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Regional Consumer Confidence and Budget Surplus Levels Remain High


Middle East : 28 May 2012

Budget Surplus of US22 Billion Recorded in Qatar for the 2011-2012 Year

Qatar is forecasted to record a budget surplus of QAR 80bn (or USD 21.9bn) for the year ending March 31, 2012. This surge is a result of rising prices for hydrocarbons, according to the statements of a senior official in government.

In the previous fiscal year (2010-2011) Qatar’s budget surplus sank to QAR 13.5bn (or USD 3.7bn), or about 2.9 percent of economic output, falling from 15.2 percent the year before when a surplus of QAR 54.1bn was recorded.

By the first nine months of the most recent fiscal year, the nation’s surplus had reached QAR 26.7bn (or USD 7.27bn).

Budgets assumed an average per barrel price of USD 55 for oil, with actual average pricing reaching almost USD 100. The budget for Qatar’s next fiscal year (2012-2013) will be released next week, according to an official. Proposal approvals were set to occur during Wednesday’s cabinet meeting.

It is expected that QCB (or Qatar Central Bank) will announce a 36 percent increase in the nominal GDP over the most recent fiscal year. That figure reached QAR 631.6bn (or USD 173.5bn), up from QAR 463.58bn (or USD 127.3bn) in the previous fiscal year.

Inflation in Qatar has declined from 2.2 percent in the 2010-2011 fiscal year to 2.1 percent in 2011-2012.

High Levels of Consumer Confidence Found in the UAE

The most recent MasterCard Worldwide Index of Consumer Confidence revealed that UAE consumers are highly confident and optimistic regarding the future. The UAE scored 82.1 in the recent index, based on surveys conducted from December 2011 to February 2012, covering 12,915 respondents ranging in ages from 18 to 62 and residing in 25 nations found in the Middle East, Africa and the Asian-Pacific area.

This Index has been conducted for the Asia-Pacific region for 20 years, and this is the ninth annual survey covering Africa and the Middle East. It is the most comprehensive survey covering consumer confidence in these regions. Levels of consumer confidence regarding the coming six month-period are measured in this survey, with five indicators including employment, stock market, economy, quality of life and regular income. Zero is the most pessimistic score, with 100 as the most optimistic and 50 as neutral.

UAE respondents scored well on all five of the indicators above, with the highest scores in quality of life (89.3) and regular income (85.7). All indicators recorded positive scores, with economy coming in at 84.4, stock market at 69.0 and employment at 82.2.

According to the MasterCard survey, females report higher levels of confidence (83.2 compared to 81.5 in male respondents) and young respondents (under 30 years of age) had slightly higher levels of confidence than older respondents (over the age of 30).

Division President of MasterCard Worldwide covering the MENA region, Raghu Malhotra, noted that the survey organizers were pleased to report robust confidence in the UAE over the last few reporting periods. These results encourage local businesses and are partially driven by healthy performances in the hospitality and retail sectors.

Overall consumer confidence in the Middle East rose to 85.7, compared to 82.8 points in the last survey, reaching a high not recorded since the inception of this survey in 2004.

The highest levels of consumer confidence in the Middle East were recorded in Oman and Qatar, with 93.6 scores. Confidence levels in Lebanon multiplied, moving from 24.1 to 70.5 in only one survey period. Each of the markets located in the Middle East reported positive consumer confidence levels at 70 or above.

Growth Coming Down the Kuwaiti Pipeline

Kuwaiti oil revenues are expected to increase in 2012, with exports to Asia hitting records and the development of a new refinery in the works. Innovation should also result in the extraction of massive heavy oil reserves, further increasing the nation’s oil revenue.

The new Al Zour refinery is being launched by KNPC (or Kuwait National Petroleum Company), with a May 8 announcement outlining the upcoming tender process. This refinery is expected to handle 615,000 bpd of oil per day and should be completed by 2017. Refinery development is in line with national plans to boost production to 4 million bpd by 2020.

Consultants will also be selected in the coming weeks, hired to work on the Clean Fuel project. This refinery upgrade project is worth $18 billion and should increase capacity and allow the existing refineries to produce lighter fuel grades.

Minister of Oil Hani Hussein spoke to local media earlier this month, stating that current production sits at 3.1 million bpd of crude and that $100/barrel is a fair price considering supply and demand. Kuwait is the fifth-largest oil producer in OPEC.

Hussein noted that the nation should avoid any reliance on high price levels for oil. The minister said that he forecasts seven to nine firms will submit tenders for the refinery projects by the close of this month.

High current oil prices ($126 per barrel was recorded in April) have boosted the nation’s monthly revenue to KD 2.5 billion. Yearly profits should reach KD 30 billion, about KD 17.2 billion above the original budget estimates.

Exports of crude oil have increased, with more products exported to China, Japan and South Korea in particular.

Domestic levels of confidence in the oil industry have increased, according to former oil exec Ahmad Al Arbeed. Al Arbeed noted that Kuwaiti’s private sector requires protection and direction via the oil sector and the government, in order for Kuwait to become the global oil capitol by the year 2022.

Paul Holdsworth, Staff Writer, Gulf Jobs Market News
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