Energy deficits

Oil-producing MENA countries can expect steep drops in their current account balances in 2009 due to falling crude oil prices and lower global demand during the economic crisis. Non-oil producers' balances should remain steadier, albeit negative, according to recent statistics.

In 2008, current account surpluses accounted for approximately a third of GDP in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, but that figure is projected to plummet 36 and 42 percentage points to deficits of -5.6% and -8.7% of GDP for 2009 respectively.

Among non-producers surveyed, only Egypt had a positive current account balance in 2008, but that is expected to fall 2.3 percentage points and slip into the red, to record a deficit of -1.8% for 2009. Tunisia and Lebanon, which have each carried negative current account balances since 2005, can actually expect their positions to improve slightly, reflecting lower imports, interest rates and net transfers abroad; their deficits will ease from -4.4% to -3.8% of GDP and from -11.4% to -9.5% respectively for 2009.

Crude oil prices were firming again towards $80 per barrel when going to press, improving current account prospects for 2010, provided the global recovery continues. Nevertheless, diversifying the economy can alleviate some of the pressures on oil-producing nations caused by the crisis, policy experts believe, while increasing export competitiveness would help reduce the current account deficits of non-oil producing states.

© OECD Observer, No. 275, November 2009

 




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