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Middle East & African Monitor – 21 April 2017

  • Ahmadinejad Barred From Standing In Iran’s Presidential Election.
  • GCC Producers Anticipate Extension Of Oil Output Reduction Agreement.
  • Syrian Air Force Shifts Combat Planes To Russian Airbase.
  • Emirates Airlines Reduces Flights To The US Following ‘Laptop’ Ban.
  • Saudi Arabia To Reduce The Number Of Expats Working In Shopping Malls.
  • Nigeria’s FX Policies Hindering Growth Prospects - World Bank.
  • Liquidity In TND Market Shrinks Following Central Bank Decision.
  • Foton To Launch Assembly Plant In Algeria.

REGIONAL COMMENTARY

Ahmadinejad Barred From Standing In Iran’s Presidential Election.
Iran’s Guardian Council yesterday released a list of approved candidates for next month’s Presidential election, however Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who had submitted his surprise bid to stand earlier this month, was not one of the final six selected. This is not really a shock because as we discussed in a previous commentary, he had already been ‘advised’ not to enter the race by the country’s supreme leader. Thus Iranians will head to the polls on the 19th of May to select their next President by choosing between; the incumbent and ‘moderate’ Hassan Rouhani, the current mayor of Tehran Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf and Ebrahim Raisi both of whom are considered to be hardliners and reportedly close to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the deputy President Eshaq Jahangiri,
Mostafa Agha Mirsalim another conservative politican, and Mostafa Hashemi-Taba a reformist.

GCC Producers Anticipate Extension Of Oil Output Reduction Agreement.
The oil ministers from Kuwait, Oman and Saudi Arabia all suggested yesterday that support was building over an extension to the current oil production cut agreement which is due to expire in June. However it is not clear yet how many of the original signatories, (outside of the GCC grouping), will agree to participate in such an extension or whether it would be for a further 3 or 6 month period. "There is an initial agreement, but it has not been communicated to all the countries yet that we might be forced to extend in order to reach our goal," Saudi Arabia’s Energy Minister, Khalid al Falih, was quoted as saying, whilst his counterpart in Kuwait, Essam al Marzouq, said he expected the extension to proceed and that Russia would support such a move; "Russia is on board preliminarily, compliance from Russia is very good."

Syrian Air Force Shifts Combat Planes To Russian Airbase.
Following the recent cruise missile strike by the US on the Shayrat air base, the Syrian Air Force has reportedly moved most of its fighter jets to an airport close to the Russian controlled Hmeimim base in Latakia, which is heavily protected by S-300 and S-400 anti-aircraft batteries. This air defence network is also able to track most of the traffic flying across southern Turkey, northern Jordan, Israel, Lebanon and most of Syria itself. In 2015 Moscow and Damascus signed a lease agreement which granted Russian forces full control of Hmeimim for an indefinite period of time, and it along with the Tartus naval base are Russia’s two main operational military facilities in Syria. 

Emirates Airlines Reduces Flights To The US Following ‘Laptop’ Ban.
Emirates Airlines has said it will reduce the number of flights its makes to five of the twelve US cities it currently flies to. According to an article in the local Khaleej Times newspaper the decision was made following a drop in passenger demand, which in turn was linked to the implementation of tighter US security measures, such as the carrying of certain electronic items including laptops onboard flights heading to the US and emanating from certain airports including Dubai. “This is a commercial decision in response to weakened travel demand to US. The recent actions taken by the US government relating to the issuance of entry visas, heightened security vetting, and restrictions on electronic devices in aircraft cabins have had a direct impact on consumer interest and demand for air travel into the US," a statement by the airline read. Meanwhile according to a recent global tourism report issued by the World Economic Forum, the US has dropped from 4th to 6th place in the WEF’s ‘most friendly tourist destination’ list.

Saudi Arabia To Reduce The Number Of Expats Working In Shopping Malls.
An official from Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Labour, Khaled Aba Al Khail, has been quoted on the Al Arabiya news channel stating that, foreigners will soon be prevented from applying for job openings in shopping malls as a part of the Kingdom’s drive to increase employment opportunities for its citizens.
It is not clear yet when this directive will be enacted but the ministry claimed that affected firms would be given sufficient time to prepare for the change.

Nigeria’s FX Policies Hindering Growth Prospects - World Bank.
The World Bank has released its latest review on Africa in which they warned that the current shortage of hard currency and range of FX restrictions in Nigeria, combined with uncertainty over policy direction, is negatively affecting that country’s banking sector and holding back potential growth within the non-oil sectors of the economy.
“Foreign exchange liquidity conditions remain tight and are holding back activity in the non-oil sectors. Manufacturing and service sectors remain particularly weak, while banking sector vulnerabilities remain elevated, foreign exchange restrictions, policy uncertainties and weak growth have affected the soundness of the banking sector. Non-performing loans have increased while profitability and capital buffers have decreased,” the WB report read. However it also forecast a modest increase in Nigeria’s GDP growth from 1.20% this year to 2.50% in 2018, due to “a gradual rebound in oil production and an increase in fiscal spending.”

Liquidity In TND Market Shrinks Following Central Bank Decision.
Liquidity in the Tunisian Dinar spot and swap FX markets has shrunk significantly this week, following the decision by the Central Bank to reduce its activity in the already small interbank market and to allow the currency to weaken. As such any pricing is now on a request basis only with most offshore players currently only showing a LHS.

Foton To Launch Assembly Plant In Algeria.
The Chinese carmaker Foton, has signed a joint-venture agreement with the local KIV group to beginning assembling cars and trucks at a plant in the Annaba province of Algeria.

21-04-2017

AND FINALLY…
A major archeological discovery was made in Egypt this month after several mummies, 10 wooden sarcophagi and more than 1,000 funerary statues were unearthed in a 3,500-year-old tomb near the city of Luxor.

Glenn Wepener, Executive Director & Geopolitical Analyst Middle East & Africa
National Bank of Abu Dhabi
MarketInsights&Strategy@nbad.com
Tel: +971 2 6110 127

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