Gaza war a threat to fragile world economy, analysts warn

Gaza war a threat to fragile world economy, analysts warn
According to the World Bank’s latest Commodity Markets Outlook, the conflict’s effects on global commodity markets have been limited so far. Overall oil prices have risen about 6 percent since the start of the conflict. (Reuters)
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Updated 19 November 2023
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Gaza war a threat to fragile world economy, analysts warn

Gaza war a threat to fragile world economy, analysts warn
  • World Bank report forecasts an economic ‘shock’ could push oil prices soaring to $150 per barrel

RIYADH: In a worrying report issued on Oct. 30, the World Bank warned that the war in Gaza between Israel and Hamas could trigger an economic “shock” that would include oil prices soaring up to $150 a barrel and millions around the world going hungry due to the result of higher food prices.

Just as the world economy emerges from the disruption of the pandemic and the shockwaves of the Ukraine war, economists and risk analysts are mindful of how an escalation of the Israel-Hamas conflict into a wider regional war involving Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and even Iran, might impact the global economic recovery and the price of commodities for rich and poor countries alike.

In its latest Commodity Markets Outlook, the World Bank stresses that while the global economy is in a much better position than it was during the 1970s to “cope” with a major oil-price shock, it did state that “an escalation of the latest conflict in the Middle East – which comes on top of disruptions caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine – could push global commodity markets into unchartered waters.”

In 1973 members of the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries, led by Saudi Arabia’s King Faisal, proclaimed an oil embargo of nations that had supported Israel during the Yom Kippur War. At the time, the embargo acutely strained the US economy, which had grown increasingly dependent on foreign oil under the Nixon Administration.

“At the moment, the situation is fluid,” Dr. Nasser Saidi, former Lebanese economy and trade minister and founder of Nasser Saidi & Associates, an economic and business advisory consultancy, told Arab News, adding: “The impact of the Israel-Hamas war will depend on the length and depth of the conflict as well as if it spills over into the wider region, thus drawing in other parties, resulting in international ramifications that would then have an effect on global supply chains.”

In his presentation “The Middle East in a Fragmented, Multi-Polar World” at the 19th Korea Middle East Cooperation Forum in Doha from Nov. 5-8 this year, Saidi stated how “global growth momentum has already slowed significantly this year; the war has the potential to further slow growth rates, raise already record-high public debt levels into crisis.”

According to the bank’s report, the conflict’s effects on global commodity markets have been limited so far. Overall oil prices have risen about 6 percent since the start of the conflict. Prices of agricultural commodities, most metals, and other commodities have barely budged.

“The global economic impacts of the war between Israel and Hamas have remained relatively muted,” Robert Mogielnicki, senior resident scholar at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington, told Arab News. 

The impact of the Israel-Hamas war will depend on the length and depth of the conflict as well as if it spills over into the wider region, thus drawing in other parties, resulting in international ramifications that would then have an effect on global supply chains.

Dr. Nasser Saidi, former Lebanese economy and trade minister and founder of Nasser Saidi & Associates

“Unless we see this conflict ignite the region, there is unlikely to be a major shock to global markets,” he added. “This war of course raises the geopolitical stakes within the region, but in many cases the impact of geopolitical developments on markets tends to be limited and short-lived.”

However, some analysts take a different view, and warn that ongoing fighting between Israel and Hamas could severely threaten the world’s already fragile economic outlook.

The war in Gaza, now in its sixth week, has resulted in the displacement of around 1.5 million Palestinians, 21 hospitals that have gone out of service and dozens more that had been severely damaged, over 11,000 deaths and tens of thousands more injured, according to the Health Ministry in Hamas-run Gaza.

“We are meeting at a very dangerous time for our part of the world,” said Saidi during his presentation in Doha. “The timing of this conference is very opportune at a personal level, and I think it reflects many of us. I have known nothing but war during my own lifetime as a professional, as a minister, as a public official, as an academic. My message is it must end and maybe what is happening today in Gaza and Palestine more generally may be a moment of change. We don’t know yet. We’re still living the fog war.”

As Saidi underlined, the Middle East is home to 60 percent of the world’s refugees – the highest number in the world.

Palestinian refugees won’t just stay in neighboring countries, they will be pushed to move to other regions, including Europe, he added.

