The second deal seeks to support Pakistan in financing oil derivatives trade with $1.2 billion.

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Thailand plans to boost tourism through bitcoin holders: Crypto wrap

Thailand plans to boost tourism through bitcoin holders: Crypto wrap
Updated 29 November 2021

Thailand plans to boost tourism through bitcoin holders: Crypto wrap

Thailand plans to boost tourism through bitcoin holders: Crypto wrap

RIYADH: The Tourism Authority of Thailand is working with the country’s regulators to make it easier and more convenient for visitors to spend cryptocurrency in the country, Bloomberg reported.

Thailand is laying the groundwork for becoming a positive crypto community with the aim of attracting cryptocurrency holders and promoting tourism in it.

The country is also hoping to recover some of the $80 billion in tourism revenue lost due to the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown.

The plan is already being discussed with the Thai Securities and Exchange Commission, the Bank of Thailand, and Bitkub Online Co., the largest crypto exchange in the country.

The authority will create a new unit next year to handle the issuance of its crypto tokens, produce a wallet, and build a new tourism ecosystem, according to Bitcoin.com.

However, Thailand does not currently recognize cryptocurrencies as legal tender.

Adoption

Robert Kiyosaki, the author of Rich Dad Poor Dad, has revealed that he is buying more Bitcoin and ether in response to the alarming rise he sees in inflation.

Meanwhile, Blockchain protocol Moonlift has unveiled a new name and a new product release as part of a large-scale rebranding initiative.

The blockchain project will be known as MoonLift Capital and will launch a decentralized exchange that will enable token exchange and liquidity mining features, Bitcoin.com reported.

MoonLift is a community-driven project that aims to provide users with passive income using blockchain technology.

The blockchain protocol also provides a one-stop solution for upcoming crypto projects across marketing, fundraising, and community building services.

MoonLift Capital is also backed by numerous partners and advisors. One of the biggest names is the DeFi startup guide LaunchZone.

MoonLift Capital will offer new projects to Launchzone, providing them with a favorable position to launch their tokens via IDO.  

Daily trading

Bitcoin traded higher on Monday rising by 4.75 percent to $56,926 at 6:38 p.m. Riyadh time.

Ether traded at $4,313, up 5.80 percent, according to data from CoinDesk.


Oil demand expected to reach pre-pandemic levels despite omicron fears: Aramco CEO

Oil demand expected to reach pre-pandemic levels despite omicron fears: Aramco CEO
Updated 29 November 2021

Oil demand expected to reach pre-pandemic levels despite omicron fears: Aramco CEO

Oil demand expected to reach pre-pandemic levels despite omicron fears: Aramco CEO

Dhahran: Aramco’s CEO is optimistic about oil demand growth next year despite fears over the new COVID-19 variant omicron. 

Oil demand will be over 100 million barrels per day in 2022, reaching pre-COVID19 levels, Amin Nasser told Arab News during a media briefing at the company's headquarter today.

On COVID-19’s new strain, he said that “the markets overreacted,” adding that the impact of omicron on demand cannot be measured without a full medical assessment.  

Nasser’s remarks came during a ceremony in Dhahran to kickoff development of the unconventional gas field Jafurah.