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Falling unemployment: The unemployment rate for Saudi nationals fell to 8% in Q4 2022 from 9.9% in Q3 22, according to data released by the General Authority for Statistics (Gastat) in early April. The female jobless rate fell from 20.5% to 15.4% over the same period. The Medina region had the highest rate of unemployment among Saudis at 12.2%, followed by Jazan at 11%. Riyadh had the lowest level at 6.7%, with Eastern Province at 6.9% and Mecca at 7%. 

Saudi Arabia
Issue 1167 - 24 April 2023

Oman: Improvement in ratings outlook

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Ratings boost: Fitch Ratings revised its outlook on Oman’s rating to positive from stable on 11 April, while affirming it at BB. S&P Global Ratings had announced the same move on 31 March. Fitch said the change reflected the improvements made in the government debt to gross domestic product ratio, with high oil prices and spending restraint reducing the external liquidity risk. Debt/GDP fell from 61% at end-2021 to 40% a year later and Fitch said it should reach 37% by end-2024.

Oman
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New government, further elections=political risk downgrade: Kuwaiti politics and government remain in flux after Crown Prince Mishaal Al-Ahmed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah announced the dissolution of the National Assembly (parliament) on 17 April, setting the scene for a third general election in as many years.

Kuwait
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Baghdad deal: Federal Prime Minister Mohammed Al-Sudani said on 13 March that Baghdad and Erbil had reached “a comprehensive agreement” on their outstanding differences, including oil revenues. He said a deal had been reached for all Kurdish oil revenues to be placed in a bank account “without any deductions”. Those funds could be spent by the Kurdistan authorities, subject to supervision by the federal government.

Iraq
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Election law: Iraq’s parliament voted on 20 March to maintain the number of seats in the chamber at 329 for the next election. Five seats will be reserved for Christians, with one seat each reserved for the Sabean-Mandaean, Shabak, Faily Kurd and Yazidi minorities.

Iraq
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Qatar rapprochement: Efforts to rebuild relations between Manama and Doha are continuing, following a series of contacts between leading figures from both countries in January and February, including a phone call between Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani and Bahrain’s Prime Minister and Crown Prince Salman Bin Hamad Al-Khalifa in late January and a meeting between their foreign ministers in Riyadh in early February

Bahrain
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Free trade deal taking Tehran further into Russia’s orbit: Tehran continues to negotiate a free trade deal with the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), with local media suggesting an agreement may be signed later this year. Six rounds of talks have been held, following a temporary agreement signed in May 2018 which came into force in 2019.

Iran
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Recent developments Attempts continue to renew the ceasefire in Yemen, but the emphasis has switched to finding a permanent settlement. Much of recent diplomatic activity has been necessarily secret. Saudi Arabia appears more urgently determined to extract itself from the war.

Yemen
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Updates on Regional and international organisations: Another Kuwaiti GCC secretary-general Regional electricity interconnection Support for Palestinians Arab League intellectual property committee World Bank leadership Updates on Opec and energy markets: Bumper year for revenues Opec+ holds solid Alternatives to the dollar? China and India are key players

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GSN Risk Grade Abu Dhabi A1, Dubai – A2↓ Sharjah credit rating: Standard & Poor’s (S&P) revised the outlook on its rating for the emirate from negative to stable on 24 January, while affirming the long- and short-term foreign and local currency sovereign credit ratings at BBB-. The ratings agency said it expected Sharjah’s overall fiscal position to gradually stabilise between now and 2026, with the deficit reducing over that time.

United Arab Emirates (UAE)
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Cabinet reshuffle: Federal Vice President and Prime Minister, and Dubai Ruler Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al-Maktoum (MBR) announced a minor cabinet reshuffle on 7 February, with Shamma Al-Mazrui appointed community development minister (she is also COP28 ‘youth climate champion‘) and Salem Bin Khalid Al-Qassimi named culture and youth minister. 

United Arab Emirates (UAE)
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Budget increase: Emir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani approved the government’s 2023 budget on 19 December, based on spending of QR199bn ($54.7bn), down 3% compared to the previous year. According to the Ministry of Finance, total revenues for the year have been estimated at QR228bn, a rise of 16% compared to 2022 and leaving a budget surplus of QR29bn.

Qatar
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Ever more for Aramco trading: Saudi Aramco announced on 18 January that its Aramco Trading Company (ATC) arm had acquired United States-based Motiva Trading and launched a new subsidiary, Aramco Trading Americas (ATA). The latter will be the sole supplier and offtaker for Motiva Enterprises, which owns the 630,000 b/d Port Arthur refinery, the largest refinery in North America. Aramco had taken full control of the refinery in 2017, buying out its partner Royal Dutch Shell.

Saudi Arabia
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Mixed outlook but oil buoys economy: The International Monetary Fund (IMF) said economic growth was likely to slow down in 2023, after growing by more than 8% in 2022, thanks to higher than expected oil prices.  

Kuwait
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Improving outlook:  Like most other hydrocarbons exporters, Oman’s economic outlook has been improved by a sustained period of high oil prices. We expect relatively buoyant oil and gas prices to continue through 2023, despite mixed signals from the global market. Added to a perception that economic performance is slowly improving on Sultan Haitham Bin Tariq Al-Said’s watch, GSN has attached a positive upwards arrow to Oman’s economic and financial risk grade.

Oman