Saudi Arabia applies spending cap despite oil revenues, says Minister

Saudi Arabia applies spending cap despite oil revenues, says Minister
Minister of Finance Mohammed Al-Jadaan (File/AFP)
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Updated 25 November 2021

Saudi Arabia applies spending cap despite oil revenues, says Minister

Saudi Arabia applies spending cap despite oil revenues, says Minister

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia, which reported last month a surplus in its first quarterly budget surplus since the first quarter of 2019, is applying restraints on spending even as oil prices are trading near multiyear high.

The Saudi Ministry of Finance has started to apply the spending cap regardless of the oil price and revenues, Minister Mohammed Al-Jadaan said at the Financial Stability Conference on Thursday.

The government is working through the financial sustainability program to reduce exposure to external factors, including fluctuations in the oil markets, by adopting financial rules that achieve financial sustainability and sustainable development, which reflects on financial stability, Al-Jadaan said.

These rules adopt new methodologies to determine spending ceilings in the medium term, he said.

The financial rules are based on the estimation of the structural oil revenues that do not only depend on the future expectations, but also on the average real historical revenues for a long period, and the estimation of non-oil revenues as a percentage of non-oil GDP to form together spending ceilings, the minister explained.

These rules will limit the fluctuation of spending and its multiple negative results, he said. 

The rules also include minimum and maximum limits for government reserves, so that surpluses are dealt with to enhance government reserves and support development funds and the Public Investment Fund, or pay part of the public debt.

Saudi Arabia has faced no challenges in issuing debt even at the worst time of the COVID-19 pandemic, he said.

The credit rating was important not only for government and government debt, but also for cost reduction, the Saudi Minister said.

Credit rating agency Moody’s has changed early this month the outlook on the Saudi government from negative to stable. The agency predicted the Saudi economy will return to positive growth in 2021, and the current account level will return to a surplus as the fiscal deficit shrinks in 2021, accompanied by a reduction in the level of debt in the medium term.

The Kingdom’s budget turned to a surplus of SR6.68 billion ($1.78 billion) in the third quarter of this year, up from a deficit of SR4.61 billion in the previous quarter, and a deficit of SR41 billion in the third quarter of 2020, the Saudi Ministry of Finance revealed in its latest quarterly report.

Oil revenues went up by 60 percent in the three months ending Sept. from a year ago reaching SR148 billion, according to the ministry’s report.

Social spending fell down by 41 percent over the same period, while subsidies fell down by almost half, the data showed.

PIF, Private Sector

Al Jadaan said that the purpose of having reserves and investments with the Public Investment Fund was to give fiscal stability to government spending.There is a negative impact on the sovereign credit rating affecting the private sector, so the government is keen to ensure that these effects are avoided, Al Jadaan added.

Talking about the KIngdom's other goals, he said that Saudi Arabia's direction is clear about being a global logistics hub including rail and port networks, the minister said.

Ports are growing significantly, previously wasted opportunities have been activated and a large number of ports have been allocated to different types of services, according to Al Jadaan.

“There are very big opportunities for the private sector,” he said. 


 


Macro Snapshot — Britain’s private sector activity slows; Japan’s May factory activity grows at slowest rate in 3 months 

Macro Snapshot — Britain’s private sector activity slows; Japan’s May factory activity grows at slowest rate in 3 months 
Updated 24 May 2022

Macro Snapshot — Britain’s private sector activity slows; Japan’s May factory activity grows at slowest rate in 3 months 

Macro Snapshot — Britain’s private sector activity slows; Japan’s May factory activity grows at slowest rate in 3 months 

RIYADH: Momentum in Britain’s private sector slowed much more than expected this month, adding to recession worries as inflation pressures ratcheted higher, according to a business survey on Tuesday that showed rising pessimism.

S&P Global’s flash Composite Purchasing Managers’ Index, a monthly gauge of the services and manufacturing industries, slumped to 51.8 in May from 57.6 in April, its lowest level since February last year.

The preliminary reading was worse than all forecasts in a Reuters poll of economists, which had pointed to a drop to 57, and the scale of the fall was bigger than any seen pre-COVID-19.

“The collapse in the composite PMI in May is the clearest sign yet that demand is faltering in response to the intense squeeze on households’ real disposable incomes,” said Samuel Tombs, chief UK economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics.

Until now, most surveys of British business activity had been fairly robust, despite record-low consumer confidence after inflation hit a 40-year high of 9 percent.

