Backing grows for new IMF COVID and climate fund

Backing grows for new IMF COVID and climate fund
IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva backs a trust to allow rich countries to channel some of their new IMF reserves to poor and middle-income counterparts. (AFP)
Short Url
Updated 24 June 2021

Backing grows for new IMF COVID and climate fund

Backing grows for new IMF COVID and climate fund
  • The COVID crisis is expected to leave 47 of the 82 vulnerable countries with gross debt already above levels deemed sustainable.

PARIS: Plans for a new IMF “Resilience and Sustainability” fund that would expand its support to dozens more vulnerable countries gained key international backing on Thursday ahead of crucial meetings.
IMF chief Kristalina Georgieva this month proposed the new trust to allow rich countries to channel some of their new IMF reserves to poor and middle-income counterparts ravaged by COVID or climate change.
“This is something we certainly support” said Lars Jensen, a senior economist on the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the author of a new report on how the IMF’s new funding should be directed.
The UNDP estimates the IMF’s Poverty Reduction and Growth Trust (PRGT), which is also expected to play a key role in a voluntary redistribution of new ‘Special Drawing Rights’ (SDRs) money, is only open to 55 of the world’s 82 most debt-vulnerable developing economies.
The Group of Seven (G7) wealthy nations alone will receive $283 billion of the overall $650 billion SDR allocation. All “high-income” countries will get $438 billion, whereas 75 of the poorest countries will get $62 billion among them.
The COVID crisis is expected to leave 47 of the 82 vulnerable countries with gross debt already above levels deemed sustainable.
Additionally, nine of the 10 most climate-change vulnerable countries are also highly debt-vulnerable developing economies.
“As a possible development objective of an SDR channelling to vulnerable countries, it would be natural to target climate due to its global implications,” Jensen said, adding that the fund could even bulked up by leveraging it in borrowing markets.
G7 leaders have already signaled their backing to redistribute $100 billion of the new SDR money. Georgieva has said that China has expressed interest in participating and that she expected other major emerging economies to do the same.
The IMF’s executive board will meet on Friday on the next steps and finance officials from the Group of 20 major economies will discuss the SDR reallocation issue when they meet in Venice in July.
Scott Morris of the Center for Global Development said funding for the proposed new IMF trust was already earmarked in the US Treasury’s recent budget request to Congress, underscoring Washington’s support.
The US Treasury is working closely with the IMF to explore options and design mechanisms for channelling SDRs to vulnerable countries, one US Treasury official told Reuters on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.
“The IMF’s proposed Resilience and Sustainability Trust is one of the options under discussion,” the official said, without elaborating on other options.
Jensen said he hoped the new fund would also give debt-strained countries who have so far resisted restructuring their debt for fear of losing access to borrowing markets, a safety net to take that step.


Gulf rebound set as Saudi Arabia, UAE seen topping 4% growth in 2022 - Reuters poll

Gulf rebound set as Saudi Arabia, UAE seen topping 4% growth in 2022 - Reuters poll
Updated 2 min 51 sec ago

Gulf rebound set as Saudi Arabia, UAE seen topping 4% growth in 2022 - Reuters poll

