EconSource: Iraqi Cabinet Approves 2016 Budget

Iraq’s cabinet has approved next year’s budget of 106 trillion Iraqi dinars (about $91 billion) and sent it to parliament for final approval, government spokesman Saad al-Hadithi said on Monday. Al-Hadithi added that the budget will have a deficit of 23 trillion dinars ($19.72 billion) that will be relieved through loans from local and international lenders. He said the budget calculations are based on an assumed oil price of $45 a barrel with an average daily crude oil output of 3.6 million barrels. “The budget is realistic and was built on reducing public expenditures to face security and economy challenges,” he said, adding that it sets priorities ranging from spending on government forces and paramilitary troops to government-run social benefits and the agricultural sector. Meanwhile, on Sunday the Iraqi judiciary said it had issued an arrest warrant against Trade Minister Malas Abdulkarim al-Kasnazani on corruption charges. [AP, 10/19/2015]

Egypt Central Bank weakens pound to 7.93 pounds to the dollar
Egypt’s central bank weakened the value of the Egyptian pound against the dollar Sunday for the second time in a week. The bank said in a statement that it weakened the pound at an auction, dropping the value from 7.83 to 7.93 pounds per dollar. This is the weakest the pound has been since the Egyptian government introduced the auction system in December 2012 aimed at regulating devaluation. The new rate could boost much needed foreign investment, as investors and economists view the currency as overvalued. However, some economists say that the pound depreciation will have a limited impact on Egypt’s budget deficit. Senior economist at Cairo-based CI Capital Hany Farahat said he expects the devaluation to continue throughout this week, noting that “otherwise the move would be just insignificant.” On Monday, Finance Minister Hany Kadry Dimian said Egypt will delay the second tranche of an international bond issuance that had been expected in November. A Reuters poll on Monday showed that Egypt’s economy is set to grow at a steady pace of 4.3 percent over the next three years. [Reuters, AP, Bloomberg, Aswat Masriya, 10/18/2015]

Agriculture exports boost Tunisia’s economy
Tunisia’s battered economy has “avoided the worst” in 2015 as a result of a drop in global oil prices and a sharp increase in olive oil and date exports, according to Finance Minister Slim Chaker said. Olive oil exports reached 300,000 tonnes by the end of September, bringing in an estimated 1.9 billion dinars ($975 million) compared to less than 500 million dinars in 2014, according to the Agriculture Ministry. Additionally, about 100,000 tonnes of dates were exported by the end of September, generating 462 million dinars compared to 380 million dinars in 2014. Chaker also announced that Tunisia will cut fuel and diesel prices starting in 2016. On Sunday, Head of the Tunisian Federation of Hotels Radhouane Ben Salah said that at least seventy hotels have closed since September following two militant attacks on foreign tourists this year and that more are expected to follow suit. Ben Salah noted that unemployment is expected to climb as hotel staff are forced out of work, but that hotel owners and the government have agreed to provide monthly subsidies and social security coverage for a renewable six-month period to hotel staff forced out of work. [AFP, 10/17/2015]

Eastern NOC says oil transactions must go through Bayda
Chairman of Libya’s eastern National Oil Corporation (NOC) Nagi al-Magrabi said that all new inquiries and transactions must go through Bayda, where the NOC established its office. Al-Magrabi claimed that all international trading would now take place at the new “legitimate office” in Bayda and said that the NOC would “honor all previous term contracts, where possible, until conclusion.” He added that “failure to adhere to this request will render noncompliant companies in default and subsequently unable to secure deliveries of crude oil and refined products from Libya.” Libya’s eastern government has previously issued similar statements warning oil majors from dealing with the Tripoli based NOC in the west, to little or no apparent effect. On Monday, Tripoli-based NOC Chairman Mustafa Sanallah said Libya is producing roughly 440,000 barrels per day (bpd) of crude oil. Meanwhile, an official from the El Feel oil field, which has been closed for several months, claimed that it will resume production in the next few days. [Libya Monitor (subscription), 10/19/2015]

Saudi Arabia said to delay contractor payments as oil slumps
Saudi Arabia is delaying payments to government contractors as a slump in global oil prices pushes the country into a deficit for the first time since 2009, according to multiple sources. Companies working on infrastructure projects have been waiting six months or more for payments as the government seeks to preserve cash. Delays have increased this year. The government has also been seeking to cut prices on contracts. Payment delays could slow the completion of projects under construction and curb the expansion needed to create jobs for a rising population. A spokesman for the Finance Ministry declined to comment. [Bloomberg, 10/19/2015]

Also of interest
Saudi Arabian stocks lead most Arab markets higher as oil rises | Bloomberg
Saudi Arabia’s Sabic plans multiple ventures in China | Bloomberg
Saudi’s SABIC Q3 profit drop extends slump, but beats forecasts | Reuters
IMF says Saudi banks are managing liquidity despite impact of lower oil prices | CPI Financial
Oman budget deficit widens to $6.97 billion in January-August| Reuters
World Bank and African Fund visit Egypt to negotiate loans | Ahram Online
Egypt’s Suez Canal revenues driven down by slowing global economy | Ahram Online
Egypt seeks LE360 billion in private sector infrastructure investments this year | Ahram Online
CAPMAS says more than 26 percent of Egyptians below poverty line | Amwal Al Ghad
Tunisia-Africa Business Council launched to boost economic cooperation | TAP
Urban development and local governance program launched in Tunis | TAP
Eni CEO reiterates Libya’s “strategic importance” | Libya Monitor (subscription)
Morocco January-September trade deficit falls 22.3 percent | Reuters
Moroccan oil refiner Samir gets backing for $1.04 billion capital increase | Reuters
Algeria’s Sonatrach looks to restructure in face of oil crisis | Reuters
Turkey’s imports to decrease with lower energy bill | Daily Sabah
Iran to up oil production one week after sanctions | Reuters
Iran proposes economic stimulus to fend off recession | Reuters