Tuesday, May 13, 2008


From FT (link):

"Inflation has replaced unemployment as the most pressing short-term problem facing the oil-rich Gulf economies, which are reaping the benefits of record oil revenues but do not have the tools available to cap rising prices, the International Monetary Fund warned on Monday. Creating jobs for the region’s growing youth population continued to be the main longer-term challenge for Middle Eastern oil exporters, said Mohsin Khan, the IMF’s regional director, but rising prices, already a concern in Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, had now extended across the Gulf Co-operation Council members to traditionally low-inflation countries such as Saudi Arabia, where inflation is approaching 10 per cent... The IMF predicts the Arab Gulf states’ consumer price index will average 7.1 per cent this year, up from 6.1 per cent in 2007 – while the broader Middle East and north Africa region will reach 10.4 per cent this year. With many regional economies pegged to the dollar, central banks lack any monetary policy tools to tackle inflation, leaving fiscal spending, rent caps and price subsidies as the only policy tools available to policymakers. In November last year, for example, rumours of a revaluation in the UAE sparked speculative inflows of $45bn (€29bn, £23bn) in one month, almost a third of the UAE’s gross domestic product... The Middle East and central Asia, which has been largely insulated from global economic uncertainty, was set to continue its strong performance, with oil-exporting countries seeing growth pick up to 6.25 per cent, the IMF said in its biannual regional economic outlook report. The region’s oil and gas exports will amount to $940bn this year, almost $200bn more than last year, as an almost fivefold increase in the price of oil fills the GCC’s coffers. The IMF estimates that the GCC’s combined GDP will reach more than $1,000bn this year, up from $805bn in 2007. The oil exporter’s growing external current account surplus, which is expected to grow to $1,400bn for 2004-2008, signals a continuing ability to invest abroad, while coping with increasing imports and investment into their domestic economies. The GCC’s current account surplus is expected to rise to $332bn from $227bn in 2007, with the UAE’s surplus rising 58 per cent and Qatar’s almost doubling. Official reserves of oil exporters had reached $800bn by the end of 2007. Foreign direct investment into the region reached $80bn in 2007, four times as high as 2002, 55 per cent of which flowed into Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE."

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