The Arab world: 2017 in rewind

Each year, the Financial Times gathers the best of its coverage of the Arab world — and 2017 delivered noteworthy stories on significant regional events.

Change used to come glacially to Saudi Arabia, but not so since the rise of Mohammed bin Salman, who became crown prince in 2017. The impact on the Saudi economy of the prince’s latest move — arresting 200 senior people, including 11 princes, on corruption charges — has yet to become fully apparent. Business figures are already suggesting, however, that it is good news.

As part of an ambitious plan to transform its economy, the kingdom is planning to float a partial stake in Saudi Aramco, which is the world’s biggest oil producer. The company’s backers say it is worth $2tn, but it has disclosed few financial details. An in-depth FT analysis by Lex columnist Alan Livsey argues for a more realistic lower valuation. The

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Saudi crown prince’s domestic changes have not been the only developments to shake the Gulf this year. In June, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt launched a boycott against Qatar which they accuse of funding terrorism around the region — a charge the emirate denies. Gas-rich Qatar is one of the wealthiest countries in the world, but the isolation imposed on it by its Arab neighbours has exacted an economic toll.

The embargo has made an already bad stretch for Qatar Airways worse. The other main Gulf carriers — Emirates of Dubai and Etihad of Abu Dhabi — have not been immune either.

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Amazon has big ambitions in the area, however, and acquired Souq.com in March, so drawing battle lines in a fight for the region’s fast-growing digital sales market.

Last year Egypt floated its currency as a condition of a $12bn loan from the International Monetary Fund; its value fell pretty swiftly. This year Cairo has attempted to stabilise its economy and it has paid off: the crippling dollar shortage has ended. Central bank efforts, however, to bring down soaring inflation have meant high interest rates for businesses, curtailing investment. As one problem ends, another arises.

Source Credit: Financial Times

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