How GCC Countries Are Dealing With Falling Oil Prices
Lower oil prices affect all Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, but all are not affected in the same way. The decline in oil prices impacts Oman and Bahrain most, while the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Kuwait, and Qatar are less affected.
Those were the key conclusions of a recent report released by Coface, a trade credit insurance company.
The more resilient economies benefit from greater diversification, more integration with world trade, more developed manufacturing and services sectors. Greater diversification means they are less dependent on oil revenues.
GCC countries are projected to grow by 3.4 percent in 2015 and 3.7 percent in 2016, according to Coface. “While these rates are considered high compared to other emerging markets,” the report noted, “they remain below the region’s average growth rate of 5.8 percent between 2000 and 2011. The reason for the slowdown is the decline in oil prices.”
“Economic diversification is vital for the Gulf countries to ensure continued healthy growth,” said Seltem Iyigun, a Coface regional economist. “Saudi Arabia and the UAE are setting a positive example of the importance of diversified economies as a means to offset the impact of lower oil prices, promote growth, and avoid a fiscal deficit.”
The UAE economy, is one of the more diversified among the GCC, has proved resilient to falling oil prices. The non-oil private sector has shown strong growth fueled by domestic demand and tourism, especially in Dubai. Domestic demand is powered by strong retail sales, which rose by seven percent in 2014.
Saudi Arabia relies on oil for 80 percent of its export revenues and 85 percent of its budget revenues but the kingdom is speeding up diversification. Government spending helped the construction sector grow by 6.7 percent in 2014.
“The industry is projected to grow in 2015 as the government plans to invest in transportation infrastructure, energy, utilities and housing projects,” said the report.
In early 2015, the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority announced an investment plan focused on energy, construction, tourism, real estate, retail, transportation, and education. There are dozens of promising investment opportunities in the healthcare and transportation equipment manufacturing sectors, according to Coface.
Several GCC governments are implementing economic diversification policies. As a result, the share of the non-oil sector in the total real GDP rose from 12 percent to 70 percent in the GCC countries between 2000 and 2013.
Coface forecasts that the food and beverage sector in UAE will benefit from investments $1.4 billion in the food processing industry, especially in the dairy industry. The halal food segment is projected to grow to $1.6 trillion by 2018.
In Saudi Arabia, several auto manufacturers have established local entities in the country and the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund is investing in an automobile manufacturing plant worth $1 billion with a production capacity of 150,000 cars a year by 2018.