UAE GDP growth touched 1.7% in 2018, much slower than the previously predicted 2.5-3% growth, according to official preliminary data; non-oil sector grew by 1.3% to AED 1bn.
Abu Dhabi’s GDP grew by 3.7% YoY to AED 203.2bn in Q4 2018, with value added of non-oil activities plunging by 1.1% YoY.
The Construction cost index in Abu Dhabi decreased by 0.1%YoY and 0.2% QoQ to 97.9 in Q4 2018. Separately, construction costs index in Dubai rose by 6.06% YoY and 0.16% QoQ in Q4 2018.
UAE maintained its position as the largest exporter and importer of goods and services last year in the region, according to WTO data.UAE’s total merchandise imports and exports amounted to USD 599bn last year, down from USD 628bn the year before. UAE was the 16th largest exporter in the world, and the 20th largest merchandise importer.
Tourists from Japan into Dubai crossed the 100k mark for the first time in 2018, with a total 10443 overnight visitors.
The UAE Cabinet amended provisions to include “income” as a requirement for sponsoring family members, as opposed to current practice of specific “professions”.
The volume of FDI into Bahrain grew by 5.5% YoY to over BHD 11bn at end-2018, as per the initial foreign investment survey for 2018 conducted by the Information & eGovernment Authority. The banking and manufacturing sectors attracted more than half the inflows (nearly BHD 570mn) while Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Libya were the top source nations (at BHD 3.1bn, BHD 2.8bn and BHD 1.3bn respectively).
In a bid to reduce expenditure, Bahrain plans to review and prioritize 66 new projects estimated to cost BHD 1.3bn under the 2019-2020 budget. Financial support from the GCC is estimated to fund around 73% of the schemes over the next two years.
Bahrain’s flexible work permit scheme – which was envisioned to reduce the illegal sale of visas on the black market and introduced in July 2017 – has been used by 59k persons in the past 9 months, down from 82k before. Almost 75% of those given such work permits are unskilled workers.
Egypt, which launched a new health insurance law last year, will begin to roll out its new comprehensive health insurance system in July this year. The system will be rolled out gradually over a 15-year period in six phases.
Tourists into Egypt from the Middle East are expected to rise by 50% to 2.23mn in 2022; Saudi Arabia will drive this growth.
Saudi Arabia will provide USD 1bn to Iraq to build a sports city, it was announced during the start of a 2-day visit by high-level Saudi officials.
PMI in Lebanon declined further to 46.3 in March, after rising to 46.9 the month before, given faster declines in output and exports amidst lower output prices.
The electricity sector in Lebanon incurred over USD 40bn in losses largely due to “political spitefulness”, according to the President. A new electricity plan is in the works, with aims to improve power supply and reduce subsidies to the state-run Electricite du Liban.
Oman’s Capital Market Authority has issued the Unified Health Insurance Policy to be implemented for private sector employees (including expatriates, and their spouse and children below-21 years) and visitors to the country.
Saudi Aramco’s bond prospectus revealed that its Ghawar field (the largest oilfield in the world) had 58bn barrels of oil equivalent in combined reserves at end-2018, and 48.3bn in liquid reserves.
Saudi Aramco will offer 140 contracts worth SAR 60bn (USD 16bn) to small and medium-sized enterprises in the country, stated a senior official on Al Arabiya TV.
Unemployment rate in Saudi Arabia dropped to 12.7% in Q4 last year, down slightly from Q3’s 12.8%. Unemployment rate among Saudi males was 6.6% while female unemployment was substantially high at 32.5% in Q4.
Saudi Arabia’s government unveiled plans to invest around SAR 130bn (USD 35bn) into the culture and leisure industry by 2020.
Fintech startups in the Middle East region are expected to expand from 96 this year to 465 by 2020, according to an Accenture analysis, based on CBI Insights data. Investments are forecast to rise to USD 2.28bn by 2022 from USD 287mn this year. According to Bloomberg Intelligence, UAE has the highest number of fintech startups at 67, followed by Turkey (44), and Jordan and Lebanon at 30 each.
Equities across the globe put in a strong performance last week, with the S&P 500, STOXX 600, FTSE 100 and DAX all ending on a positive note thanks to hopes that the US and China are nearing a trade deal, as well as some encouraging data (Chinese PMI, German IP, US employment). In the region, Saudi Arabia and UAE performed well, thanks to positive views of the banking sector (with the latter supported by Emirates NBD’s deal to buy Turkey’s Denizbank). The dollar strengthened while the pound further weakened vis-à-vis the dollar after May requested the EU for a second Brexit delay (near 3-month extension). Brent crude touched the $70 mark for the first time since November 2018, due to tightening of supply, though closing the week lower while gold price stayed around a 10-week low.
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