The MENA region has weathered the economic storm from the health crisis. The economic recovery continues to gain momentum. Higher energy prices will improve the fiscal and current account positions in oil exporters. In oil importers, deficits, government debt, and unemployment will remain high.
We compare the cases of 12 countries that have attempted to unify their FX markets. Unified exchange rate systems eliminate distortions, reduce rent-seeking, and boost fiscal revenues. However, successful unification hinges on consistent underlying credit and fiscal policies and broad reforms.
Measures to contain the pandemic combined with the drop in oil prices triggered a deep recession. The large twin deficits will narrow significantly in 2021 supported by higher oil and gas prices. We see foreign reserves declining further to levels well below conventional adequacy metrics by 2023.
Sovereigns are increasingly tapping capital markets to finance fiscal deficits. Private inflows to the MENA region continue to be dominated by Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar. Resident outflows are declining but still exceed inflows. FDI remains subdued and concentrated in the energy sector.
Russia’s fiscal breakeven oil price, around $40/bbl in 2020, is the lowest among major oil exporters. While Saudi Arabia’s fiscal and external breakeven prices should decline due to a cut in non-priority spending and a fall in imports, fiscal breakeven prices remain well above $60 in much of MENA.
Our MENA growth forecast stands at -0.3% with additional downside risks and high uncertainty over the duration of the shutdown and an additional potential fall on oil prices. We project recession in most oil exporters, the lowest growth in oil importers since the early 1990s, and wide twin deficits.
Protests have continued since February, with the public calling for an overhaul of the ruling elite, but we expect limited change in the power structure. Economic activity will remain weak, as twin deficits persist and reserves fall. The 2020 budget envisages tightening, but deep reforms are needed.
Non-resident capital inflows to the MENA region are projected to rise from $165bn last year to $200bn in 2019 before moderating to $173bn in 2020. With the increasing inflows, inclusion into global indices, and ongoing reforms, the MENA region is becoming more prominent on the EM investment map.
We expect growth in the MENA region to slow to 1.4% in 2019 from 1.8% in 2018, dragged down by the deep recession in Iran and the compliance with the OPEC + deal. This aggregate picture, however, hides considerable heterogeneity in economic paths across the region.
We still expect Brent oil prices to average $65/b in 2019 and $62/b in 2020. Growth in non-OPEC supply combined with deceleration in global oil demand growth in 2019 and 2020, is offsetting upward pressure on oil prices from rising geopolitical tensions that could disrupt supply.
In the face of popular pressure, President Bouteflika stepped down after 20 years in power, yet much uncertainty remains about the transition to a new government. Algeria’s growth model of hydrocarbon-financed public spending is not feasible with low oil prices, and wide-ranging reforms are needed.
In this note, we examine the evolution of breakeven oil prices in the six GCC countries, Algeria, Iran, Iraq, Kazakhstan, and Russia. We expect extern