IMF Mission in Tunisia to Assess Advancement of Economic Reforms

Pedestrians walk past the International Monetary Fund headquarters’ complex in Washington. (AP)
Pedestrians walk past the International Monetary Fund headquarters’ complex in Washington. (AP)
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IMF Mission in Tunisia to Assess Advancement of Economic Reforms

Pedestrians walk past the International Monetary Fund headquarters’ complex in Washington. (AP)
Pedestrians walk past the International Monetary Fund headquarters’ complex in Washington. (AP)

An International Monetary Fund (IMF) mission has kicked off a new phase of talks with Tunisian authorities on the advancement of economic reforms, as part of the loan agreement.

The mission asserted that the IMF will maintain its support for the economic reforms, which will accelerate the development pace in Tunisia.

During his meeting with Ziad Al-Athari, minister of international cooperation and development on Friday, the mission’s head Bjoern Rother praised the efforts of Youssef al-Shahed’s government over the few past months to preserve financial balances.

Athari stressed the importance of the IMF’s understanding of the difficult economic situation in the country, highlighting its role in cooperating Tunisia in this phase to ensure the success of its nascent democratic experience.

The government is determined to promote investment as a cornerstone to enhance growth and wealth, work on supporting the public-private partnerships as a mechanism to accelerate the completion of important projects and decrease the financial pressures on the state budget.

The IMF’s mission’s visit to Tunisia comes as part of a review of the economic reforms and funding of $2.9 billion allocated to support the economic reform program.

Ezzeddine Saidan, a Tunisian economist said: "The IMF mission has not come to Tunisia for tourism, but to look at the developments of the Tunisian economic situation, aims of the draft fiscal law for the coming year, and the most important economic axes proposed within the structural reform program, along with preparing for the completion of the second review of the economic program supported by the Fund in the framework of facilitating the loan.”

He added that Tunisia has prepared for this visit by establishing a new ministerial portfolio, the Ministry of Economic Reform, which may convince the IMF to pay the third installment of the loan before the end of November.

Saidan expected that the IMF will eventually approve the new installment of the loan, after a short period of pressure on the Tunisian authorities to stress the importance of economic reforms for the Tunisian economy to achieve a real recovery.

Tunisia received the first and second installments of the IMF loan, valued at $ 628.8 million. Now, it is waiting the Fund's approval on paying the third installment, which is estimated at nearly $370 million (about 875 million Tunisian dinars).

According to most economic observers in Tunisia, the country deeply needs those loans paid in hard currency to revive the local economy, cover part of the budget deficit after the collapse of the Tunisian dinar and survive the slow economic growth and the instability of the trade balance.



Saudi Arabia Launches Platform to Enable Contractors to Implement PIF Projects

Works on the Amaala project on the Red Sea coast, northwest of Saudi Arabia (Photo: Asharq Al-Awsat)
Works on the Amaala project on the Red Sea coast, northwest of Saudi Arabia (Photo: Asharq Al-Awsat)
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Saudi Arabia Launches Platform to Enable Contractors to Implement PIF Projects

Works on the Amaala project on the Red Sea coast, northwest of Saudi Arabia (Photo: Asharq Al-Awsat)
Works on the Amaala project on the Red Sea coast, northwest of Saudi Arabia (Photo: Asharq Al-Awsat)

Saudi Arabia has launched a platform that qualifies contractors and provides services and facilities to enable them to obtain pre-qualification according to technical evaluation criteria.

 

The new platform will contribute to providing a highly reliable indicator for companies affiliated with the Public Investment Fund to implement construction projects in cooperation with the private sector.

 

The Saudi Sovereign Fund has been able to establish 77 local companies so far, as part of its endeavor to advance economic transformation, create job opportunities and diversify investments at the local and international levels.

 

On Thursday, the Saudi Contractors Authority (SCA), in cooperation with the PIF, announced the launch of the “re-qualification of contractors” program, in a step to enhance competitiveness and transparency in the sector, and to enable the implementation of current and future projects for companies affiliated with the Sovereign Fund in accordance with the highest quality standards.

 

The service provides a platform that brings together a number of establishments affiliated to the PIF in a unified pre-qualification program, and enables them to participate in the projects through several criteria, including: activities and experience, quality management, and health and safety.

 

The Saudi Contractors Authority has recently concluded the fifth edition of the Future Projects Forum, in Riyadh.

 

More than 3,000 contractors and interested parties from 16 countries around the world participated in the event, along with 43 government and private agencies.

 

The forum reviewed the details and developments of more than 3,000 future projects, the value of which was estimated at SAR 1 trillion ($266 billion).

