Middle East & African Monitor - 05 December 2016

  • Saudi Arabia reshuffles religious & shura councils – Labour Minister replaced
  • Iran issues new threat over US sanctions bill
  • Rival militias clash in Libya’s capital
  • Egypt’s cabinet to review draft investment law
  • Nigeria plans increase of federal budget next year
  • Qatar to implement new employment rules
  • UAE PMI rebounds


Saudi Arabia reshuffles religious & shura councils – Labour Minister replaced
King Salman bin Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia issued a royal decree late last week which announced a reshuffle within the country’s most senior religious body and the consultative Shura council, as well as the appointment of a new labour minister. Ali bin Nasser al-Ghafis will take over from Mufrej al-Haqbani as the new man in charge of the labour ministry, while some members of the Council of Senior Scholars and the advisory Shura council, have also reportedly been replaced and/or new representatives added. According to a Reuters article some of these changes, may have been implemented in an attempt to help streamline the path for further economic and social reforms, as outlined in the country’s ‘2030 Vision.’ Meanwhile activity in Saudi Arabia’s non-oil related private sector increased slightly in November, most likely benefitting from a general rise in confidence following the Kingdom’s successful jumbo Eurobond issue in October. Emirates NBD’s Saudi Arabia PMI rose to 55.00 in November after hitting a record low of 53.20 the previous month.

Iran issues new threat over US sanctions bill
Iran has again severely condemned a bill, which aims to extend for a further ten years, a number of soon to expire US sanctions on the country, and which sailed through America’s Senate last week. The Iranian President, Hassan Rouhani, publically stressed again that if such a bill became law, it would be a violation of the P5+1 agreement signed last year. “We are committed to an acceptable implementation of the deal but in response to non-commitment, violation or hesitation in its implementation, we will act promptly,” Rouhani stated, adding that President Obama should therefore veto it. However the ‘Huffington Post’ has quoted an unnamed senior White House official as suggesting last week that the extension of the ‘Iran Sanctions Act’ does not in its current form breach the conditions of the nuclear accord, and thus despite the administration’s misgivings over such an extension, its likely Obama will indeed sign it into law. “I expect the President will sign the legislation when it reaches his desk, and the Secretary of State will retain the authority to continue to waive all of the relevant nuclear-related sanctions authorized by the legislation,” the official was quoted as saying.

Rival militias clash in Libya’s capital
Renewed fighting has erupted in Tripoli these past few days on the back of territorial disputes between local militia groups and Misrata linked Islamists. This latest outbreak of violence underlines the ongoing challenges the country faces, and is likely to further undermine the credibility of the UN backed and Tripoli based ‘Government of National Accord,’ which has already been struggling to impose its powers beyond the capital and reach a political agreement with the alternate Tobruk based administration.

Egypt’s cabinet to review draft investment law
A draft of Egypt’s amended investment law which was first debated in early 2015 and is aimed at boosting the economy, is due to be sent to the country’s cabinet for its approval early next week according to the MENA news agency. The Ministry of Investment prepared this latest version of the law in October, and reportedly includes 139 amendments to those approved last year, as well as certain tax incentives for specific sectors. Meanwhile the Emirates NBD PMI index for Egypt fell again last month to a 40 month low of 41.80, as a weaker domestic currency and its related effect on prices, impacted overall output.

Nigeria plans increase of federal budget next year
Nigeria’s Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, has said that the government plans to increase the country’s budget for 2017 in order to try and boost flagging economic growth. “Our entire budget size for 2016 is something in the order of just over NGN 6 trillion, and we will probably be moving to about NGN 7 trillion in the 2017 budget. But while NGN 7 trillion does sound like a fair amount of money, it’s certainly it’s not the kind of size that can really make a huge difference in a NGN 90 trillion economy such as we have. So the real issue is that the contribution of the federal government is catalytic; the federal government can only make some catalytic contributions in terms of infrastructure, and some incentives for the private sector. The real contribution is going to come from the private sector and that’s why these partnerships are absolutely important to us, and what we are looking at is some game-changing type of projects,” Osinbajo was quoted as saying by ‘thecable’ website. The detailed budget proposal for next year, which has already received cabinet approval, is expected to be submitted to the country’s parliament by President Buhari later this month.

Qatar to implement new employment rules
Qatar is set to implement changes to its employment and residency laws from the middle of this month. The changes include making it somewhat easier for workers to change jobs and/or apply for exit permits, as well as introducing new rules aimed at preventing the exploitation of low-income workers. Under the new laws, (according to a report in the ‘construction week’ magazine), if an expatriate employee completes the length of his/her fixed-contract, they will no longer require approval from their existing employer to change jobs. However, they are required to provide their employer with a written notice advising them of their intention to change jobs once their contract is completed. Regardless of contract, all expats wishing to change jobs will also need to apply to the Ministry of Administrative Development, Labour and Social Affairs for its consent before taking up their new job.

UAE PMI rebounds
Activity in the UAE’s non-oil related private sector improved last month according to the latest PMI report issued by Emirates NBD. November’s PMI rose to 54.20 against 53.30 in October.


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Glenn Wepener, Executive Director & Geopolitical Analyst Middle East & Africa
National Bank of Abu Dhabi
Tel: +971 2 6110 127

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