Global growth expected to be sluggish, driven mainly by developed economies
The MENA Region is expected to witness a 3.8% growth in GDP in 2016, revealed an Al Masah Capital Limited Report titled ‘MENA Yearbook – 2016’. In contrast, the global economic growth prospects are somewhat modest with the World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) lowering their forecasts to 2.4%, 3.1% and 2.9% respectively.
The sharp decline in oil prices, various global factors and rising geopolitical tensions meant that the MENA Region is estimated to have registered a lower GDP growth rate of 2.3% in 2015 as opposed to 2.6% a year earlier. According to the report, despite these headwinds the MENA Region has continued its growth trajectory with the same expected this year on account of the various government initiatives to introduce alternative measures to boost revenues and GDP contributions of the non-oil sector. With oil prices dropping to record lows since mid-2014, government revenues are dwindling and state deficits are burgeoning. Oil price volatility is expected to continue in 2016 and hence increasing non-oil sector revenues will enable governments fund their ambitious spending programmes which are key to sustaining regional economic growth.
The report highlights and analyzes the economic performance and prospects of the key MENA economies namely the six GCC countries and Egypt, as well as the key developed economies of USA, Eurozone and Japan, and emerging economies of China and India. It highlights the various macroeconomic challenges that prevailed in 2015 which are expected to persist and most likely intensify further this year. The events that unfolded in 2015, the success or failure of the divergent monetary policies of the central banks in developed economies and headwinds in key emerging markets especially China, are critical factors that will shape the global economy in 2016, cites the report.
Key MENA Economies
Lower oil revenues in 2015 have weakened the fiscal position and impacted the capital spending program of the Saudi Arabian government aimed at boosting economic activity. Amidst tough economic conditions in 2016 and expectations of a sizeable reduction in project spending and gradual cut in subsidies, the IMF forecasts GDP growth to be curtailed at 1.2% down from 3.4% in 2015. The report states that if Saudi Arabia is to reduce its fiscal deficit it will need to follow the regional trend and introduce tough reforms to boost non-oil revenues in addition to introducing measures to tackle youth unemployment, its biggest socio-economic challenge.
The UAE despite being the most diversified market in the region is expected to register a modest 3.1% GDP growth in 2016 as concerns over low oil prices continue to prevail resulting in a slowdown in economic activity. However driven by its vision of increasing the non-hydrocarbon sector’s contribution to the GDP to 81% within the next 5 years, the UAE has made considerable progress through its economic and policy reforms – enhancing business competitiveness, encouraging foreign investments and supporting a range of projects and initiatives based on the knowledge economy.
The IMF expects Egypt’s GDP to grow at 4.3% in 2016 slightly up from the estimated 4.2% growth in 2015 however the government has projected a growth rate of 5% for FY 2015-16. The report states that despite the government’s efforts to reinforce security and introduce positive reforms, the prevailing unstable geopolitical climate and slow implementation of new projects and structural reforms are likely to restrict growth going forward.
Qatar is likely to have registered a GDP growth of 4.7% in 2015 which is expected to rise to 4.9% in 2016. Despite its reliance on the oil and gas sector, its economy is expected to continue growing propelled by the government’s strong commitment to continue investing in major infrastructure projects as part of its efforts to diversify its revenue sources.
According to IMF preliminary estimates, Kuwait’s GDP is expected to have grown by 1.2% in 2015 and increase to 2.5% in 2016 driven by the non-hydrocarbon sector growth. In addition the implementation of the $112.4 billion infrastructure development plan is expected to boost private sector participation in the economy, supporting future robust growth.
The IMF expects Oman’s economy to expand by 2.8% in 2016 compared to 4.4% in 2015 as its fiscal position continues to remain under pressure on account of its high breakeven price for oil which could result in spending restraints and impairment of economic growth. Despite several challenges, reforms and alternative methods to boost revenues can offset some of the headwinds facing the economy this year and beyond.
According to IMF estimates, Bahrain’s economy is expected to expand at 2.1% in 2016 however its fiscal position is deteriorating as oil prices continue to decline. With modest forex reserves and one of the highest debt-to-GDP ratios in the region, Bahrain will need to continue introducing reforms and diversify its economy to boost non-oil sector revenues to drive growth.
The US economy gained further strength in 2015, with annual growth expected to be the strongest since the post-crisis rebound in 2010 on account of the gradual improvement seen in the labor market. Estimated to grow at 2.4% in 2016, the US is expected to mainly drive global economic growth this year along with other developed economies.
The Eurozone is on a gradual recovery path which is likely to improve further on the back of loose monetary policy by the central bank, however deflationary pressure continues to persist. It is expected to register a 1.5% growth in 2015 on account of strong domestic demand driven by the progress made in the labour market.
Japan’s economy has been impacted by the slow implementation of pro-growth reforms, recording inconsistent growth during 2015. Loose monetary policy which is likely to support investment and consumption demand, rising consumer confidence driven by steady improvements in the labor market, and increased capital expenditure boosted by a weaker yen are expected to increase Japan’s economic activity this year.
Key Emerging Economies
The report states that although continuing to grow at a faster pace than the developed markets, emerging markets had a challenging past year and are expected to continue facing headwinds in 2016 – a key reason behind the revised growth forecasts by the World Bank, IMF and OECD.
China accounts for nearly a third of the global economic growth hence the impact of the deceleration in its economy during 2015, registering a growth rate of under 7%, was felt across the world especially since it is transitioning from one an investment-led to consumption-based economy. This means that the world will have to absorb a slowing growth in China and accordingly adjust to new realities going forward.
The Indian economy on the other hand grew at a rate of 7.5%, higher than China for the first time in a decade, and is expected to remain steady at 7.5% GDP growth in 2016 and 2017.