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Oman’s new Sultan faces ‘balancing Act’ as credit crunch looms

Holders of more than $20 billion of Oman’s dollar bonds want the new sultan to push through urgent reforms to ward off a credit crunch in the Gulf’s worst performing economy. The swift appointment of Haitham bin Tariq al-Said after the death on Friday of Sultan Qaboos bin Said reassured investors, as some had feared a protracted succession that could have exposed Oman to external interference. While world leaders welcomed Haitham’s promise to uphold a balanced foreign policy, analysts said he needed to tackle unemployment and strained public finances in the indebted country. “It is in the domestic politics and economic policy realm where the ultimate success of Haitham’s leadership will be determined,” said Robert Mogielnicki of the Washington-based Arab Gulf States Institute. Rated junk by all three major agencies, Oman’s debt to GDP ratio spiked to nearly 60percent last year from around 15percent in 2015, and could reach 70percent by 2022, according to S&P Global Ratings. It faces rising refinancing risks as a result of large government external debt maturities in 2021 ($4.3 billion) and 2022 ($6.4 billion) that could add significant pressure to foreign exchange reserves if the debt is not rolled over, S&P associate director Zahabia Saleem Gupta said.

Saudi Arabia leads in women’s legal gains at work

Women’s rights at work have improved globally since 2017, the World Bank said on Tuesday, with 40 countries introducing rules such as longer paid maternity leave and protection from violence on the job. Saudi Arabia made the biggest improvement globally, enacting reforms that affected women’s mobility, sexual harassment and retirement age, it said, although the Middle East and North Africa was the region still most in need of legal reforms. “There’s reason for optimism,” World Bank President David Malpass wrote in a foreword to the report, which assessed laws and regulations in 190 countries affecting women at work, including restrictions on jobs and permitted working hours. “When women can move more freely, work outside the home and manage assets, they’re more likely to join the workforce and strengthen the economy.” Counting 62 reforms in 40 economies between mid-2017 and mid-2019, the report said the average global score for laws affecting women working was 75.2 out of 100, up from 73.9 two years earlier. Countries with the best regulatory environments for women in the economy and scores of 100 were Canada, Belgium, Denmark, France, Iceland, Latvia, Luxembourg and Sweden.

OPEC expects lower demand for its crude

Opec expects lower demand for its crude oil in 2020 even as global demand rises, it said on Wednesday, as rival producers grab market share and the US looks set for another output record. The US, which has seen its output soar in recent years powered by shale, will see total liquids output exceed a 20 million bpd milestone for the first time, the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries forecast in its market report.

It lowered its 2020 demand forecast for Opec crude by 0.1 million bpd to 29.5 million. That would be around 1.2 million bpd lower than in the whole of 2019 and in line with December production, when Opec’s share of global output fell 0.1 percentage point month on month to 29.4 percent. This year, it said Opec’s market share is set to fall further as output booms in non-Opec rivals. Opec said it had raised its overall 2020 oil demand growth outlook by 0.14 million bpd to 1.22 million bpd from the previous month, reflecting an improved economic outlook and booming demand in India and China. If that growth materialises, it would be 30 percent stronger than in 2019. Meanwhile, the UAE’s energy minister said on Wednesday he expects a positive meeting when Opec+ meets in March. Opec and its allies, a group known as Opec+, is capable of doing whatever is needed to achieve a balanced oil market, Suhail bin Mohammed Faraj Faris Al Mazrouei, UAE Minister of Energy and Industry, told reporters on the sidelines of an industry conference in Abu Dhabi.

 

US announces participation in Dubai Expo 2020

The US Department of State has announced the country will be participating in the Expo 2020 Dubai. The statement pointed out that the US pavilion is made possible by “the generosity of the Emirati government” in recognition of the strong partnership between the two countries. “This is a historic opportunity for a global audience to experience the US pavilion and Expo 2020 Dubai when it opens its gates in October 2020 for an expected 25 million visits during the six-month long event,” it stated. The State Department noted that the American private sector would have a golden opportunity to showcase its creativity and innovation, as well as pursue business partnerships and new markets with corporate leaders from around the world.

