IMF concerned about debt, fiscal challenges facing low-income countries 

IMF concerned about debt, fiscal challenges facing low-income countries 
IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva said high debt levels posed a huge burden for low-income countries, including many in Sub-Saharan Africa. Supplied
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Updated 21 April 2024
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IMF concerned about debt, fiscal challenges facing low-income countries 

IMF concerned about debt, fiscal challenges facing low-income countries 

WASHINGTON: Shareholders of the International Monetary Fund agreed this week on the importance of addressing challenges faced by low-income countries, many of which are facing unsustainable debt burdens, IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva said on Friday. 

Multiple reports from the IMF and the World Bank this week sounded the alarm about economic developments and prospects in low-income developing countries, which are still grappling with the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic and other shocks. 

The IMF lowered its 2024 growth forecast for low-income countries as a group to 4.7 percent from an estimate of 4.9 percent in January. In a separate report, the World Bank said half of the world’s 75 poorest countries were experiencing a widening income gap with the wealthiest economies for the first time this century in a historical reversal of development. 

Georgieva said the IMF was working to reinforce its ability to support low-income countries hit hardest by recent shocks, including through a 50 percent quota share increase and by adding resources to its Poverty Reduction and Growth Trust. 

Georgieva and Saudi Arabia’s Finance Minister Mohammed Al-Jadaan, who chairs the IMF’s steering committee, both said internal reforms adopted by the IMF this week should help make the debt restructuring process speedier and smoother. 

Georgieva said a meeting of the Global Sovereign Debt Roundtable hosted by the IMF and the World Bank this week had made progress on setting timelines for debt restructurings and ensuring comparability of treatment for various creditors. 

She said high debt levels posed a huge burden for low-income countries, including many in Sub-Saharan Africa, where countries are now facing debt service payments of 12 percent on average, compared to 5 percent a decade ago. High interest rates in advanced economies have lured away investments, and raised the cost of borrowing. 

“What is heartbreaking is that in some countries debt payments are up to 20 percent of revenues,” Georgieva said, adding that this meant those countries had far fewer resources to invest in education, health, infrastructure and jobs. 

Affected countries needed to increase their domestic revenues by raising taxes, continuing to fight inflation, paring back spending and developing local capital markets, she said. 

The Bulgarian economist said it was vital for these countries to make themselves more attractive to investors, and said the IMF was engaging with countries to help them do that. 

Iolanda Fresnillo, with the non-profit European Network on Debt and Development, said the UN should implement a new multilateral legal framework to deal with sovereign debt, in a similar way that is currently being done for a new framework to govern tax cooperation. 

The current approach is too piecemeal and a broader framework should take into account climate change, environmental degradation and human rights, she said. 

US Treasury Undersecretary Jay Shambaugh raised concerns about the situation facing low-income countries last week, warning China and other emerging official creditors against free-riding by curtailing loans to low-income countries just as the IMF or multilateral development banks were pouring funds in. 

Almost 40 countries saw external public debt outflows in 2022, and the flows likely worsened in 2023, he said.


Saudi Arabia’s Sports Boulevard doubles its existing investment fund to $533m  

Saudi Arabia’s Sports Boulevard doubles its existing investment fund to $533m  
Updated 27 May 2024
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Saudi Arabia’s Sports Boulevard doubles its existing investment fund to $533m  

Saudi Arabia’s Sports Boulevard doubles its existing investment fund to $533m  

RIYADH: Private sector participation in the Sports Boulevard project is set to increase as the foundation behind Riyadh’s largest linear park plans to double its investment fund to SR2 billion ($533 million). 

In a press release, the Sports Boulevard Foundation announced its partnership with Ajdan Real Estate Development Co. and Albilad Capital to add an additional SR1 billion to the private real estate investment fund “Sports Boulevard Real Estate Fund 1.” 

This increased funding will be utilized to bolster private sector participation within the Arts District, one of the destinations within the Sports Boulevard project. 

The Sports Boulevard Development Co. will continue to hold the majority of units in the fund, while Ajdan Real Estate Development Co. will serve as a developer and primary investor, and Albilad Capital will act as the fund manager. 

This partnership underscores the collaborative effort behind the expansion, signifying a strategic alliance aimed at creating a vibrant urban space that enhances Riyadh’s cultural and economic landscape.  

The project aims to develop a mixed-use lifestyle destination consisting of residential, retail, office, and entertainment components.  

Covering a land area of over 39,000 sq. m. at the heart of the Arts District, the total combined built-up site spans approximately 240,000 sq. m., boasting over 100,000 sq. m. of net leasable area.   

The design of this destination draws inspiration from the Sports Boulevard Design Code, influenced by the Salmani Architectural Style. This ensures a dynamic and immersive lifestyle experience for both residents and visitors. 

Situated at the intersection of Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Road and Prince Turki bin Abdulaziz Al Awwal Road, it offers expansive public spaces, recreational areas, and cycling-friendly tracks. 

