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Country Report Bahrain September 2017

Country Report Bahrain September 2017

  • September 2017
  • ID: 2358785
  • Format: PDF
  • The Economist Intelligence Unit

Summary

Table of Contents

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Outlook for 2017-21



  • The royal family will remain in power in 2017-21. Nonetheless, escalating sectarian tensions, steep cuts to government spending and a crackdown on the mainstream opposition are likely to provoke major civil unrest.
  • Low oil prices will force the government into greater spending restraint in the near term. Yet the weakness of oil prices will ensure the fiscal account stays in deficit throughout the forecast period-although the shortfall will narrow.
  • The Central Bank of Bahrain will keep the Bahraini dinar pegged to the US dollar. The planned Gulf monetary union will not happen during the forecast period owing to political and technical problems.
  • Real GDP growth is expected to average 2.2% a year in 2017-18, as low oil prices depress government consumption, before picking up in 2019-21 owing to additional aluminium and refinery capacity.
  • Suppressed demand and a favourable base effect will slow inflation to 1% on average in 2017. Inflation will average 2% a year in 2018-21 as the impact of subsidy cuts is partly offset by a weaker dinar, pushing up import costs.
  • We forecast a current-account deficit of 4.3% of GDP in 2017. The deficit will then narrow to 2.9% of GDP in 2021, as export earnings benefit from added manufacturing capacity and firmer oil prices in 2020-21.


Review



  • On July 31st the quartet of Arab nations that have imposed an embargo on Qatar met in Bahrain and reaffirmed the demands they have made on the Gulf state, suggesting that the embargo will go on for some time yet.
  • US and Kuwaiti mediators have toured the Gulf states in an effort to resolve the Qatar crisis but have so far failed to make significant progress.
  • Bahrain's foreign minister, Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed al-Khalifa, met Iraqi leaders during a visit to the country on August 13th, resulting in an agreement to form a joint working group to develop political relations.
  • Bahraini state television has accused Qatar of colluding with a prominent Bahraini opposition leader, Sheikh Ali Salman, and of attempting to foment unrest in the kingdom.
  • The Labour Market Regulatory Authority's most recent data show a 2.5% year-on-year decline in total employment for Bahrainis in the first quarter of 2017, hinting at rising levels of unemployment, as hiring in the public sector (the traditional source of jobs for nationals) slows.


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