Gulf Economies to Pick up in 2020 Following Spending Spree

Thursday, 23 January, 2020 - 06:00 -

Gulf Economies to Pick up in 2020 Following Spending Spree

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Real GDP growth in Saudi should benefit from stronger non-oil activity. Photo by Khalid al-Khamis
Dubai - Asharq Al-Awsat
Economic growth in the Gulf will pick up this year and next, helped by Saudi Arabia’s investment program and Expo 2020 in Dubai, although the region will continue to feel the impact of oil output cuts, a Reuters poll showed on Wednesday.

OPEC and non-OPEC allies agreed in December to deepen output cuts, coming in addition to previously agreed curbs of 1.2 million bpd, and will represent about 1.7% of global oil output.

Saudi Arabia’s economy grew 0.3% in 2019, and is expected to grow 2.0% in 2020 and 2.2% in 2021, the poll of 26 economists, conducted Jan. 7-21, projected. A similar poll three months ago, gave the same forecasts for 2020 and 2021 but estimated 0.7% growth in 2019.

“Saudi Arabia’s third quarter GDP data, showing a fall of 0.5% year-on-year, was broadly as expected, with OPEC+ cuts constraining the contribution of the oil sector to economic growth,” Oxford Economics wrote in a research note. But diversification efforts “show signs of feedthrough”, it said.

Monica Malik, chief economist at Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank, said a stronger non-oil sector would help Saudi Arabia.

“Real GDP growth in Saudi should benefit from stronger non-oil activity as the investment program gains momentum. The drag from the oil sector should moderate in 2020 following a sharp reduction in oil output in 2019,” she said.

Median forecasts for growth in Oman, a relatively small Gulf crude producer, were significantly slashed. Analysts saw 1.0% growth in 2019, 1.7% in 2020 and 2.3% in 2021. Three months ago, Oman’s GDP was seen growing 1.3% in 2019, 3.2% in 2020 and 3.0% in 2021.

Oman’s ruler of 50 years, Sultan Qaboos bin Said, died earlier this month.

Maya Senussi, senior economist at Oxford Economics, said deeper oil production cuts agreed by OPEC and allies in December, and prospects for non-oil activity remaining weak, have weighed on Oman’s outlook.

Analysts forecast growth of 1.7% in 2019 for the United Arab Emirates, down from 2.2% in the poll three months ago. Its 2020 and 2021 estimates were unchanged.

The governments of Dubai and Abu Dhabi, the country’s two main emirates, have boosted spending to provide stimulus to their economies.

Dubai, which will host Expo 2020 this year, announced a record budget of around $18 billion this year, a 17% increase year on year, while Abu Dhabi announced in 2018 a three-year package of $13.6 billion.

Kuwait, which said last week it expects a budget deficit of 9.2 billion dinars ($30.3 billion) in the fiscal year starting on April 1, was forecast to see 0.5% economic growth in 2019, down from the 1% expected three months ago.

Kuwait’s GDP growth was revised down to 1.9% in 2020 from 2.2% three months earlier. Expectations for its 2021 growth, however, have risen to 2.6% from 2.3%.

GDP growth for Qatar, the world’s largest exporter of liquefied natural gas, was revised down to 0.9% in 2019 from 2.0% three months ago. Its 2020 forecast was cut to 2.1% from 2.4%, while its 2021 estimate was lifted to 2.5% from 2.3%.

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