Why Dubai is more affordable than other major cities

Luxury comes at a high cost in most cities around the world. But not so much in Dubai – thanks to very little taxes in the emirate. Dubai offers pretty good consumer value for certain high-end goods and services, such as luxury jewellery, business class travelling and wedding banquets amongst top luxury cities in the world, according to Swiss bank Julius Bär’s Global Wealth and Lifestyle Report 2020. It compared 28 cities for prices of 20 luxury and lifestyle products such as high-end real estate, cars, business class flight tickets, hotel suites, ladies shoes, men’s suites, jewellery, boarding schools, universities, lawyers, wedding banquets and laser eye surgeries, among others. Interestingly, Dubai didn’t rank the most expensive city in any of these luxury products. Globally, the emriate was ranked 17th most expensive city, more affordable than Hong Kong, New York, Singapore, London, Zurich, Bangkok, Paris, Vienna, Sydney and Rio de Janeiroetc. Mumbai, Johannesburg and Frankfurt were the least expensive cities in 2019. The study showed that luxury property prices in Dubai are nearly 90 percent cheaper than the most expensive city, Monaco, while owning a car is nearly 36 percent cheaper in Dubai than Singapore, which is the most expensive city to buy one. “Dubai is not only cheap for the luxury property market; it is relatively cheap when it comes to owning hig-end cars. Dubai is quite interesting also when it comes to wedding banquets and buying business class tickets. On the other side, Dubai is positioning itself more and more about city that would like to attract wellness services companies. These services are relative expensive in Dubai but we believe that the emirate will see more supply, hence, the prices will automatically start going down,” said Diego Wuergler, managing director and head of investment advisory at Julius Bär. “We see stabilisation in Dubai property prices because of Expo 2020, but it is a short-term measure and Dubai has to balance supply and demand in residential property market,” he added.

Kuwait business town sells investment property at $84mln

The board of Kuwait Business Town Real Estate Company approved the selling of an investment property to one of the company’s subsidiaries at a value of KWD 25.501 million, without achieving a profit nor a loss. The transaction will not have any material impact on the firm’s consolidated financial statements, according to a bourse filing on Tuesday. It is worth noting that over the nine-month period ended September 2019, the company’s profits increased by 22.8percent to KWD 1.88 million from KWD 1.53 million in the corresponding period last year. Saudi Arabia top reformer, improver among 190 economies: World Bank’s Women, Business and the Law report. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has realized a remarkable leap in the World Bank’s Women, Business and the Law 2020 report, with a score of 70.6 out of 100. The report ranks the Kingdom as the top reformer and top improver among 190 economies that it covers. The report also places Saudi Arabia first among GCC countries and second in the Arab world. Saudi Arabia has made outstanding improvements in 6 out of 8 indicators measured by the report: mobility, workplace, marriage, parenthood, entrepreneurship, and pension. The Kingdom- with other leading economies- is a global benchmark in four areas of reform: women’s mobility, workplace, entrepreneurship, and pension. Thanks to a bold set of 12 legislative reforms that it has implemented, the Kingdom has significantly transformed the lives of women by enhancing their economic participation and strengthened the Kingdom’s global competitiveness. Issam Abu Sulaiman, the World Bank’s Regional Director for GCC, lauded the Kingdom’s achievement: “Saudi Arabia basically has become one of the leaders in the Arab World in terms of women empowerment,” he said. “We expect that this will contribute tremendously to the realization of Vision 2030 when it comes to economic growth, diversification and women employment.” The package of legislative reforms include: expanding women’s access to employment opportunities in new sectors of the economy, lifting restrictions on their mobility, ensuring their access to public services, guaranteeing equal pay and retirement benefits and protecting them against harassment and discrimination. The Kingdom’s new global standing, as pointed out by the WBL report, is testimony to its leadership’s commitment to expanding the economic opportunities to all citizens, notably women and youth, as outlined in Vision 2030.

Saudi Arabia and UAE aren’t bothered by India’s citizenship amendment act?

India over the last month has faced protests against the Modi government’s Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the eventuality of a National Population Register (NPR), which critics have said is discriminatory against Muslims and is “un-secular” in intent. That begs the question of why the Islamic countries in the Middle East have remained quiet about the ongoing upheavals in the world’s most populous democracy, home to the third-largest Muslim population. The answer lies in more than a decade of rapprochement, realignment, and new geopolitical and economic realities forcing a change of play in the major Arab capitals, along with New Delhi. In 2004, in the coastal southern Indian state of Goa, known for its sandy beaches and eclectic resorts, leaders of the oil and gas world met to formulate new strategies and bridges during a time when the fear that “oil is running out” was taking precedence. This was when former U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, then the executive vice president of American hydrocarbons giant ExxonMobil, made his first trip to India. Also in attendance was Abdullah S Jum’ah, then the CEO of Saudi Aramco, arguably the world’s richest company. At the time, Jum’ah strengthened an important strategic fault line for New Delhi by saying that Riyadh will stand by the country’s energy security needs, strong backing for a nation of 1.3 billion people reliant on oil and gas imports from the Middle East to propel its freshly bulging economy. This early 2000s was precisely when a shift in the thinking of Riyadh and Abu Dhabi was starting to become visible, in alignment with the much-celebrated rise of the Indian economy as the major growth story in Asia, along with China. In 2003, then-President of India A.P.J. Abdul Kalam’s visit to the UAE was to become a foundational trip on which modern economic ties between the Gulf and India were to be built.

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