GCC financing needs more than USD 151 billion — authority

KUWAIT, March 15 (KUNA) — Financing needs for the GCC countries are estimated at USD 151.3 billion this year, according to a leading expert.
These funding requirements are expected to come from reserves (52%), USD 57.7 bn from domestic and international bond issuances (38%) and the rest through loans (10%). Overall, GCC governments are expected to raise between USD 285-390 billion cumulatively through 2020 through local and international bonds, said M.R. Raghu, Head of Research at Markaz and Managing Director of Marmore MENA Intelligence, a research subsidiary of Markaz providing services of financial research and analysis of MENA economies, markets, and companies in the MENA region.
He was speaking at a recent presentation, organized by Kuwait Financial Centre “Markaz” on “Forecasting Sovereign Debt Issuances in GCC” in collaboration with Kuwait Banking Association (KBA). Raghu said low oil prices have altered the fiscal landscape of GCC countries as the prized fiscal surplus registered in erstwhile years has flipped into large scale deficits to the tune of USD 160 bn in 2015 and 2016 respectively. In 2015, the deficit was partly met by domestic bond issuances and the remaining by liquidating reserves held in Sovereign Wealth Funds (SWFs).
Saudi Arabia for the first time in eight years issued local debt to raise approximately USD 26 bn from domestic banks and utilized almost USD 100 bn of its reserves. Raghu outlined that the impact of lower oil revenues has visibly impacted the Kuwaiti banks’ deposit mobilisation process, as government deposits account for sizeable portion. Fall in deposits growth coupled with governments drawing down on their savings and placement of domestic bonds by the governments with the local banks has usurped liquidity in the regional financial system causing interbank rates to rise.
Though, the banks are well capitalized, they may not be able to act as the sole source of funding avenue for the governments. Rising debt levels for the GCC governments and uncertain outlook regarding oil prices, which determines the debt servicing capabilities, has led to higher cost of insurance for insuring government debt as evidenced by the widening spreads for Credit Default Swaps (CDS).
While UAE, Kuwait Saudi Arabia and Qatar boast of robust fiscal reserves, Bahrain and Oman have minimal reserves by comparison. The sovereign ratings of Bahrain, Oman and Saudi Arabia have been downgraded in the recent weeks. Furthermore, lack of clarity regarding debt management policies of few GCC countries has caused wide spread speculation regarding the way the deficit could be financed. This uncertainty has resulted in fixed income investors demanding wider spreads for outstanding issues in GCC region. “To forecast the sovereign debt issuance we have assumed assumptions regarding the way the deficit would be financed either by drawing down on the reserves or through raising debt. While Qatar and Oman have clearly provided indications regarding their approach to plug the deficit, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain budgetary documents fall short of such discussion,” he said.
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