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.
We have lowered our average Brent oil price assumption by $10/bbl to $54/bbl for 2020 due to lower global demand for oil. Such a decline exposes significant vulnerabilities among MENA oil-exporting countries, especially Oman and Bahrain. External and fiscal positions are expected to weaken.
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.
The GCC countries followed the Fed and cut their key policy rates, given their pegged exchange rates. Lower interest rates will encourage borrowing and stimulate non-oil growth, which has been weak in recent years. We expect non-oil growth to pick up from 2.1% in 2018 to 2.8% in 2019.
Ongoing geopolitical tensions have created headwinds, but Qatar’s economy has shown signs of resiliency. We expect growth to accelerate to 2.9% in 2019, driven by natural gas production and public investment. Exiting from OPEC sends a symbolic message that the country wants to chart its own course.