US new home sales fall

Sales of new US single-family homes tumbled to a two-year low in April, likely as higher mortgage rates and soaring prices squeezed first-time buyers and those in search of entry-level properties out of the housing market.

New home sales plunged 16.6 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 591,000 units last month, the lowest level since April 2020, the Commerce Department said on Tuesday. March’s sales pace was revised down to 709,000 units from the previously reported 763,000 units.

Sales have now declined for four straight months. New home sales dropped 5.9 percent in the Northeast and tumbled 15.1 percent in the Midwest. They plummeted 19.8 percent in the densely populated South and decreased 13.8 percent in the Midwest.

Nigeria raises interest rate 

Nigeria’s central bank on Tuesday raised the benchmark interest rate by 150 basis points to 13 percent, its first hike in more than two years, to combat rising inflation, sending markets tumbling.

The move surprised analysts and traders who expected the Monetary Policy Committee to keep the rate on hold.

But Gov. Godwin Emefiele told a news briefing that the rate hike was necessary to tame inflation, which quickened to 16.82 percent in April, its highest in eight months, amid a fragile economic recovery.

Indonesia holds rates

Indonesia’s central bank announced on Tuesday more aggressive hikes in the reserve requirement ratio for banks, expecting inflation to rise slightly above its target band this year, but kept interest rates unchanged at a record low.

Bank Indonesia announced a quicker pace in RRR hikes, ordering banks to park 7.5 percent of their reserves starting July and 9 percent from September. This compared with BI’s previously announced policy path, in which BI had set three staggered RRR hikes this year from 3.5 percent to 6.5 percent in September.

BI left the benchmark 7-day reverse repurchase rate at a record low of 3.50 percent, as expected by 25 of 27 economists polled by Reuters. Its two other main rates were also unchanged. 

Poland budget surplus

Poland had a budget surplus of 9.2 billion zlotys ($2.14 billion) at the end April, state-run news agency PAP quoted Finance Minister Magdalena Rzeczkowska as saying on Tuesday.

Poland had a deficit of 0.3 billion zlotys at the end of March.

Separately, a government spokesman said that the deficit at the end of 2021 was 26.4 billion zlotys, 65.1 percent of what had been planned for in the budget.

Philippines narrows growth target 

The Philippines has revised its 2022 gross domestic product growth target to 7 percent-8 percent from the previous range of 7 percent-9 percent to take into account external risks, the government said on Tuesday.

It also slightly lowered the budget deficit target to 7.6 percent of GDP from 7.7 percent, among revisions that it said took into account the impact of Russia-Ukraine conflict, China’s slowdown, and monetary policy normalization in the US.

The government, however, kept the GDP growth target at the 6 percent-7 percent range for 2023 and 2024, as it expects the domestic economy to sustain its strong recovery in the medium term.

GDP would grow at the same pace in 2025, the economic managers on the Development Budget Coordination Committee said.

German inflation to reach 7%

Germany’s 2022 inflation rate will more than double from last year’s 3.1 percent as already high energy and food prices are pushed up by the war in Ukraine, the country’s Chambers of Industry and Commerce said on Tuesday.

DIHK said it now expects the inflation rate to hit 7 percent, after initially forecasting a rise of 3.5 percent in its February forecast.

Germany’s Economy Ministry said in April it saw an inflation rate of 6.1 percent in 2022 and 2.8 percent next year, citing the effects of energy prices in Europe’s biggest economy.

French business activity 

French business activity slowed slightly in May compared to the previous month, a preliminary survey showed on Tuesday, as inflationary pressures took the shine off fewer COVID-19 restrictions.

S&P Global said its flash May Purchasing Managers’ Index for France’s services sector was 58.4 points — down from a final number of 58.9 in April. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast 58.6 for the May flash reading.

Japan’s factory activity grows 

Japan’s manufacturing activity expanded at the slowest pace in three months in May, as supply bottlenecks due to parts shortages and China’s COVID-19 lockdowns caused output and new orders growth to slow.

Activity in the services sector improved for the second consecutive month on stronger domestic demand due to the fading impact of the pandemic, though service-sector firms faced a drag from the sharpest rise in input prices on record.