Covering an area of 184,000 sq. m., the project extends beyond private development parcels, providing ample space for recreational activities and pedestrian-friendly pathways, efficiently linked to the promenade and cycling bridge. 

Sports Boulevard, a mega project launched by King Salman bin Abdulaziz in 2019, and supported by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, spans over 135 km on Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Road.  

It features safe green pathways for pedestrians, cyclists, athletes, and horse riders, connecting Wadi Hanifah in the west to Wadi Al Sulai in the east. 

Additionally, the project includes over 4.4 million sq. m. of greenery, open spaces, and up to 50 multidisciplinary sports facilities. It also hosts several unique destinations and investment zones, totaling an area exceeding 3 million sq. m. 


Closing Bell: Saudi benchmark index edges down to close at 11,831

Closing Bell: Saudi benchmark index edges down to close at 11,831
Updated 27 May 2024
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Closing Bell: Saudi benchmark index edges down to close at 11,831

Closing Bell: Saudi benchmark index edges down to close at 11,831

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Tadawul All Share Index slipped on Monday, losing 19.42 points, or 0.16 percent, to close at 11,831.22.  

The total trading turnover of the benchmark index was SR5.8 billion ($1.5 billion) as 110 stocks advanced, while 108 retreated.   

On the other hand, the Kingdom’s parallel market Nomu also slipped 189.65 points, or 0.71 percent, to close at 26,448.54. This comes as 30 stocks advanced while as many as 34 retreated.  

Similarly, the MSCI Tadawul Index also dropped 2.67 points, or 0.18 percent, to close at 1,470.41.    

The best-performing stock of the day was Saudi Paper Manufacturing Co. The company’s share price surged 4.89 percent to SR75.10.  

Other top performers included CHUBB Arabia Cooperative Insurance Co. as well as Middle East Specialized Cables Co., whose share prices soared by 3.96 percent and 3.46 percent, to stand at SR34.10 and SR32.85 respectively.  

On Nomu, Osool and Bakheet Investment Co. was the top gainer, with its share price rising by 9.22 percent to SR48.   

Other best performers on Nomu were View United Real Estate Development Co. as well as Al-Modawat Specialized Medical Co., whose share prices soared by 6.53 percent and 6.20 percent to stand at SR79.90 and SR150.80, respectively.  

Additional top gainers included Almujtama Alraida Medical Co. and Bena Steel Industries Co.  

On the announcement front, Saudi Basic Industries Corp., known as SABIC, received all necessary approvals from relevant authorities to complete the acquisition of its subsidiary Saudi Iron and Steel Co., also known as HADEED, by the Public Investment Fund. 

In a statement on Tadawul, SABIC announced that it has satisfied all transaction-related conditions to complete the SR12.5 billion acquisition announced earlier in September 2023. 

Furthermore, Saudi Arabia aluminum producer Al Taiseer Group Talco Industrial Co. is listing a 30 percent stake on the Tadawul stock exchange following an initial public offering, setting the final offer price at SR43 per share. 

The company is selling 12 million shares and has completed the book-building process for institutional investors, which saw a coverage of 68.5 times the total offer shares, according to Alinma Investment Co., the lead manager and financial adviser to the issuance. 

The book-building process for retail investors will run for two days starting on May 28. During this time, they can subscribe to a maximum of 10 percent of the shares. The final share allocation is set for June 2. 


Saudi Arabia focused on promoting energy efficiency: top official

Saudi Arabia focused on promoting energy efficiency: top official
Updated 27 May 2024
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Saudi Arabia focused on promoting energy efficiency: top official

Saudi Arabia focused on promoting energy efficiency: top official

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s budding energy efficiency sector has witnessed notable growth, with the number of licensed service providers reaching 55 by the end of 2023, says a top official. 

As the Kingdom strives to reduce its carbon footprint, with recently amplified goals to achieve net-zero by 2060, the Saudi Energy Efficiency Center is working to aide the nation in realizing these ambitions, Nasser Al-Ghamdi, the CEO of the center noted. 

In his inaugural address at the Saudi ESCO forum, the top executive stressed the entity’s role in raising awareness about energy efficiency. He highlighted that 26 universities nationwide have adopted energy efficiency topics and courses in their curricula.

“Since the inception of the center, we have launched various initiatives that will help in reducing energy consumption,” Al- Ghamdi said.

Among these undertakings, the body has succeeded in launching and implementing more than 200 training programs in the field of energy efficiency, the CEO added. 

The executive emphasized that the center has strived to create the necessary ecosystem for suppliers and their beneficiaries in this “promising market” to ensure the quality of energy-efficiency service providers.

He added that this will be achieved through the application of a licensing system for those interested in investing in this field after meeting the technical requirements necessary to provide the service. 

Highlighting the role that the fledgling sector is playing in achieving net-zero goals, the CEO said: “The sector, which is considered relatively new, is helping companies and enterprises and buildings in finding solutions to efficiently use energy, including financing and managing solutions and projects. These companies also contribute energy consumption analysis and knowing opportunities for companies to improve their consumption.”

