Oil Prices and Public Finances: A Double-Edged Sword

By Benedict Clements and Marta Ruiz-Arranz 

(Versions in 中文, Français, 日本語Русскийعربي and Español)

Plunging oil prices have taken the public finances on an exciting ride the past six months. Oil prices have fallen about 45 percent since September (see April 2015 World Economic Outlook), putting a big dent in the revenues of oil exporters, while providing oil importers an unexpected windfall.  How has the decline in oil prices affected the public finances, and how should oil importers and exporters adjust to this new state of affairs?

In the April 2015 Fiscal Monitor, we argue that the oil price decline provides a golden opportunity to initiate serious energy subsidy and taxation reforms that would lock in savings, improve the public finances and boost long-term economic growth.

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Learning to Live with Cheaper Oil in the Middle East

masood-ahmedBy Masood Ahmed

(Version in عربي)

The steep decline in global oil prices, by 55 percent since last September, has changed the economic dynamics of oil exporters in the Middle East and North Africa. Our update of the Regional Economic Outlook, released yesterday, shows that these countries are now faced with large export and government revenue losses, which are expected to reach about $300 billion (21 percent of GDP) in the Gulf Cooperation Council and about $90 billion (10 percent of GDP) in other oil-exporting countries.

Where prices will eventually settle is, of course, uncertain, making it hard for policymakers to gauge how much of the bane is temporary in nature and what share of it they should expect to last.

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Middle East and North Africa Face Historic Crossroads

If there is one fact I think sums up the problems of the Middle East and North Africa, it is that the non-oil exports of the whole region, are $365 billion, about the same as the exports of Belgium, a country of 11 million people, compared with the 400 million people who make up the Arab world. This is a crucial indicator of the nature and size of the structural adjustment problem the Arab countries in transition face.

Meeting the Employment Challenge in the GCC

The issue of how to create more jobs is high on the minds of policymakers everywhere. The economies of the six Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries—Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates—are no exception. By many measures, these economies are doing very well. However, economic activity is dominated by the oil/gas sector and that sector creates relatively few jobs directly—less than 3 percent of the region’s labor force. Diversification strategies are in place, and the non-oil sector has grown fairly rapidly over the past decade. But can it deliver enough jobs for GCC nationals?

By | January 19th, 2012|Employment, growth, International Monetary Fund, Middle East, عربي|3 Comments

Is There a Silver Lining to Sluggish Credit Growth in the Gulf Countries?

Sluggish credit growth in the post-crisis period was hardly a unique development, as indicated in our latest Regional Economic Outlook for the Middle East and Central Asia region. But while there are clearer signs of recovery in some countries, credit to the private sector is still barely growing in the six nations of the Gulf Cooperation Council, notwithstanding policy efforts to revive it. It might seem easy to ring the alarm bells. But there are a number of reasons why we are not as concerned about the slowdown in credit growth—among them that the adjustment reflects a much needed correction from very high—perhaps unsustainable—rates of credit growth witnessed during the boom years.

By | December 7th, 2010|Economic Crisis, Economic outlook, Middle East, عربي|1 Comment

Did Islamic Banks in the Gulf Do Better Than Conventional Ones in the Crisis?

By Masood Ahmed

The IMF’s latest regional economic outlook for the Middle East compares the performance of Islamic banks in the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) with conventional ones during the global financial crisis.

Islamic banks were less affected during the initial phase of the crisis, reflecting a stronger first-round impact on conventional banks through mark-to-market valuations on securities in 2008. But, in 2009, data for the first half of the year indicate somewhat larger declines in profitability for Islamic banks, revealing the second-round effect of the crisis on the real economy, especially real estate.  

Going forward, Islamic banks overall are better poised to withstand additional stress, according to the IMF analysis.

Portfolio risk

Islamic banks have grown substantially in recent years, with their assets currently estimated at close to $850 billion. Overall, the risk profile of Islamic banks is similar to conventional banks in that the risk profile of Shariah-compliant contracts is largely similar to that in conventional contracts, and credit risk is the main risk for both types of banks.

Islamic banks are not permitted to have any direct exposure to financial derivatives or conventional financial institutions’ securities—which were hit most during the global crisis (photo: Karim Sahib/AFP/Getty Images)

Islamic banks are not permitted to have any direct exposure to financial derivatives or conventional financial institutions’ securities—which were hit most during the global crisis (photo: Karim Sahib/AFP/Getty Images)

Unlike conventional banks, however, Islamic banks are not permitted to have any direct exposure to financial derivatives or conventional financial institutions’ securities—which were hit most during the global crisis.

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By | October 14th, 2009|Economic Crisis, Financial Crisis|5 Comments
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