 

(With input from Reuters) 


ITFC boosts funds for Egypt by $3bn to deal with rising wheat prices

ITFC boosts funds for Egypt by $3bn to deal with rising wheat prices
Updated 24 May 2022

ITFC boosts funds for Egypt by $3bn to deal with rising wheat prices

ITFC boosts funds for Egypt by $3bn to deal with rising wheat prices

RIYADH: The International Islamic Trade Finance Corp. has provided Egypt an additional $3 billion to support the North African country amid soaring wheat prices fueled by the Ukraine war.

As per the new agreement, Egypt’s total funding is now doubled to $6 billion, Bloomberg reported citing Egypt’s Supply Minister Aly El-Moselhy in his interview with the MBC TV channel.

The government is also offering incentives to farmers to produce wheat and also setting an output quota to tackle the shortage of the grain primarily driven due to the ongoing tensions in Ukraine. Farmers will not be allowed to sell the rest of their crops outside the official procurement system without a license. 

Egypt is one of the biggest importers of wheat in the world, and most of the grains come from Ukraine and Russia. 

After Russia started invading Ukraine wheat prices soared, and the Egyptian government is seeking to maintain price stability and secure reserves of basic foodstuffs amid the fallout from the war.


BNY Mellon slapped with $1.5m fines in ESG case

BNY Mellon slapped with $1.5m fines in ESG case
Updated 24 May 2022

BNY Mellon slapped with $1.5m fines in ESG case

BNY Mellon slapped with $1.5m fines in ESG case

RIYADH: The US Securities and Exchange Commission has slapped  BNY Mellon, the corporate investment banking company, $1.5 million fines over an environmental, social and governance case.

The New York-based company had reportedly distorted and cut information about ESG investment considerations for mutual funds that it managed, according to the Financial Times. 

From July 2018 to September 2021, BNY Mellon has been stating that all investments in the funds had gone through an ESG quality review, but the SEC stated that was not always the case. 


Cloudflare to open first Middle East regional office in Dubai

Cloudflare to open first Middle East regional office in Dubai
Updated 24 May 2022

Cloudflare to open first Middle East regional office in Dubai

Cloudflare to open first Middle East regional office in Dubai

DUBAI: San Francisco-based Cloudflare has announced that it will open its first regional office in the Middle East in Dubai, as the firm further aims to support its EMEA operations, the company said in a press release.

The company also appointed Bashar Bashaireh as its first managing director for the Middle East and Turkey.

“This has always been an important region for us with an emerging, young population hungry for content delivered at high Internet bandwidth, and Dubai is home to one of our 27 data centers located in the Middle East and Turkey,” said Andy Lockhart, head of Europe, Middle East and Africa Sales at Cloudflare.

The new Dubai-based team will help the company grow brand awareness, acquire and support customers, and recruit new talent.

Bashar Bashaireh said: “With digital transformation and increased cloud adoption, organizations are in need for a fast, secure and reliable Internet, more than ever, to optimally serve and secure their customers, partners, and employees, and Cloudflare is leading this transition.”

Founded in 2010, Cloudflare acts as a reverse proxy between a website’s visitor and the Cloudflare customer’s hosting provider. The company calls itself a security, performance, and reliability firm.


UAE’s Cypher Capital invests $5m in Ocean Protocol ecosystem projects

UAE’s Cypher Capital invests $5m in Ocean Protocol ecosystem projects
Updated 24 May 2022

UAE’s Cypher Capital invests $5m in Ocean Protocol ecosystem projects

UAE’s Cypher Capital invests $5m in Ocean Protocol ecosystem projects

RIYADH: UAE-based venture capital firm Cypher Capital has set up an ecosystem fund with the data exchange and monetization platform Ocean protocol to allocate $5 million in its projects.

The open-source protocol facilitates the exchange and monetization of data and data-based services, allowing people to buy and share information securely while preserving privacy, according to a statement. 

Cypher Capital will review Ocean Protocol’s proposals and its $5 million investment will be spread across 20 projects over 24 months, or two or three investments of a minimum of a quarter-million dollars per quarter if a project is recommended by the Ocean Protocol team.

“Cypher Capital’s commitment to invest in the Ocean Protocol ecosystem is a recognition of the potential of a new data economy and Ocean’s leading role in the space,” founder Bruce Pon said. 

“The Ocean ecosystem has generated a pipeline of promising projects which are nearing viability for seed funding. Meanwhile, Cypher Capital brings deep connections with the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia,” he added. 

Cypher Capital is a venture capital firm that focuses on crypto, blockchain, and digital asset-related projects worldwide.