 

It also saw the launching of a platform that helps contractors and interested parties to track and search for contracting projects in Saudi Arabia and the Middle East.

 

Meanwhile, iot squared, a leading company in the Internet of Things (IoT) technologies and a subsidiary of the STC group, has signed a cooperation agreement with “AHOY” Technology, specializing in smart mobility infrastructure and logistics services.

 

This collaboration supports the complete transformation towards IoT, contributing to an advanced technological revolution that aims to achieve the targets of Saudi Vision 2030.

 

Under this agreement, iot squared, in partnership with “AHOY”, will provide the latest smart logistics solutions, including advanced technology infrastructure and various programs that contribute to developing application interfaces and software platforms. The collaboration also involves identifying the target audience and providing technical support.

 

Othman Aldahsh, CEO of "iot squared", emphasized that global alliances were a key priority to benefit from potentials and create new opportunities through dedicated investments, acquisitions and partnerships.

 


UAE to Attract $160 Bln in New Economy Investments over Next Three Decades

Two employees in Strata Manufacturing check up a locally manufactured component of satellites. (WAM)
Two employees in Strata Manufacturing check up a locally manufactured component of satellites. (WAM)
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UAE to Attract $160 Bln in New Economy Investments over Next Three Decades

Two employees in Strata Manufacturing check up a locally manufactured component of satellites. (WAM)
Two employees in Strata Manufacturing check up a locally manufactured component of satellites. (WAM)

UAE Minister of Economy Abdullah bin Touq Al Marri said that the UAE aims to attract $160 billion worth of investments in new economic sectors over the next three decades.

 

The minister affirmed that the growth potential of the global economy is linked to creating more investment opportunities in new economic sectors, including the space industry, food, agriculture, healthcare, transportation, renewable energy, circular economy models, and advanced technology, as well as investing in digital infrastructure development and employing artificial intelligence and virtual reality technologies, to enhance their contribution to economic growth.

 

The minister added that the UAE aims to become a global model of green growth and circular economy, contributing to sustainable economic growth through cooperation with partners, to open new markets for national exports, enhance the competitiveness of the national economy, and improve the business environment.

 

During the “Make it in the Emirates Forum,” Al Marri stressed that the industrial and manufacturing sector is a priority and a key pillar for strengthening the soft power of the national economy and enhancing its competitiveness in international markets, WAM reported.

 

He also noted that the national industry is capable of competing in regional and global markets in various sectors, such as aviation, transportation, logistical services, renewable energy, mining, food, petrochemicals, pharmaceuticals, and others.

 

Al Marri stated that the ministry is working in collaboration with its strategic partners on several initiatives and policies to create investment opportunities in new economies while continuing efforts to create an appropriate environment for start-ups and family businesses.

 

He also explained that the UAE achieved record growth in 2022, with a GDP growth rate of 7.6 percent, one of the highest economic growth rates in the world.

 

Projections for 2023 indicate that the national economy will continue to grow at 3.9 percent, with non-oil output growth at 4.2 percent, according to estimates by the Central Bank of the UAE.

 

The percentages are expected to increase in 2024, reaching 4.3 percent for GDP and 4.6 percent for non-oil output.

 


Report: Saudi Arabia’s Exports to Hit $418 Bn by 2030

The Standard Chartered bank logo is seen at their headquarters in London, Britain, July 26, 2022. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls
The Standard Chartered bank logo is seen at their headquarters in London, Britain, July 26, 2022. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls
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Report: Saudi Arabia’s Exports to Hit $418 Bn by 2030

The Standard Chartered bank logo is seen at their headquarters in London, Britain, July 26, 2022. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls
The Standard Chartered bank logo is seen at their headquarters in London, Britain, July 26, 2022. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls

A research report by Standard Chartered projects that Saudi Arabia will be a key driver of a global trade growth, with its exports projected to reach $418 billion by 2030 and an annual growth rate of 4.8% percent.

The report - Future of Trade: New opportunities in high-growth corridors – said Thursday that global trade is set to reach $32.6 trillion with a growth rate of five percent by 2030.

Trade corridors anchored in Asia, Africa and the Middle East will outpace global trade growth rate by up to four percentage points, driving combined trade volume in these regions to $14.4 trillion to account for 44 percent of global trade by 2030.

India, Singapore, and the UAE are among the fastest-growing export corridors, while Mainland China will remain the largest export destination for Saudi Arabia, said the report.

Saudi Arabia is boosting trade through increasing industrial production. The Saudi Vision 2030 provides a roadmap for the development of new economic sectors, in order to diversify its economy away from oil, and transition to one that is digital and knowledge-based.

