Learning to Live with Cheaper Oil in the Middle East


masood-ahmedBy Masood Ahmed

(Version in عربي)

The steep decline in global oil prices, by 55 percent since last September, has changed the economic dynamics of oil exporters in the Middle East and North Africa. Our update of the Regional Economic Outlook, released yesterday, shows that these countries are now faced with large export and government revenue losses, which are expected to reach about $300 billion (21 percent of GDP) in the Gulf Cooperation Council and about $90 billion (10 percent of GDP) in other oil-exporting countries.

Where prices will eventually settle is, of course, uncertain, making it hard for policymakers to gauge how much of the bane is temporary in nature and what share of it they should expect to last.

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Global Economy Faces Strong and Complex Cross Currents


WEOBy Olivier Blanchard

The world economy is facing strong and complex cross currents.  On the one hand, major economies are benefiting from the decline in the price of oil.  On the other, in many parts of the world, lower long run prospects adversely affect demand, resulting in a strong undertow.

We released the World Economic Outlook Update today in Beijing, China. The upshot for the global economy is that while we expect stronger growth in 2015 than in 2014, our forecast is slightly down from last October.  More specifically, our forecast for global growth in 2015 is 3.5%, 0.3% higher than global growth in 2014, but 0.3% less than our forecast in October. For 2016, we forecast 3.7% growth, again a downward revision from the last World Economic Outlook.

At the country level, the cross currents make for a complicated picture. Good news for oil importers, bad news for exporters. Good news for commodity importers, bad news for exporters. Continuing struggles for the countries which still show scars of the crisis, not so for others. Good news for countries more linked to the euro and the yen, bad news for those more linked to the dollar. In short, many different combinations, many different boxes, and countries in each box.

Let me expand a bit on some of these themes.

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Seven Questions About The Recent Oil Price Slump


By Rabah Arezki and Olivier Blanchard[1]

(Versions in عربي中文, Français, 日本語Русский, and Español)

Oil prices have plunged recently, affecting everyone: producers, exporters, governments, and consumers.  Overall, we see this as a shot in the arm for the global economy. Bearing in mind that our simulations do not represent a forecast of the state of the global economy, we find a gain for world GDP between 0.3 and 0.7 percent in 2015, compared to a scenario without the drop in oil prices. There is however much more to this complex and evolving story. In this blog we examine the mechanics of the oil market now and in the future, the implications for various groups of countries as well as for financial stability, and how policymakers should address the impact on their economies.  

In summary: 

  • We find both supply and demand factors have played a role in the sharp price decline since June. Futures markets suggest that oil prices will rebound but remain below the level of recent years. There is however substantial uncertainty about the evolution of supply and demand factors as the story unfolds.
  • While no two countries will experience the drop in the same way, they share some common traits: oil importers among advanced economies, and even more so emerging markets, stand to benefit from higher household income, lower input costs, and improved external positions. Oil exporters will take in less revenue, and their budgets and external balances will be under pressure.
  • Risks to financial stability have increased, but remain limited. Currency pressures have so far been limited to a handful of oil exporting countries such as Russia, Nigeria, and Venezuela. Given global financial linkages, these developments demand increased vigilance all around.
  • Oil exporters will want to smooth out the adjustment by not curtailing fiscal spending abruptly. For those without savings funds and strong fiscal rules, budgetary and exchange rate pressures may, however, be significant. Without the right monetary policies, this could lead to higher inflation and further depreciation. 
  • The fall in oil prices provides an opportunity for many countries to decrease energy subsidies and use the savings toward more targeted transfers, and for some to increase energy taxes and lower other taxes.  
  • In the euro area and Japan, where demand is weak and conventional monetary policy has done most of what it can, central banks forward guidance is crucial to anchor medium term inflation expectations in the face of falling oil prices.

Again, our simulations of the impact of the oil price drop do not represent a forecast for the state of the world economy in 2015 and beyond. This we will do in the IMF’s next World Economic Outlook in January, where we will also look at many other cross-currents driving growth, inflation, global imbalances and financial stability. 