“The impact of the war on oil and gas prices could be huge,” said Saidi, further noting that if oil prices jump to a record $150 per barrel as the World Bank warns, “it will affect world economic growth, which has already been slowing during 2023. The more inflation affects commodity prices, the lower economic growth and the increase in debt crises for many countries because you are also having a period of high interest rates.”

“Destruction and violence beget violence,” added Saidi in his presentation. “There are no military solutions in Gaza.”

The countries most vulnerable in the Middle East include Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and Iran. These countries are already facing a decline in growth, have current account and fiscal deficits and a fall in international reserves. According to Saidi, the sectors that will be most impacted in these countries are tourism, hospitality, construction and real estate, as well as capital outflows and lower foreign direct investment inflows.

“Neighboring Middle Eastern states dealing with significant economic challenges of their own, like Egypt and Lebanon, are especially vulnerable here,” said Mogielnicki. “Any spillover of violence or refugees will immediately impact these neighboring states, which do not necessarily have the absorptive capacity.”

A lot clearly depends on oil.

“Any escalation of violence or major attacks in the oil- and gas-producing countries of the Gulf would affect energy markets in a consequential manner,” said Mogielnicki. “Thus far, key actors in the Gulf have demonstrated a strong desire to prevent this war from turning into a broader regional conflict.”

On Nov. 11, Saudi Arabia called an emergency Arab-Islamic Summit to address concerns over the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. All leaders agreed on the need for a ceasefire. The joint summit concluded by calling for an Israeli arms embargo. 

HIGHLIGHT

The World Bank stresses that while the global economy is in a much better position than it was during the 1970s to cope with a major oil-price shock, it did state that an escalation of the latest conflict in the Middle East could push global commodity markets into unchartered waters.

“The world is becoming increasingly fragmented,” said Saidi.

It has also experienced great economic shifts in recent years – shifts that see the global economy looking eastward rather than westward.

In 1993, the G7 countries produced close to 50 percent of the world’s gross domestic product. Today, that group accounts for 30 percent, while Asia, in particular China, produces close to 20 percent.

“The implications for this part of the world are very clear,” said Saidi. “Our economic relations, politics, defense and other ties have always been with the West, but economic geography dictates that we need to shift those relations towards Asia.”

Saidi argued in his presentation that one way to solve some of the dire economic prospects facing the Middle East, especially with the war in Gaza, is the creation of a regional development bank. The focus now needs to be on “post-war stabilization, reconstruction, recovery and a return to pre-war economic legacy.”

“The GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) have got to be the main engine for economic stability across the Middle East because they’re capable of doing that,” said Saidi. “In order to do so, we must reinvigorate the GCC common market and the GCC customs union. We need trade agreements as a block for the GCC countries. Secondly, we need to establish an Arab bank for reconstruction and development. We are the only region in the world.”

"We are the only region in the world without a development bank," said Saidi.

When asked why the Middle East needs a development bank, Saidi said: "Because many of our countries have been destroyed."

“We need to help rebuild them. The cost is easily $1.4 to $1.6 trillion, and the list of countries is increasing. We now have Gaza and Palestine added to them.”

This, he said, could be one area for cooperation between the Middle East and Asia.

“The big tectonic shift is moving towards Asia,” added Saidi. “All our trade agreements are with Europe and the United States. That must change. We must shift.”


Saudi Arabia set to welcome 300 millionaires in 2024: Henley & Partners

Saudi Arabia set to welcome 300 millionaires in 2024: Henley & Partners
Updated 19 June 2024
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Saudi Arabia set to welcome 300 millionaires in 2024: Henley & Partners

Saudi Arabia set to welcome 300 millionaires in 2024: Henley & Partners

RIYADH: As many as 300 millionaires will flock to Saudi Arabia in 2024 as the Kingdom continues to attract high-net-worth individuals, according to a study. 

In its latest report, Henley & Partners said that Saudi Arabia’s capital Riyadh as well as Jeddah are becoming “increasingly popular” with immigrant millionaires,especially from North Africa and the Middle East. 

“In our view, these two cities have the potential to mimic Dubai and Abu Dhabi in attracting large numbers of wealthy expats in the future,” said the British consultancy firm in the release. 