Due to the absence of energy efficiency activities in the commercial sector, one of the highest energy consumers in the Kingdom, accounting for 15.7 percent of total consumption of facilities in the nation, the body launched a pilot project to improve this field. 

The initiative aims to improve conditions in the commercial sector by raising business owners’ awareness of opportunities, as implementing energy auditing projects is expected to improve overall efficiency.


Yanbu Royal Commission teams up with Skytower Investments for industrial projects development

Yanbu Royal Commission teams up with Skytower Investments for industrial projects development
Updated 27 May 2024
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Yanbu Royal Commission teams up with Skytower Investments for industrial projects development

Yanbu Royal Commission teams up with Skytower Investments for industrial projects development

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Yanbu governorate is poised to see the development of several industrial projects following an agreement between its Royal Commission and Skytower Investments Ltd. 

The memorandum of understanding, signed by the commission’s CEO, Abdul Hadi Al-Juhani, aims to develop industries in the petrochemicals sector, specialized chemicals, renewable energy, and other manufacturing divisions. 

This MoU signing is part of the Royal Commission’s ongoing efforts to attract more local and international investments to Yanbu Industrial City in promising sectors, aligning with the objectives of Saudi Vision 2030 programs. 

Headquartered in Riyadh, STI is an investment firm specializing in renewable technology, green manufacturing, supply chain, and green power production. 

“This is a result of significant development over the past nine months by both teams paving the way for more international manufacturing and localization projects landing in Yanbu,” Skytower said in a tweet on X. 

It added: “This agreement will pave the way for more international manufacturing and localization projects landing in Yanbu, an industrial heartland with complete industry infrastructure and extensive manufacturing experiences.” 

In April, STI signed a four-party joint agreement with Chinese automaker Chery Automobile Co., the Ministry of Investment, and the National Industrial Development Center.  

This collaboration, driven by Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030, signifies a crucial step toward future economic opportunities and the well-being of the Saudi people. 

In August 2023, the Kingdom’s untapped southern region took a significant step toward welcoming international travelers.  

Cruise Saudi and the Royal Commission for Jubail and Yanbu signed an MoU to unlock the region’s tourism potential. This strategic partnership was aimed at positioning the southern region as a captivating tourist destination, fostering growth in the travel sector and contributing to the region’s economic advancement. 

Formalized during the MASAREB ceremony held in Jazan, the agreement encompassed a spectrum of efforts, from knowledge transfer to mutual alignment on ventures aimed at establishing the destination and yielding a positive local impact. 

STI is a global partnership between NGOs, green businesses with advanced eco-friendly technology, sustainable manufacturing, and Saudi’s national sustainable economic development authorities.

Their aim is to develop practical plans for industry decarbonization, economic revitalization, technological advancement, and carbon-neutral technology.


Digital trade activities in UAE to grow by 12.3% annually

Digital trade activities in UAE to grow by 12.3% annually
Updated 27 May 2024
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Digital trade activities in UAE to grow by 12.3% annually

Digital trade activities in UAE to grow by 12.3% annually
  • Projected surge likely to be fueled by BNPL, fintech systems: report 

 

RIYADH: Digital trade in the UAE is projected to grow at a compound annual rate of 12.3 percent from 2023 to 2028, fueled by the rise of “buy now, pay later” models and fintech systems.

A joint research paper, issued by the country’s Ministry of Economy and Abu Dhabi Chamber of Commerce and Industry, showed that more than 40 percent of consumers in the UAE rely on “buy now, pay later” models and fintech digital technology systems.

ADCCI CEO Ahmed Khalifa Al-Qubaisi said the research paper serves to strengthen his chamber’s position as a leading partner in the process of digital transformation in the business world.

“It aligns with the chamber’s strategy for digital transformation, aimed at attracting talent and expertise, exploring technological solutions, and integrating advanced AI technologies and tools such as Microsoft Copilot, into the current operational system at the Abu Dhabi Chamber,” he said.

Al-Qubaisi added this integration is intended to boost the level of productivity, improve the completion of daily tasks, increase customer satisfaction, and support the efforts of local and global businessmen and entrepreneurs.

He further said that the ADCCI continues its endeavors to enhance the quality of initiatives and projects dedicated to the private sector.

“The chamber employs various smart systems to analyze and process accurate data, as well as develop operational processes,” the CEO said.

He added that this approach aims to bolster sound decision-making and the formulation of effective strategic plans aligned with the aspirations of the business community in Abu Dhabi.

He noted that the paper provides a detailed overview of local, regional, and global regulatory frameworks and policies, key agreements, and the role of major international bodies such as the World Trade Organization in shaping the movement of traditional and digital trade and highlights new e-commerce practices that shape current trade dynamics.

The research paper revealed that about 49 percent of consumers in the UAE shop online frequently, with about 47 percent of the population relying on credit cards, which is much higher than the global average of 18 percent.

The research paper stated that it is expected that 20.1 percent of total global retail purchases will be completed online in 2024, while digital retail activity is expected to constitute around 25 percent of total global sales by 2027.