EconSource: Sisi Announces Planned Shift to VAT Regime, Meets with World Bank and UN Heads

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi announced Egypt’s plan to introduce a value-added tax (VAT) regime as part of major economic reforms. In an opinion piece published in The Wall Street Journal on Sunday, Sisi said the VAT regime, along with a simplified tax system for small and medium-sized enterprises, will “raise revenues and bolster investment incentives by boosting growth, creating jobs and improving firms’ cash flow.” Sisi said Egypt is aiming for 5 percent growth during the current fiscal year, “driven by rising foreign direct investment, and the implementation of various new energy, infrastructure and agricultural reclamation projects.” He stated that Egypt’s chief economic objective are “to ensure long-term sustainability by correcting the country’s previous fiscal imbalances…to create a dynamic, competitive and private-sector-led platform for growth, and to restore confidence in the investment climate.” Meanwhile, Sisi met with World Bank Head Jim Yong Kim in New York on Sunday, who expressed his support for Egypt’s efforts to strengthen the economy. Sisi also met with United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Sunday to discuss Egypt’s development plan. Sisi also held meetings with the US Chamber of Commerce and the US Egypt Business Council and discussed bilateral relations with several world leaders including German Chancellor Angela Merkel. [AP, 9/28/2015]

Saudi Arabia withdraws overseas funds
Saudi Arabia has withdrawn tens of billions of dollars from global asset managers as the kingdom seeks to cut its widening deficit and reduce exposure to volatile equities markets amid a sustained slump in oil prices. The Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency’s (SAMA) foreign reserves have slumped by nearly $73 billion since oil prices started to decline last year. Nigel Sillitoe, chief executive of financial services market intelligence company Insight Discovery, said fund managers estimate that SAMA has pulled out $50 billion to $70 billion over the past six months. Since the third quarter of 2014, SAMA’s reserves held in foreign securities have declined by $71 billion, accounting for almost all of the $72.8 billion reduction in overall overseas assets. Other industry executives estimate that SAMA has withdrawn even more $70 billion. While some of this cash has been used to fund the deficit, these executives say the central bank is also seeking to reinvest into less risky, more liquid products. [FT, Bloomberg, 9/27/2015]

Qatar commits to invest $35 billion in United States
Qatar has committed to spend $35 billion in the United States over the next five years, continuing the country’s diversification of investments traditionally focused on Europe. Qatar’s acquisitive sovereign wealth fund, the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA), provided the figure on Monday in a statement announcing the opening of an office in New York. “It is the perfect location to help strengthen our existing relationships and promote new partnerships as we continue to expand geographically, diversify our assets and seek long-term growth,” said QIA Chief Executive Sheikh Abdullah bin Mohamed bin Saud al-Thani about the new office. The QIA has about $334 billion of assets according to industry tracker Sovereign Wealth Center. [Reuters, 9/28/2015]

Oil exports from northern Iraq to Turkey restart
Oil exports from northern Iraq have restarted after “thieves” sabotaged the main pipeline to Turkey, Kurdistan’s Ministry of Natural Resources said in a statement on Saturday. The flow of crude oil resumed on Friday following an outage of about nine hours, the ministry said. The pipeline, which pumps oil to the Mediterranean port of Ceyhan from fields in Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan region and Kirkuk, has been repeatedly targeted inside Turkey since a ceasefire between Ankara and Kurdish militants broke down in late July. “Without [revenues from the pipeline], salaries of peshmerga forces, the security forces and other key government workers cannot get paid,” the ministry said, underlining the negative impact that attacks on the pipeline have on the Kurdish ability to fight the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL). [Reuters, 9/26/2015]

Fitch affirms Tunisia at ‘BB-‘, outlook stable
Fitch Ratings has affirmed Tunisia’s long-term foreign and local currency Issuer Default Ratings (IDR) at ‘BB-‘ and ‘BB’, respectively, with stable outlooks. Fitch said Tunisia ranks well within the ‘BB’ rating category on structural features such as development and governance indicators. However, the ratings agency noted that political risk remains high in Tunisia. Fitch said that while inflation is progressively decreasing, economic growth will slow down to below 1 percent as recent terrorist attacks affect tourism and transport. Beyond 2015, the persistency of the negative growth shock induced by terrorism remains uncertain, Fitch said, adding that unless the growth rate increases, the government will find it difficult to address social pressures. Fitch also forecast Tunisia’s budget deficit at below 5 percent of GDP in 2015. [Reuters, 9/25/2015]

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