According to the analysis, the UAE is continuing its run as the top destination of choice for HNWI, with an estimated 6,700 millionaires expected to make the country their home by the end of 2024.

“For the third year running, the UAE looks set to take first place as the world’s leading wealth magnet, with a record-breaking 6,700 moneyed migrants expected to make the Emirates home by the end of the year, significantly boosted by large inflows from the UK and Europe,” said the British consultancy. 

According to the report, the UAE’s tax-free income, golden visa residency program, and geographic location have made it a favorite destination for migrating millionaires. 

The Group Head of Private Clients at Henley & Partners, Dominic Volek, said that 2024 is shaping up to be a watershed moment in the global migration of wealth. 

“An unprecedented 128,000 millionaires are expected to relocate worldwide this year, eclipsing the previous record of 120,000 set in 2023. As the world grapples with a perfect storm of geopolitical tensions, economic uncertainty, and social upheaval, millionaires are voting with their feet in record numbers,” said Volek. 

He added: “In many respects, this great millionaire migration is a leading indicator, signaling a profound shift in the global landscape and the tectonic plates of wealth and power, with far-reaching implications for the future trajectory of the nations they leave behind or those which they make their new home.” 

The UAE is followed by the US and Singapore, with 3,800 and 3,500 millionaires set to live in these countries by the end of this year. 

Canada grabbed fourth place in the list, with a projected 3,200 HNWI flocking to the country, followed by Australia and Italy with 2,500 and 2,200 millionaires coming to these nations, respectively. 

Switzerland came in the sixth spot in the list, with an estimated 1,500 millionaires relocating to the country, followed by Greece and Portugal at 1,200 and 800, respectively. 

The report highlighted that the UK is expected to see an unprecedented net loss of 9,500 millionaires in 2024 — second only to China worldwide and more than double the 4,200 who left the country last year. 

According to the analysis, China is expected to be the biggest millionaire loser globally, with an anticipated net exit of 15,200 HNWIs this year, compared to 13,800 in 2023.


Egypt’s exports surge 9.8% to $16.55bn amid global trade expansion

Egypt’s exports surge 9.8% to $16.55bn amid global trade expansion
Updated 19 June 2024
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Egypt’s exports surge 9.8% to $16.55bn amid global trade expansion

Egypt’s exports surge 9.8% to $16.55bn amid global trade expansion

RIYADH: Egypt’s merchandise exports soared by 9.8 percent year-on-year in the first five months of 2024 to reach $16.55 billion, according to a top official.     

Exports increased every month over the period, underscoring the north African country’s ongoing expansion in global trade, according to Egypt’s Minister of Trade and Industry Ahmed Samir.   

Notable items that contributed to the growth included fresh and dried citrus fruits valued at $721 million, wires at $353 million, and manufactured petroleum oils at $186 million.      

Key export sectors also included building materials, valued at $3.86 billion, the food industry at $2.64 billion, and chemical products and fertilizers estimated at $2.49 billion.   

Agricultural crops were worth $2.26 billion, according to a statement.   

The ministry aims to bolster exports across all sectors to diverse global markets in the coming phase, emphasizing collaboration between government entities, business communities, and Egyptian exporters to enhance product quality and competitiveness. 

This effort supports Egypt’s target of achieving $100 billion in annual merchandise exports.   

Moreover, the statement revealed that Saudi Arabia emerged as the top market for Egyptian merchandise exports during this period, totaling $1.39 billion. 

Following Saudi Arabia, Turkiye accounted for $1.31 billion, the UAE at $1.13 billion, Italy with $974 million, and the US at $904 million.   

In May, Egypt’s Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics revealed that the value of Egyptian exports to Arab countries surged 8.7 percent year-on-year, reaching $13.6 billion in 2023. 

Saudi Arabia led among Arab nations in importing from Egypt, with exports totaling $2.7 billion during the year, according to the statement issued last month. 

This trend underscores the substantial growth in trade relations, partnerships, joint projects, and development investments between the two countries in recent years.     

Last month, the International Monetary Fund projected that Egypt’s foreign cash inflows would come from five sources, including commodity exports, tourism and Suez Canal revenues, as well as private transfers and net foreign direct investment.      

The fiscal year 2023-2024 total will be around $107.3 billion, compared to about $93.6 billion in 2022-2023.      