What follows is our attempt to answer seven key questions about the oil price decline:

  1. What are the respective roles of demand and supply factors?
  2. How persistent is this supply shift likely to be?
  3. What are the effects likely to be on the global economy?
  4. What are likely to be the effects on oil importers?
  5. What are likely to be the effects on oil exporters?
  6. What are the financial implications?
  7. What should be the policy response of oil importers and exporters?

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Europe’s Russian Connections


By Aasim M. Husain, Anna Ilyina and Li Zeng

(Version in Русский)

The conflict in Ukraine and the related imposition of sanctions against Russia signal an escalation of geopolitical tensions that is already being felt in the Russian financial markets (Chart 1). A deterioration in the conflict, with or even without a further escalation of sanctions and counter-sanctions, could have a substantial adverse impact on the Russian economy through direct and indirect (confidence) channels.

Chart 1

CESEE-Blog_7-30-14_final.001

What would be the repercussions for the rest of Europe if there were to be disruptions in trade or financial flows with Russia, or if economic growth in Russia were to take a sharp downturn? To understand which countries in Europe might be most affected, we looked at the broad channels by which they are connected to Russia—their trade, energy, investment, and financial ties. See also separate blog on Russia-Caucasus and Central Asia links.

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Links and Levers: How the Caucasus and Central Asia Are Tied to Russia


Alberto BeharBy Alberto Behar

(Version in Русский)

The countries of the Caucasus and Central Asia (CCA) are closely linked with Russia through trade, financial, and labor market channels. These ties have served the region well in recent years, helping it make significant economic gains when times were good. But how is the region affected when Russia’s economy slows down?

Underlying structural weaknesses have reduced Russia’s growth prospects for this year and over the medium term. Tensions emanating from developments in eastern Ukraine—including an escalation of fighting, the downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17, and new sanctions—have led to renewed market turbulence in Russian markets.

Experience has shown that lower growth in a large country can inflict significant collateral damage on neighboring countries with strong linkages of the type that the CCA has with Russia. (See also separate blog on Russia-Europe links.) We took a closer look at these connections to see how they transmit shocks, with particular attention to the impact on the region’s two main categories of economies—hydrocarbon importers and hydrocarbon exporters (see map).

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If China Sneezes, Africa Can Now Catch a Cold


By Paulo Drummond and Estelle Xue Liu

(Version in  中文)

Growing links with China have supported economic growth in sub-Saharan Africa. But the burgeoning commercial and financial ties between the developing subcontinent and the world’s second-biggest economy carry risks as well. These links also expose sub-Saharan African countries to potentially negative spillovers from China if the Asian giant’s growth slows or the composition of its demand changes.

The old aphorism “If America sneezes, the world catches a cold” referred to the U.S. economy’s role as a locomotive for the global economy, but it can now apply to any symbiotic relationship between a dominant economy and its clients. China has become a major development partner of sub-Saharan Africa. It is now the subcontinent’s largest single trading partner and a key investor and provider of aid.

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Mideast Braces Itself for a Multi-Year Transition


By Masood Ahmed

(Version in عربي)

This week I’ve been traveling extensively across the region, both listening and learning. I am writing this from Dubai, where we have just launched our Regional Economic Outlook. And earlier this week, I had the opportunity to participate in the GCC Ministerial Meeting in Abu Dhabi and the World Economic Forum’s special meeting on Economic Growth and Job Creation in the Arab World in Jordan.

My core takeaway from all these events is that the underlying sense of optimism in the promise of the Arab Spring is very much there, but there is also a growing recognition that managing the short-term transition will be even more difficult with the persistence of economic pressures and rising social expectations.

Not an easy year

2011 has not been an easy year for many countries in the Middle East and North Africa. The combination of domestic unrest and external uncertainty has resulted in a marked downturn in economic activity, and this is expected to pick up only gradually over the coming year. Continue reading

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