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Country Forecast Saudi Arabia January 2018 Updater

Country Forecast Saudi Arabia January 2018 Updater

  • January 2018
  • ID: 5300782
  • Format: PDF
  • The Economist Intelligence Unit

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  • The Al Saud family will retain its control over the Saudi political system. Ruling family dynamics will be dominated by the process of shifting power to the next generation, with the king, Salman bin Abdel-Aziz al-Saud, set to be the last son of the kingdom's founder, Ibn Saud, to sit on the throne. However, the continued advancement of his youthful son and new crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman al-Saud, risks aggravating internal family friction, and possible attempts by more senior Al Saud figures, such as the former crown prince, Mohammed bin Nayef al-Saud, to wrest control over the throne could leave Mohammed bin Salman vulnerable as crown prince. Mohammed bin Salman will respond to such threats by appointing senior members of his own branch of the Al Saud to important official posts.
  • The government will maintain a proactive role in the region, with a focus on containing Iranian influence and counterbalancing the waning role of its long-standing ally (and security guarantor), the US. Under the crown prince, the kingdom will seek to forge an anti-Iran axis, which will see Saudi Arabia maintaining its presence in Yemen and stepping up pressure on neighbouring Qatar to cut defence ties with Iran (albeit with little success).
  • Faced with stable oil prices, the government will rein in subsidies, but will rely primarily on capital spending cuts to sustain high levels of spending on public-sector wages and benefits. Nonetheless, it will introduce new revenue-raising measures, including value-added tax (VAT), which was rolled out on January 1st, to shore up revenue and narrow the fiscal deficit. With oil prices averaging above 2015 levels, the fiscal deficit will fall from 8.9% of GDP in 2017 to an annual average of 7.4% of GDP in 2018-22.
  • As part of its National Transformation Plan and Vision 2030, the government will seek to boost the role of the private sector by stimulating investment in defence, manufacturing, tourism and renewables in particular. However, we expect these plans to be modified in the coming months as the government effects further cuts to capital expenditure. As a result, diversification plans will proceed at a slow pace during the forecast period.
  • Extension of the current oil output cuts to end-2018 will mean that real GDP expands only modestly in that year. Rising crude production, alongside spending on capital projects thereafter, should lead to a pick-up in growth in 2019-22.






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