EconSource: Rebel Seizure of Syrian Border Post Hits Exporters Across Region

Syrian rebels’ seizure of the main frontier crossing with Jordan has dealt a heavy blow to the Damascus government’s efforts to revive a once thriving export trade crippled by civil war, hurting businesses across the region. Western-backed insurgents took control of the Nasib crossing three weeks ago, closing the chief conduit for bilateral trade worth over $2 billion a year. Along with Syrian and Jordanian firms involved in the border trade, Lebanese exporters can no longer send goods by truck through Syria and Jordan to their major markets in the Gulf. Exporters are being forced to turn to a far more costly sea and land route via Egypt to reach consumers in the wealthy oil producing states. [Reuters, 4/24/2015]

Saudi Arabia saturates global crude market
Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil exporter, having abandoned last year its role of keeping global markets in balance, now has incentive to maximize output and undermine rival producers by using its reserve capacity. Just meeting its own domestic demand this summer will require a lot more fuel, some estimate. The increase – a snub to fellow members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) calling on the kingdom to cut production – will heighten tensions when the organization meets in June. Oil plunged to a six-year low near $45 a barrel in January, six weeks after the Saudis overcame opposition within the group to keep up output despite surging US shale supplies. [Bloomberg, 4/23/2015]

Egypt’s Sisi approves $500 million World Bank loan to expand natural gas grid
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi ratified on Thursday a $500 million loan agreement with the World Bank to fund a national natural gas project that will benefit 1.5 million households currently relying on traditional means of gas consumption. The initial agreement between Cairo and the World Bank was signed in September of 2014. By connecting new households to the country’s natural gas grid system, Egypt aims to save over $300 million annually in fuel subsidies. [Ahram Online, 4/23/2015]

Tunisia announces new measures to save tourism industry
Tunisia’s Minister of Tourism Salma Elloumi Rekik has announced several new measures aimed at aiding the country’s struggling tourism industry. Tourism is a key sector in Tunisia’s economy, providing 7 percent of the country’s gross domestic product and supporting thousands of jobs. Yet the country has seen a drastic drop in tourist numbers, especially after the attack at Tunis’ Bardo museum in March. Between January 1 and April 10 this year, the number of tourists visiting the country fell by 17.9 percent compared to the same period in 2014. Tunisia will introduce X-ray scanners at hotels, reduce taxes on security equipment, and relax visa restrictions to promote tourism and business. [Tunisia Live, 4/24/2015]

Also of interest
Oil jumps 3 percent, hits 2015 high on Yemen, supply concern | Reuters
Energy efficient street lighting will save Egypt EGP 1.5 billion annually | Aswat Masriya
Egypt’s central bank keeps interest rates unchanged in April | Ahram Online
Opportunities to follow Saudi’s June stock market opening | Financial Times
Iraq tells partners to lift Basra Heavy crude beginning in May | Reuters