However, the IMF anticipates inflows to decrease again in the next fiscal year, dropping below the previous year’s level to approximately $91.2 billion. 


King Abdulaziz Port boosts infrastructure with new cranes, enhancing global maritime hub status

King Abdulaziz Port boosts infrastructure with new cranes, enhancing global maritime hub status
Updated 19 June 2024
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King Abdulaziz Port boosts infrastructure with new cranes, enhancing global maritime hub status

King Abdulaziz Port boosts infrastructure with new cranes, enhancing global maritime hub status

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s King Abdulaziz Port’s crane capacity has been boosted by 9.7 percent as part of an SR7 billion ($1.86 billion) investment deal.

The facility, operated by Saudi Global Ports Co., has received three automated quay and three rubber-tired gantry cranes, increasing its handling infrastructure.

According to a press release from Saudi Ports Authority, also known as Mawani, this addition brings the total number of quay cranes to 18 and gantry cranes to 50, enhancing the Dammam port’s workflow and enabling it to handle large ships efficiently.

These enhancements are made under commercial contracts between Mawani and Saudi Global Ports Co. 

This development is part of ongoing efforts to strengthen King Abdulaziz Port’s position as a competitive and sustainable global hub.

The new cranes can reach a minimum of 25 rows, which facilitates the efficient handling of advanced and large ships. 

Additionally, the use of modern cranes contributes to improving the skills of the workforce, supporting the Saudi ports system and solidifying the Kingdom’s growing role in the global logistics chain.

This upgrade aligns with the goals of the National Transport and Logistics Strategy, which aims to establish the nation as a global logistics center and a key link between continents.

Saudi ports are experiencing a constant surge in handling shipments. In March, terminals in the Kingdom recorded a 12.48 percent increase in the number of received containers compared to the same period last year, according to official data from Mawani.

The Authority disclosed that terminals in Saudi Arabia received 265,148 standard containers in the third month of 2024, marking an annual increase from 235,738.  

Furthermore, the maritime facilities experienced a 3.77 percent uptick in the volume of handled tonnage, reaching 19.64 million tonnes, in contrast to 18.93 million tonnes recorded in March 2023.    

“This reflects the scale of efforts made to develop port infrastructure and provide the highest levels of logistics services,” Mawani stated in a statement.

The Kingdom’s general shipment volumes reached 804,837 tonnes, solid bulk cargo reached 3.94 million tonnes, and liquid bulk freight reached 14.74 million tonnes.

A report from the UN Conference on Trade and Development revealed that Mawani climbed from 76.16 points in the second quarter of 2023 to 77.66 points in the third quarter of last year, affirming Saudi Arabia’s progress in the maritime sector.

Moreover, the Kingdom has consistently pursued global collaborations in the maritime sector, the latest of which occurred at the second edition of Vision Golfe 2024, held in Paris on June 4.

At the event, Mawani signed an agreement with the French Ministry of Economy, Finance, and Industrial and Digital Sovereignty and its Marseille counterpart as part of France and Saudi Arabia’s commitment to excellence in trade and maritime transport.


Riyadh among top 5 MENA startup ecosystems, report states

Riyadh among top 5 MENA startup ecosystems, report states
Updated 19 June 2024
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Riyadh among top 5 MENA startup ecosystems, report states

Riyadh among top 5 MENA startup ecosystems, report states

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s capital Riyadh is among the top five startup ecosystems in the Middle East and North Africa region, according to new data. 

The international policy advisory and research organization Startup Genome, in collaboration with the Global Entrepreneurship Network, revealed that three of the Kingdom’s cities were among the top-ranked startup ecosystems in the region. 

Riyadh was ranked fourth, with Jeddah and Alkhobar also making the list, according to Startup Genome’s latest Global Startup Ecosystem report. 

The criteria for inclusion in the list required ecosystems to be ranked in the top 40 global leaders or top 200 emerging environments or to have a value greater than $200 million. 

Furthermore, Riyadh was also one of two MENA ecosystems making the global list of cities with four or more unicorns in the last 10 years, the other being Dubai. 

A company is termed a unicorn when it reaches a valuation of $1 billion without being listed on the stock market. 

The report highlighted that the capital was ranked between 51 and 60 internationally, with its funding performance ranking seven out of 10. 

