Country Report Saudi Arabia August 2017

Country Report Saudi Arabia August 2017

  • August 2017 •
  • Report ID: 1697935 •
  • Format: PDF

Outlook for 2017-21



  • The ageing king, Salman bin Abdel-Aziz al-Saud, will continue to rely on his son (promoted in June to crown prince), Mohammed bin Salman al-Saud, to manage the government's response to regional insecurity and low oil prices.
  • Attempts at fiscal restraint will prompt low-level public discontent. Owing to political caution, the government will occasionally reallocate resources away from capital spending to public wages and subsidies for Saudis.
  • As part of its National Transformation Plan and Vision 2030, the government will seek to accelerate economic diversification. However, its goals are likely to be thwarted by the slow pace of reform and labour-market shortcomings.
  • Fiscal consolidation will be carried out mainly through cuts to capital spending. With oil prices averaging above 2015 levels, the fiscal deficit will fall from 12.8% of GDP in 2016 to an annual average of 8.1% of GDP in 2017-21.
  • Sharp cuts to oil production and government spending on capital projects will mean real GDP contracts in 2017. Rising crude production, alongside spending on capital projects thereafter, should restore growth in 2018-21.
  • The current account will broadly track oil price fluctuations throughout the forecast period. The balance will shift to a surplus in 2017 and only small deficits in 2018-21, as rising exports more than offset import growth.


Review



  • A Presidency for State Security has been created in Saudi Arabia, subsuming many of the functions of the Ministry of Interior, which was run by Prince Mohammed bin Nayef al-Saud until he was relieved of all his duties as crown prince and interior minister in June.
  • Several Saudi air strikes on civilian targets in Yemen, including one on a funeral hall in October that killed 140 people, have intensified opposition to arms sales to Saudi Arabia from suppliers such as the US and the UK.
  • Saudi Arabia's real GDP contracted in the first quarter of 2017 by 0.5% year on year, the first such decline since the 2009 global financial crisis, according to official figures.
  • The Shura Council has approved the draft value-added tax (VAT) law, the latest stage in preparation for the implementation of the new tax, intended to launch at the start of 2018. Progress is being made in implementing VAT legislation and cash benefits for the lower-paid.
  • The Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman al-Saud, has met a leading Iraqi Shia politician and militia leader, Moqtada al-Sadr, in Jeddah in a seeming bid to improve bilateral ties between Saudi Arabia and Iraq.


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