The report also said that Saudi Arabia envisions itself to become the next global logistics hub. In October 2022, the Kingdom announced plans to build 59 new logistic zones across the nation and is also aiming to improve its liner shipping connectivity by introducing new routes between Asia and Europe.

CEO of Standard Chartered, Saudi Arabia, Mazen Bunyan, said the Kingdom “aspires to become the next global logistics hub, and has pledged to make its economy more sustainable and innovative.”

“Leveraging its strategic location at the center of Asia, Africa and Europe, its enhancing its shipping networks to connect these regions and is continuously liberalizing international trade of goods and services.”

“With various initiatives across the logistics, sustainability and innovation fronts, Saudi Arabia is poised to lead the Gulf and wider Middle East into a new era of trade and economic prosperity," he added.


Saudi Arabia's PIF to Acquire 30% of Tamimi Markets

PIF said it signed a share subscription agreement to invest in Tamimi Markets.
PIF said it signed a share subscription agreement to invest in Tamimi Markets.
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Saudi Arabia's PIF to Acquire 30% of Tamimi Markets

PIF said it signed a share subscription agreement to invest in Tamimi Markets.
PIF said it signed a share subscription agreement to invest in Tamimi Markets.

Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund (PIF) plans to acquire a 30% stake in local supermarket chain Tamimi Markets Company, the kingdom's sovereign wealth fund said on Thursday.

PIF said it signed a share subscription agreement to invest in Tamimi Markets.

It said the transaction, which will involve a capital increase and subscription for new shares, aligns with the fund's strategy to enable the private sector and create Saudi national champions.

"This investment aims to enable Tamimi Markets to realize its full potential, transforming it from one of the leading national grocery chains to a major regional chain," PIF said in a statement.

"It aims to support the company’s ambitious plans through expansion of its operations and commercial opportunities, including acceleration of regional growth and a potential initial public offering," it added.


Saudi Arabia Adopts Measures to Control Used Cars Market, Reduce Prices

A car showroom in Al-Shifa district, Riyadh (Asharq Al-Awsat)
A car showroom in Al-Shifa district, Riyadh (Asharq Al-Awsat)
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Saudi Arabia Adopts Measures to Control Used Cars Market, Reduce Prices

A car showroom in Al-Shifa district, Riyadh (Asharq Al-Awsat)
A car showroom in Al-Shifa district, Riyadh (Asharq Al-Awsat)

The Saudi Zakat, Tax and Customs Authority announced that it was possible to calculate the value-added tax (VAT) on the profit margin of the sale of certified used cars, without taking into account of the total sale value.

This regulation will be implemented conditionally, effective from July 1, 2023.

According to information obtained by Asharq Al-Awsat, the new steps came in response to the demands of the Federation of Saudi Chambers, in order to regulate and control the local market as well as reduce the prices of used vehicles.

The Federation of Saudi Chambers has held several meetings with the authority for the purpose of implementing Article 48 of the executive regulations of the value-added tax system, which defines the mechanisms for the supply of used goods.

Faisal Abu Shusheh, head of the National Committee for Car Dealers in the Federation of Saudi Chambers, told Asharq Al-Awsat that the decision would balance prices by calculating value-added tax on profit margins, and therefore the addition would be symbolic and contribute to lowering prices.

For his part, Muqrin Al-Mutairi, owner of a car showroom, said that the new measure would contribute to regulating the market and limiting manipulation in the sale of used cars. He also stressed that the decision would help reduce the prices of used vehicles in the local market.

The Saudi Ministry of Commerce has recently taken accelerated moves to protect the local car market from improper practices, after it witnessed a rise in prices and delays in delivering vehicles to customers.

The Ministry of Commerce requested car dealers to publish prices, policies, instructions and special procedures on their websites, and prevented rental companies from selling new vehicles.


Saudi Non-Oil Exports Achieve New Levels

Saudi Non-Oil Exports Achieve New Levels
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Saudi Non-Oil Exports Achieve New Levels

Saudi Non-Oil Exports Achieve New Levels

The General Authority for Statistics (GASTAT) announced on Wednesday that the Saudi trade balance in 2022 registered record results of SAR 830 billion ($222 billion), with exports exceeding SAR 1.5 trillion ($411 billion) against imports amounting to SAR 712 billion ($189.8 billion).

During the same period, non-oil exports reached their highest levels, amounting to SAR 315.7 billion ($84 billion).

Experts told Asharq Al-Awsat that the Saudi government has put forward a package of initiatives to empower the private sector and reduce clearance time, which contributed to accelerating trade between the Kingdom and other countries.

