EconSource: World Bank Releases 2016 Doing Business Report

The World Bank launched its latest annual Doing Business report on Tuesday. The 2016 report ranks the United Arab Emirates (UAE) at the top of countries in the Middle East and North Africa for ease of doing business. While the UAE’s global ranking fell to 31 out of 189 from 22 last year, it ranks far ahead of its regional peers including Qatar (68), Saudi Arabia (82), Algeria (163), Egypt (131), Iran (118), Morocco (75), and Tunisia (74). Morocco moved up five places from last year’s report, while Egypt’s ranking fell by the same amount. The report finds that eleven out of the region’s twenty economies implemented a total of twenty-one reforms that facilitated the ease of doing business in the past year, marking an increase from the annual average of sixteen reforms over the past five years. Manager of the Doing Business project Rita Ramalho noted that the share of economies reforming in the Middle East and North Africa remains lower than the global average. [World Bank, 10/27/2015]

Syria war costs oil industry over $50 billion
Syria’s oil, gas, and mineral resource industries have suffered losses totaling more than $50 billion since the country’s conflict erupted in 2011, Oil Minister Suleiman al-Abbas said on Tuesday. Al-Abbas told Syria’s Al-Watan newspaper that attacks carried out by terrorist groups and US-led air strikes on jihadists have severely damaged the country’s infrastructure. The figure is more than double the government’s previous announcement that came in June 2014, when it said Syria’s oil and gas industries had lost $21.4 billion. Before Syria’s civil war, the country produced 385,000 barrels per day (bpd) of oil. Now, the government produces an average of 9,688 bpd and 14.8 million cubic metres of natural gas daily, according to Al-Watan. [AFP, 10/27/2015]

Emir of Kuwait urges spending cuts as oil slumps
Kuwait’s Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmed al-Sabah urged the cabinet and parliament on Tuesday to cut state spending in response to falling oil prices, warning that any delay would increase the damage to the government’s finances. The emir’s remarks appeared to be aimed at setting the stage for politically difficult economic reforms that could be implemented next year, including cuts in energy and food price subsidies. ”Oil prices have caused state income to drop 60 percent, but public spending has not been cut, causing a state budget deficit which is a burden on our development aspirations,” he said. He asked the cabinet and parliament to adopt urgent reform measures that would include spending reductions and efforts to find non-oil sources of income. Local media has reported that a range of subsidy cuts is under consideration and the government said it plans to impose corporate taxes on local firms. [Reuters, 10/27/2015]

Iraq’s southern oil exports head for another record in October
Iraq’s southern oil exports have risen to 3.10 million barrels per day (bpd) so far in October, setting shipments on course for a monthly record. The boost is an indication of continued high output from major members of the the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, which has contributed to a global oil glut and downward pressure on prices. If sustained, southern oil exports this month would beat the existing record of 3.064 million bpd reached in July. While Iraq’s actual southern exports are lower than the 3.68 million bpd it aimed to load this month, the country tends to allocate more crude than it can supply each month. Meanwhile, independent Iraqi Kurdistan exports averaged 510,000 bpd so far this month. [Reuters, 10/27/2015]

EgyptAir to launch ten year restructuring plan
EgyptAir, Egypt’s state-owned flag carrier, is in final stages of launching an overhaul and expansion plan that will reverse its downturn and propel it toward growth. “We’re developing a ten year restructuring plan, which should be finalized by mid-December,” EgyptAir Chairman and Chief Executive Sherif Fathi Attia said. Attia is optimistic that the plan, which includes network and fleet expansion, will receive government approval. He said the airline could place aircraft orders in the first quarter of 2016. He said wide-body aircraft would account for 20 to 30 percent of the total order. EgyptAir last reported an annual loss of EGP 2.2 million in 2011. The overhaul project, which could see changes in middle management, aims for profitability at the end of the current fiscal year. [Reuters, 10/27/2015]

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