MENASource|News, Analysis, Perspectives

February 2, 2016
Egypt is working on infrastructure at the Suez Canal Economic Zone that will allow industry investing in the area to start production by 2020, Head of the General Authority for the Suez Canal Economic Zone Ahmed Darwish said.
Egypt is developing an area of 460 square kilometers around the Suez Canal into an industrial and trade hub in an effort to attract investment. "We aim to have, by 2020, infrastructure that allows the start of production … that allows industries to produce, not completing the infrastructure of the whole project," Darwish said at a banking conference in Sharm al-Sheikh. He said he would start an investment campaign at the end of March to attract potential investors from Japan, France, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. Egypt is also due to receive delegations from Italy, the United Kingdom, Malaysia, and the African Development Bank this month in order to explore opportunities in the economic zone. [Reuters, 2/2/2016]
Saudi Arabia’s fiscal reserves dropped to a four-year low last year as the government sought to finance a budget deficit caused by plunging oil revenues, Jadwa Investment said in a report Tuesday. Saudi reserves dropped to $611.9 billion at the end of 2015, the lowest level since 2011, down from $732 billion a year before. Jadwa said it expected reserves to fall to around $500 billion by the end of 2016. Riyadh has projected a budget deficit of $87 billion this year, but Jadwa forecasts a deficit of more than $107 billion. Jadwa also said it expects inflation to rise to 3.9 percent this year from 2.2 percent last year. In other news, Saudi Aramco held talks with banks about selling Islamic bonds for the first time. No banks have been appointed and the size of the sale has not been determined, sources said. [AFP, 2/2/2016]

Turkey looks to boost trade with Latin America, Iran 
Turkey aims to more than double trade with Latin America by 2023 in a shift from its traditional export markets in Europe and the Middle East, Economy Minister Mustafa Elitas said on Monday. "Bilateral trade with Latin America currently stands at a little over $8 billion … for 2023 … we want to reach $20 billion," Elitas said. He is currency in Chile accompanying President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and a large business delegation on a tour of the region that will also include visits to Peru and Ecuador. Citing the advantages of having a free trade agreement with Chile that aims to yield $1 billion in bilateral trade this year, Elitas said Turkey will ask Peru and Ecuador to "speed up" the finalization of bilateral free trade agreements. Elitas also highlighted Turkey’s intention to boost trade with Iran. "Our objective is to reach $30 billion [in trade] with Iran by 2023," Elitas said. [Reuters, 2/1/2016]

Iraq oil exports up but revenue plunges on low oil prices 
Iraqi oil exports rose in January compared to the previous month, but revenue fell by more than $650 million due to plunging crude prices, the Oil Ministry said Monday. Iraq exported an average of 3.28 million barrels per day (bpd) in January, up from 3.21 million bpd in December, but monthly revenue fell from $2.92 billion to $2.26 billion. Baghdad said oil prices averaged $22.21 in January, which is less than half the amount projected in the 2016 budget. On Sunday, the United Nations appealed for $861 million in humanitarian aid for Iraq to help plug the estimated $891 million gap between planned Iraqi expenditures on relief operations and available government funds. "The government has its back against the wall because the price of oil is so low, and that's why we're asking the international community to be generous," UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq Lise Grande said. [Reuters, 2/1/2016]
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