Gulf rebound set as Saudi Arabia, UAE seen topping 4% growth in 2022 - Reuters poll
RIYADH: The six economies in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) are set to rebound and grow 2 percent to nearly 3 percent this year while the region’s two largest economies, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, are forecast to grow over 4 percent next year, a quarterly Reuters survey showed.
That outlook follows steep declines last year following an oil price crash and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, while analysts expected Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Kuwait to benefit from an OPEC+ deal to boost oil production.
“Our core assumption was that a longer-term deal would be secured, and we raise our 2022 forecasts on the back of the baseline adjustments, which will enable the UAE, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia to raise oil output and their global market share from May 2022,” said Monica Malik, chief economist at Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank.
Medians in the July 5-26 poll pegged Saudi Arabia’s growth at 2.3 percent this year, down slightly from a forecast of 2.4 percent in a similar poll three months ago.
In 2022, the Middle East’s largest economy and world’s largest oil exporter’s gross domestic product was seen growing 4.3 percent, an upward revision of 100 basis points (bps). Growth for 2023 was revised up 30 bps to 3.3 percent.
The UAE was expected to grow 2.3 percent this year, unchanged, and 4.2 percent next year and 3.4 percent in 2023, revised up 60 bps and 10 bps respectively.
Expectations for Kuwait’s 2021 GDP growth were lifted 60 bps to 2.4 percent, while growth next year was boosted 110 bps to 4.6 percent. Growth was seen 10 bps higher in 2023 at 3.0 percent.
Qatar’s 2021 growth forecast was scaled back 30 bps to 2.5 percent. The expectation for growth next year was unchanged at 3.6 percent and down 40 bps to 2.7 percent for 2023.
Oman was revised up 20 bps to 2.1 percent expected growth this year, up 10 bps to 3.3 percent next year and down 20 bps in 2023 to 2.2 percent. Bahrain’s outlook was unchanged for this year and next at 2.9 percent, while 2023 growth was seen 30 bps lower at 2.4 percent.
At least half of the GCC’s state revenues come from hydrocarbons, and diversification away from that will “likely take many years to achieve,” with fiscal diversification likely to follow with additional lag, Moody’s said in a report last month.
“The announced plans to boost hydrocarbon production capacity and government commitments to zero or very low taxes make it unlikely that this reliance will diminish significantly in the coming years, even with some progress in economic diversification, which we expect.”

Saudi resilient as emerging markets shares hit 7-month lows on China rout

Saudi resilient as emerging markets shares hit 7-month lows on China rout
Updated 18 min 14 sec ago

Saudi resilient as emerging markets shares hit 7-month lows on China rout

Saudi resilient as emerging markets shares hit 7-month lows on China rout
  • China blue-chip index drops 3.5 percent to 8-month low
  • Saudi Arabia's Tadawul rose 0.2 percent, while Abu Dhabi is up 0.5 percent

RIYADH: Emerging market stocks slid 2 percent to a seven-month low on Tuesday, extending heavy losses to a third session, as a sharp sell-off in Chinese stocks continued.
Saudi Arabia's Tadawul rose 0.2 percent, while the Dubai Financial Market Index was little changed and Abu Dhabi's Securities Exchange General Index was up 0.6 percent.
China’s blue-chip index dropped 3.5 percent to its lowest in nearly eight months as worries lingered about regulatory crackdowns in the education and property sectors.
Hong Kong’s benchmark sank almost 4.5 percent, with losses over the past three days pushing the index more than 8 percent into the red for the year.
The Chinese yuan hit its lowest since April, weakening 0.4 percent to trade at 6.504 to the dollar.
“The question for investors is whether the sell-off presents an attractive opportunity to bottom fish,” said analysts at BCA Research.
“We argue otherwise and expect further pressure from regulators to continue to weigh down on Chinese stocks over a six- to 12-month horizon,” they said, adding that the medical industry could be the next target.
Adding to worries around China, profit growth at industrial firms slowed for a fourth straight month in June, while a surge in the Delta variant COVID-19 cases centered on the eastern city of Nanjing.
MSCI’s index of Asia shares excluding Japan hit its lowest so far this year, as did a broader index of EM equities as China stocks have the biggest weightage on both. Western European bourses traded well in the red, while US stock indexes looked set to retreat from all-time highs.
South Africa’s main index lost 1.7 percent, moving sharply away from 1-1/2-month highs, while Turkey’s index extended losses to day four. Polish stocks led losses across eastern Europe.
Tunisian bonds stabilized after their worst slide in a month on Monday following the government’s ouster by President Kais Saied.
Saied extended existing COVID-19 restrictions on movement on Monday and vowed any violent opposition would be met with force.
In currency markets, the South African rand slid 0.7 percent against a strengthening dollar ahead of the US Federal Reserve’s policy decision on Wednesday.
Investors are hoping to get clues on the world’s largest economy’s standing, as well as any hints on the timeline for stimulus tapering and interest rate hikes.
Massive support from major central banks and ultra-loose monetary policy to stimulate economic activity and growth has helped inflows into riskier assets of emerging markets.
Turkey’s lira and Russia’s rouble were broadly flat. Hungary’s forint was steady against the euro, staying near three-month lows ahead of a central bank meeting. An extension of a hiking cycle with a 20 basis-point increase in its base rate to 1.1 percent is expected.


