Complex Made Simple

Weekly economic update: Is MENA gender gap closing?

Only 60 per cent of the gender gap closed in the MENA region, compared with 75 per cent in Europe and 68 per cent in East Asia and the Pacific, according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2016.

Qatar stands first in the Arab world, but is 119th globally, followed by Algeria (120), UAE (124), Tunisia (126), Kuwait (128), Mauritania (129), Bahrain (131), Egypt (132), Oman (133) and Jordan (134).

Below is a look at each country’s economic updates this week.

Bahrain

  • Bahrain’s real estate market is about to get a massive pump as Mumtalakat, a Bahraini sovereign fund, announced it will be investing approximately $500 million. The investment will see the creation of two hotels, at a total investment of more than $300m.

Egypt

  • Egypt is still waiting for the IMF’s approval on the $6 billion bilateral financing loan, supplementing roughly $4 billion in first year funding from the entity. The IMF expects its board to consider the loan “within weeks”, according to a senior official.

  • Egypt plans to issue roughly $2bn in international bonds, with the roadshows expected to start in the early weeks of November.

  • Net foreign direct investments fell by 21.5 per cent YoY to $992.9m during 2015-2016, the central bank reported. Meanwhile, Investment inflows dropped to approximately $2.876bn by end June 2016, while outflows recorded $1.883bn. Money from Arab countries registered the biggest decline, falling by 44.7 per cent to $425.2m as of end-June.

  • Egypt plans to raise investments in the market by 19 per cent in FY2017-2018, revealed the trade and industry minister. He stated that plans were underway aiming to raise economic growth to six per cent within the next fiscal year and to lower financial deficit to 8.5 per cent in 2018-2019.

  • Egypt’s central bank will allocate EGP10 billion($1.1bn) for youth-led technological projects, which usually have high economic feasibility, according to the central bank chief, as part of the wider EGP200bn initiative to support and boost SMEs.

  • The number of mobile users in Egypt increased to 96.4m by end of July with the addition of 200,000 new subscribers.

Jordan

  • The unemployment ratein Jordan was 15.8 per cent in Q3 this year; the joblessness rate among men was 13.8 per cent, while it reached 25.2 per cent among women.

Kuwait

  • The total workforce in Kuwait reached 1.9m in June this year; the number of Kuwaitis in the total workforce declined to 18 per cent, down from 19 per cent in 2015. Asians accounted for 49.7 per cent of foreign workers, while non-Kuwaiti women constituted 10.2 per cent of the expatriate workforce.

  • Kuwait is still considering issuing international bonds worth around KWD3bn ($9.90bn), revealed a finance ministry official.

Qatar

  • Qatar’s trade surplus narrowed by 25.8 per cent YoY to QAR 8.8bn in September. Exports of petroleum gases and other gaseous hydrocarbons fell 13.5 per cent to QAR 11.4bn. Imports were down 8.8 per cent YoY.

  • Total credit disbursed in Qatar grew by 1.1 per cent in September, as total domestic public sector loans increased by 2.2 per cent. Private sector loans were up 0.7 per cent mom, as real estate sector loans increased 0.8 per cent mom. Real estate sector loans account for roughly 28 per cent of private sector loans.
  • Qatar’s banks “remain healthy”, according to the central bank’s Financial Stability Review, as more than 80 per cent of their non-performing loans are provisioned. The Banking Stability Index, also part of the Review, decreased marginally in 2015, though risk from liquidity and soundness increased. The risk perception of the banks has increased this year, as 50 per cent of surveyed banks reported an increase across all risk factors: soundness, fragility, liquidity, profitability and inefficiency.

Saudi Arabia

  • Saudi Arabiahas no further plans to issue monthly local currency bonds, given its recent international bond sale, disclosed the Maal financial website quoting unnamed sources.

  • Inflation in Saudi Arabia was at its lowest level this year, at –3.0 per cent YoY in September.
  • As austerity bites, the Saudi central bank asks banks to reschedule households’ property loans. While the banks must offer all available rescheduling options to clients, neither fixed interest rates on loans nor variable rates can be changed and banks cannot take extra fees when they reschedule loans, according to the central bank.

UAE

  • The UAE’s President issued the long-awaitedFederal bankruptcy law, which is likely to be enacted in Q1 2017. According to the law firm Tamimi & Tamimi, a restructuring and bankruptcy committee would oversee the process and would offer three options: restructuring, preventative composition and bankruptcy.

  • UAE established the Federal Tax Authority to collect data, information and statistics related to federal taxes. This entity is expected to coordinate with the federal government, local governments and taxpayers on all matters related to taxes and related fines.

  • The UAE jumped five positions to 26th rank globally in the latest issue of the World Bank’s Doing Business The country, which ranked top among Arab nations, was also in the list of top ten international improvers on the basis of reforms undertaken.
  • The UAE increased its clean energy target to 27 per cent by 2021 from 24 per cent previously announced.

Source: Nasser Saidi & Associates