They added that programs and initiatives presented by the competent authorities contributed to the access of international companies and factories to the local market, in addition to the growth of the local business sector.

According to the International Trade Bulletin issued by GASTAT, merchandise exports increased 48.9 percent in the past year, after their value exceeded SAR 1.5 trillion ($411 billion), as a result of a rise in oil exports by SAR 468 billion ($124.8 billion).

The value of oil exports amounted to SAR 1.2 trillion ($327 billion), compared to SAR 758 billion ($202 billion) in the previous year, while the percentage of oil exports increased from 73.2 percent in 2021 to 79.5 percent in 2022.

The bulletin revealed that non-oil exports (including re-exports) increased by 13.7 percent in 2021, to record SAR 315.7 billion ($84 billion), compared to SAR 277.5 billion ($74 billion) last year.

Non-oil exports (including re-exports) rose to 14.8 percent, and the value of re-exports increased to 8.6 percent over the same period.

Imports witnessed a 24.2 percent increase last year, amounting to SAR 138.9 billion ($37 billion), as its value reached SAR 712 billion ($189.8 billion), compared to SAR 573.2 billion ($152.8 billion) in 2021.

GASTAT said that the products of chemical industries and related items were among the most important non-oil export commodities, and constituted 35.8 percent of the total exports, with an increase of 34.5 percent compared to 2021.

Beijing was Riyadh’s main partner in merchandise trade during 2022. The value of Saudi exports to China amounted to SAR 249.9 billion ($66.6 billion), accounting for 16.2 percent of total exports.

Economist Ahmed Al-Jubeir told Asharq Al-Awsat that the Saudi government’s initiatives and programs contributed to increasing the value of commodity exports, given the capabilities available to all national factories and the measures that facilitated the export process through air, sea and land ports.

For his part, Nashmi Al-Harbi, a logistics expert, pointed to a significant improvement in the Saudi supply chain system and logistics services.

Al-Harbi added that the initiatives launched by the competent authorities have increased the volume of exports and imports. He stressed that the rise of Saudi Arabia to the 18th place in the global logistics performance index was the culmination of efforts aimed at attracting foreign investments.

 


UAE's Industry Contributed $49.5 Bn to the GDP

UAE's Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology, Sultan bin Ahmed Al Jaber speaking at the Make it in the Emirates Forum (Asharq Al-Awsat)
UAE's Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology, Sultan bin Ahmed Al Jaber speaking at the Make it in the Emirates Forum (Asharq Al-Awsat)
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UAE's Industry Contributed $49.5 Bn to the GDP

UAE's Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology, Sultan bin Ahmed Al Jaber speaking at the Make it in the Emirates Forum (Asharq Al-Awsat)
UAE's Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology, Sultan bin Ahmed Al Jaber speaking at the Make it in the Emirates Forum (Asharq Al-Awsat)

The industrial sector's contribution to the UAE's GDP increased from $35.9 billion in 2020 to $49.5 billion in 2022, representing 38 percent growth.

Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology Sultan Al Jaber said that the national strategy for industry and advanced technology was launched in 2021, contributing to essential achievements in the industrial and technological sectors, especially in 2022.

UAE's industrial exports reached $47.6 billion in 2022, compared to $31.8 billion in 2020, representing 49 percent growth.

The Minister inaugurated the second edition of the Make It in the Emirates Forum.

Make It in the Emirates is held under the theme of "Investment. Sustainability. Growth." and organized by the Ministry of Industry and Advanced Technology (MoIAT) in partnership with the Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development (ADDED) and ADNOC.

Jaber said that the ministry offered financing solutions worth $816 million to support and enable the Make it in the Emirates initiative in cooperation with the Emirates Development Bank.

It also launched the Technological Transformation Program to accelerate the adoption of Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies and contribute to lower emission goals.

Increase the value of purchase agreements

"One of the key achievements of last year's forum was several leading national companies announcing their intention to invest AED110 billion over the next decade to purchase 300 products from local manufacturers," Jaber said.

He stated that in the first year alone, 28 percent of these offtake agreements had been implemented, representing a total value of $8.4 billion.

Jaber announced an additional $2.7 billion of offtake agreements in the UAE's industrial sector, taking the total value of products targeted for localization to $32.6 billion.

He also announced over 30 innovative industrial projects worth over $1.6 billion.

"These projects include pioneering initiatives such as setting up the first hydrogen electrolyzer plant in the UAE," he said.

ADNOC will also allocate over $5.4 billion to purchase structures and metal products from national companies.

It was also announced that the MoIAT would adopt a new standard within the National In-Country Value Program called Green ICV to encourage sustainability practices and motivate companies to reduce emissions.