Saudi Arabia tops emerging markets league table

Saudi Arabia tops emerging markets league table
Updated 27 July 2021

Saudi Arabia tops emerging markets league table

Saudi Arabia tops emerging markets league table
  • Analysis of MSCI EM Index puts Kingdom at the top of the list with a near 27% rise in market value

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia has been the best performing of all the emerging markets since the onset of the pandemic, according to new data from global information provider Refinitiv.

An analysis of 25 countries in the MSCI Emerging Market Index put Saudi Arabia, home to the Tadawul stock exchange in Riyadh, at the top of the list with a near 27 percent rise in market value since the start of 2020, when COVID-19 began to impact the global economy.

That compares with an average increase of just 1.6 percent in the overall index, and easily outstrips the 14.2 percent jump in the MSCI World Index of all countries.

Turkey was the worst performing of the emerging markets, with a 22.8 percent fall since the pandemic began, followed by Peru and Colombia, with drops of more than 20 percent. Of the other Middle East countries, Egypt witnessed a 6.5 percent decline, while Qatar barely grew, with just a 1.2 percent increase. 

The UAE placed second in the post-pandemic emerging market ranking, with a 21.3 percent rise.

Market experts said one of the reasons for the Kingdom’s outperformance was the authorities’ effective response to the economic recession brought on by the pandemic.

“The Saudi authorities were relatively quick to react with a series of measures, especially relating to smaller businesses, to help ease the burden of the pandemic economic effects, and the market has reacted to that,” Tarek Fadlallah, chief executive of Nomura Asset Management in the Middle East, told Arab News. 

The International Monetary Fund recently applauded the Kingdom’s pandemic response, as well as reforms to its capital markets that have enhanced its position as the biggest equities trading hub in the Gulf.

Tadawul has introduced derivatives trading which has broadened its appeal, especially to foreign investors accustomed to more sophisticated trading techniques.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Market experts said one of the reasons for the Kingdom’s outperformance was the authorities’ effective response to the economic recession brought on by the pandemic.

• The International Monetary Fund recently applauded the Kingdom’s pandemic response, as well as reforms to its capital markets that have enhanced its position as the biggest equities.

• Saudi Arabia’s market outperformance reflects its sustained course of economic transformation, along with liquidity boosting by the central bank, says expert.

“Saudi Arabia’s market outperformance and strong corporate valuations reflect its sustained course of economic transformation, along with liquidity boosting by the central bank,” financial expert Nasser Saidi told Arab News. 

“Economic and structural reforms, along with social liberalization policies, including opening up foreign markets to foreign investors, allowing for 100 percent foreign ownership in certain sectors, resulted in massive investment inflows.”

He highlighted the effect of the “policy-shattering” initial public offering of Saudi Aramco, and the steady stream of market flotations continuing this year, as a key feature of the Kingdom’s progress since the pandemic began.

The Saudi performance rates highly even in the context of rising global markets, buoyed by low interest rates and big government stimulus. New York’s S&P index has gained 33 percent since the onset of the pandemic.


