GCC economies will see a modest recovery in 2020 and 2021, thanks to stabilisation in the real estate sector, as well as broad money growth, according to the UN's latest report.
"The GCC economies are expected to experience a modest recovery during 2020 and 2021 as the real estate sector stabilises. In Saudi Arabia and the UAE, in particular, broad money growth is projected to recover in line with a moderately accelerating expansion of domestic demand. Ongoing reform efforts by the government to facilitate economic diversification should also contribute to the recovery," according to the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).
The UAE's real GDP will grow from 1.1 per cent in 2019, to 2.4 per cent in 2020, and 2.9 per cent in 2021. After experiencing deflation in 2019, the UAE will witness inflation of 2.8 per cent in 2020 and 2.9 per cent a year later, it said.
The Middle East region grew by 1.0 per cent in 2019, but the growth will pick up in later years to grow 2.4 per cent in 2020 and 2.8 per cent in 2021, it said, adding that the GCC economies experienced a substantial slowdown in growth in 2019 due to cut in crude oil production under the Opec agreement.
However, it warned that geopolitical conflict is hampering inter-region trade in the Middle East.
"In 2019, the Middle East experienced a sharp decline in the rate of economic expansion owing to both sluggish domestic demand and weakening external demand, with average GDP growth estimated to have dropped to 1.0 per cent from 2.3 per cent in 2018. Moreover, ongoing conflict and an unstable security situation in Syria and Yemen have suppressed the recovery in intraregional trade," said the report - World Economic Situation and Prospects.
It said that a slump in the real estate sector dampened both consumption and investment through a negative wealth effect.
Arab countries pay $117 billion in energy subsidy
Arab countries account for more than one-fourth of global energy subsidies in order to maintain low domestic energy prices.
According to UNCTAD figures, out of $436 billion in global energy subsidies, the Arab government paid $117 billion, which raises concerns about the sustainability of macroeconomic development trajectories in many Arab countries. However, many Arab countries have identified the reform of their existing energy subsidy systems as an urgent policy priority in order to balance the trade-off between stable energy prices in an environment of fluctuating oil prices and maintaining fiscal sustainability.
The region's exports of natural gas also stagnated as the global oversupply depressed natural gas prices, and the regions' gas exporters - Oman, Qatar and the UAE - lost market shares to emerging as exporters. The contribution of the energy sector to economic growth in GCC countries was negligible in 2019, and domestic demand growth also slowed, mainly owing to declining real estate values.
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