The Kingdom was also praised for its proactive approach to embracing artificial intelligence, with the report highlighting the nation’s $40 billion commitment to boosting the technology. 

The UAE’s capital, Abu Dhabi, was ranked as the fastest-growing startup ecosystem in the region, with a global rank between 61 and 70. 

“In a nation emboldened by its strategic vision to become a dominant global technology hub, the UAE is establishing its capital city as one of the world’s most prominent destinations for high-growth technology companies,” the report stated. 

Abu Dhabi’s ecosystem was valued at $4.2 billion, with one unicorn between 2021 and 2023. The city also saw a median funding of $825,000 in seed rounds. Total venture capital funding amounted to $1.1 billion between 2019 and 2023, with 16 exits during the same period. 

The region has seen significant growth in venture capital and startup development in recent years, mostly driven by Saudi Arabia. 

In 2023, the Kingdom secured 52 percent of the total VC funding in the MENA region, a substantial increase from the 31 percent share it held in 2022. 

Saudi Arabia’s startup ecosystem ranked first in regional venture funding activities in 2023, amassing an unprecedented $1.38 billion in capital.  

This achievement positioned the Kingdom at the forefront of venture capital funding in the Middle East and North Africa, surpassing the $1 billion mark for the first time, as reported by MAGNiTT in their Saudi Arabia FY2023 report. 


Half of Saudi Arabia’s World Defense Show 2026 floorspace already snapped up by exhibitors

Half of Saudi Arabia’s World Defense Show 2026 floorspace already snapped up by exhibitors
Updated 19 June 2024
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Half of Saudi Arabia’s World Defense Show 2026 floorspace already snapped up by exhibitors

Half of Saudi Arabia’s World Defense Show 2026 floorspace already snapped up by exhibitors

RIYADH: International exhibitors have already secured half of the space at the World Defense Show set to be held in Riyadh in 2026, demonstrating strong early interest in the biennial event.  

The defense and security exhibition, scheduled for Feb 8-12 and covering an area of 800,000 sq. m., follows the successful conclusion of its second edition in February. 

The event attracted a record number of 773 exhibitors, all aiming to capitalize on the Kingdom’s status as one of the largest defense spenders worldwide.   

In the state budget announced in December 2023, Saudi Arabia allocated SR269 billion ($71.70 billion) for the military sector this year, reflecting an 8.5 percent increase from the 2023 estimates.    

Andrew Pearcey, CEO of the World Defense Show, said: “The demand has been phenomenal. Just four months after the second edition of the show closed, to global industry approbation, we have already sold 50 percent of the floorspace for the third edition.”    

He added: “Many of the industry’s leading multi-domain businesses booked their stands for 2026 during the 2024 event. I am in no doubt that World Defense Show 2026, will be an essential event for global companies across the defense supply chain.”   

The CEO highlighted that the third edition of the event further solidifies the entity’s position as the emerging global hub for the defense industry.   

The early bookings for the event are in line with the show’s vision to serve as a platform where the global defense industry can convene, connect, and gain valuable insights into the latest innovation-driven defense and security solutions.   

The event also aims to foster integration across air, land, sea, space, and security domains to accelerate advancements in defense technologies.  

“We have grown each year, in the size of our event, in the number of exhibitors and visitors, but also in the depth and breadth of expertise and influence of those taking part in our panels, presentations and discussions,” Pearcey said. 

“Our impact is effected in two ways, as a gateway to partnership and collaboration with the Saudi Arabian defense industry, but more importantly as a truly global networking and policymaking event, welcoming senior delegations from around the world to meet representatives of the international defense industry in a confidential and impartial setting,” he underlined. 

The World Defense Show team are attending Eurosatory 2024, held from June 17 to June 21 at the Paris Nord Villepinte Exhibition Centre. This event will allow potential exhibitors to learn more about the 2026 initiative and book their space while it is still available.  

The World Defense Show 2026 will see the return of many of the event’s networking features, including the “Meet the KSA Government” program, which shares the latest developments on the Kingdom’s business guidelines, investment requirements as well as partnership processes.

Held at the heart of the global supply chain, the show will bring together the most prominent players and start-up visionaries from the defense domain to collectively craft the sector’s future.