Startup of the Week: Tuma Taiba feeding vegan needs

Startup of the Week: Tuma Taiba feeding vegan needs
Updated 26 July 2021

Startup of the Week: Tuma Taiba feeding vegan needs

Startup of the Week: Tuma Taiba feeding vegan needs

JEDDAH: Veganism has become a growing trend in Saudi Arabia with ever more people opting for a plant-based diet.

For some it is for health reasons, while for others it is a moral decision. As a result, supermarket shelves in the Kingdom have over the past four years seen an increase in stocks of vegan products.

In 2019, Amani Nouri, who gained a diploma in nutrition, founded Tuma Taiba — Arabic for good bite — in Jeddah, to cater for the burgeoning vegan market in the country.

“I chose to name it Tuma Taiba because good food is the foundation for a good body,” she told Arab News.

Her company offers vegan cheese spreads made from different nuts, and they come in flavors such as olives, pomegranate, and bell pepper. It also produces vegan and gluten-free pastries made with dates, sourdough bread, and kombucha tea in flavors including a mix of berries or apple, pineapple, and cinnamon.

The startup sold more than 500 products last year and aims to triple that amount this year.

Nouri said 85 percent of her diet was now plant-based after she made the decision to change her eating regime due to suffering from a number of health conditions that cleared up when she switched to a healthier diet.

“I suffered migraines once or twice a week to the point I needed strong painkillers, and this of course could hurt my kidneys and body in general.

“After I turned to the plant-based diet, I lost weight, I even look more youthful, all the pains and conditions I suffered from are cured, the cysts went away without any medication, and the hormonal imbalances too,” she added.

Family and friends encouraged Nouri to pursue the vegan business after trying her recipes. “On the insistence of family and friends, I started sharing my dishes with people because of the community’s need for different vegan-friendly food.”

She noted that the number of people in the Kingdom opting for vegan food was steadily increasing.

And some of her customers were non-vegans. “They find a delicious plant-based alternative that satisfies their tastes, and benefits their bodies, and notice the difference after eating more plant-based foods,” she said.

Tuma Taiba is planning to expand its product range and open a restaurant in the next couple of years.

• Details are available on Instagram @tumataiba.


Low interest rates boosted mortgage demand by 27% through May

Low interest rates boosted mortgage demand by 27% through May
Updated 26 July 2021

Low interest rates boosted mortgage demand by 27% through May

Low interest rates boosted mortgage demand by 27% through May
  • Residential real estate financing contracts offered to individuals by local banks reached 133,006 through May, with a value of SR69.5 billion

RIYADH: Mortgage lending in Saudi Arabia increased 27 percent this year through May, as interest rates decreased to between 1 percent and 4.9 percent, compared to about 6 percent early last year.

Residential real estate financing contracts offered to individuals by local banks reached 133,006 through May, with a value of SR69.5 billion, according to data from the Saudi Central Bank (SAMA).

Real estate financing grew by 50 percent compared with the same period in 2020 when SR46.6 billion was lent via 104,000 contracts.

“There is great competition between banks and real estate finance companies to obtain a greater share of the housing demand, after government support and joint financing programs with the Real Estate Development Fund (REDF), which led to an increase in the volume of lending for home purchases,” Riyadh-based Menassat Reality Co. CEO Khaled Almobid told Arab news.

“I expect more lending during the last quarter of this year despite the difficulties it is facing due to the rise in some housing prices in major cities and the lack of supply,” he said.

Saudi banks are offering mortgages with interest rates as low as 1 percent at Al Rajhi Bank, 2.5 percent at the Saudi National Bank (AlAhli Bank) and up to 4.5 percent at some banks.

Residential villas made up about 80 percent of the total financing, apartments 17 percent, while the purchase of residential lands’ financing made up the remaining 3 percent.

Saudi real estate financing achieved a record growth during the past three years, amounting to about 295,590 contracts, worth SR140.7 billion in 2020, compared to 22,259 financing contracts, worth SR17 billion in 2016, local media reproted citing SAMA data.