Russia’s government announced sanctions against Turkey on Monday, banning imports of fruit and vegetables, but warned that the scale of restrictions may increase. In the wake of the downing of a Russian jet that violated Turkish air space—Russia, one of Turkey’s largest markets for exports after Germany—has already halted most tourism to Turkey, which is already struggling with surging unemployment and decreased exports to the Middle East and China. Meanwhile, Egypt is seeking to supply Russian markets with goods previously supplied by Turkey. Minister of Industry and Foreign Trade Tarek Qabil said he was seeking a list of Turkish imports that Moscow had prohibited, with a view to arranging for their supply by Egyptian manufacturers. Qabil issued the statement after his return from the United Arab Emirates, saying he had discussed the issue with his Russian counterpart, Denis Manturov. [WSJNYTDNEAMAY, 11/30/2015]

Egypt’s subsidies in July, August nearly triple in year-on-year rise
Subsidies in July and August 2015 cost the Egyptian government EGP 15.8 billion, a whopping 300 percent increase from the EGP 5.3 billion in subsidies paid in the same months in 2014, the state’s statistics agency CAPMAS said on Saturday. CAPMAS said in a press release that the General Authority for Supply Commodities, which buys staples like wheat on behalf of the state, has dominated subsidy allowances, accounting for EGP 8.3 billion, double the spend of EGP 4.4 billion last year. A sum of EGP 6.7 billion in subsidies was reported under a category titled “other.” This is more than eight times the amount of EGP 0.8 reported in this section last year. Government financial institutions also took up EGP 0.8 billion, again eight times as much as they did in those two month last year. [Aswat Masriya, 11/28/2015]

OPEC ready to rumble over Saudi output
Pressure is building on Saudi Arabia to rein in its oil output after a year of pumping full tilt, setting up a contentious Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) meeting. OPEC has pursued a Saudi-led strategy of keeping output high to win market share and squeeze presumably weaker rivals out of the market, but with prices falling to new lows, some members including Iran have decided the effort was a failure. They are preparing to press Saudi Arabia directly to pull back on production at the group’s meeting on December 4. Discontent has built up inside Saudi Arabia over the strategy as well, but the kingdom will likely maintain its policy—in part because it is wary of rising Iranian output as sanctions are lifted. To compensate for lost oil revenue, Saudi Arabia is considering reducing subsidies on energy and water for wealthy citizens and impose value added tax (VAT) and other taxes on unhealthy goods like cigarettes and sugary drinks, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman was quoted as saying on November 25. Oil prices rose Monday on expectations of continued declines in US production. [WSJ, GDN, Bloomberg, 11/30/2015]

Kuwait names Finance Minister Anas al-Saleh as new Oil Minister
Kuwait on Sunday replaced its oil minister just days before the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries is scheduled for a potentially contentious meeting over production. Kuwait appointed Anas al-Saleh as acting oil minister, replacing Ali al-Omair, who became minister of public affairs and retained his role as state minister for parliamentary affairs, according to an official decree. The royal decree, published by the state-controlled news agency, didn’t give a reason for the move. A person familiar with the matter said the decision came after Omair faced opposition following his attempts to introduce changes to the management structure of state oil companies. Eurasia Group’s Associate for the Middle East and North Africa, Coline Schep, said in a report that “lower tolerance for political infighting” is a positive indicator for Kuwait’s economic development. [WSJ, NYT, 11/29/2015]

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