He added that during the forum, competitive financing solutions would be announced for the industrial sector, worth $1.6 billion from local banks.


Aphrodite Gas Field off Cyprus to Be Linked to Egypt

 Image-3-Aphrodite-Gas-Field
Image-3-Aphrodite-Gas-Field
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Aphrodite Gas Field off Cyprus to Be Linked to Egypt

 Image-3-Aphrodite-Gas-Field
Image-3-Aphrodite-Gas-Field

The offshore Aphrodite natural gas field being developed in Cypriot waters will be connected to an existing processing and production facility in Egypt via a subsea pipeline, one of the partners in the project said on Wednesday.

NewMed Energy said it had submitted with partners Chevron and Shell a development plan for Cypriot government approval. The group met the Cypriot energy minister on Monday to discuss progress, Reuters said.

"The updated plan is expected to accelerate and reduce the cost of development," NewMed said.

Aphrodite, discovered more than a decade ago about 170 km (105 miles) from Limassol, holds an estimated 124 billion cubic meters of gas. NewMed has a 30% stake in the field, while Chevron and Shell each hold a 35% share.

The group said earlier this month that it had begun drilling an exploration well meant to confirm the estimates. It would later be used for production.

Chevron said in a statement it was "currently working to progress the Aphrodite project."

"Beyond this, it is not our policy to comment on commercial matters," it said.


Oman Launches $5B Investment Fund to Diversify Economy

A general view of Muscat, Oman. (AP)
A general view of Muscat, Oman. (AP)
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Oman Launches $5B Investment Fund to Diversify Economy

A general view of Muscat, Oman. (AP)
A general view of Muscat, Oman. (AP)

Oman plans to launch a $5 billion public investment fund to support plans to overhaul the economy in the Gulf Arab nation over the next two decades, state media reported Wednesday.

The Oman Future Fund will aim to increase economic activity and support the private sector as the country looks to reduce its reliance on oil.

State media said Sultan Haitham bin Tariq Al Said approved the new fund, which would launch with 2 million riyals, or around $5.2 billion. It would support the country's Vision 2040 plans to grow and diversify the economy.

The Oman Investment Authority was established in 2020 and incorporated an earlier fund dating back to 1980.


Saudi Retail Market Expected to Reach $176 billion in 2026

A man walks in a shop in Jizan, southern Saudi Arabia (Asharq Al-Awsat)
A man walks in a shop in Jizan, southern Saudi Arabia (Asharq Al-Awsat)
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Saudi Retail Market Expected to Reach $176 billion in 2026

A man walks in a shop in Jizan, southern Saudi Arabia (Asharq Al-Awsat)
A man walks in a shop in Jizan, southern Saudi Arabia (Asharq Al-Awsat)

A newly released report predicted an increase in the size of the retail trade market in Saudi Arabia to reach SAR 661.1 billion ($176.5 billion) by 2026.

The report noted that the value of e-commerce in the country witnessed steady growth over the past years by 18.24 percent.

According to the report issued by the G World company, which is specialized in studies and sectors analysis, retail trade sales increased to SAR 16 billion ($4.2 billion) in 2017, while the value of sales in 2022 reached more than SAR 37 billion ($9.8 billion), as many merchants have turned to modern retail.

Per capita gross domestic product at current prices increased to SAR 29,000 ($7,700) during the second quarter of the previous year compared to SAR 20,000 ($5,300) in the same period in 2021, the report stated.

Purchases through e-commerce sites increased in the kingdom, the report underlined, noting that the total number of users reached 22 million, at an annual rate of 2.7 percent in 2022.

Meshaal Alshammari, Director of Marketing at Lean Node software development company, said: “The biggest challenge facing the modern retail sector is coordination between daily operations and data follow-up, for both the technical and traditional sides.”

He explained: “Every company must put in place the necessary and basic resources to cover the gaps and guarantee a healthy expansion.”

During a recent lecture organized by the Riyadh Chamber, Alshammari noted that some resources were yet to be exploited in the best possible ways, stressing that the current corporate structure was not ideal to reach sustainability.

“Entrepreneurs find it difficult to obtain capital and launch products quickly and efficiently,” he said, pointing to the presence of a large gap in the Saudi financial technology companies sector.

There are only 147 financial technology companies operating in Saudi Arabia, compared to 1,900 companies in Britain, he remarked.

Mohammad Abu Alsaud, general manager of Paytabs, told Asharq Al-Awsat that one of the means to help entrepreneurs was to resort to qualitative companies in the field of e-commerce.

He stressed that the biggest challenge facing emerging merchants is “their neglect of the feasibility study and its method of operation.”