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Gulf States Newsletter - Issue 1101 - 23/04/2020

As Covid-19 strikes rulers and those they rule, the crisis hurts the poorest the most

Gulf Co-operation Council states appear to have coped quite well in slowing the spread of Covid-19, although there is considerable scepticism about the accuracy of the numbers reported. As of 22 April, World Health Organisation (WHO) data show the global death rate stood at 6.8% of all cases, but that figure for the six GCC states was just 0.6%. There is likely to be much worse to come. Kuwaiti scientists believe the virus will not peak there until mid-May. Saudi health minister Dr Tawfiq Bin Fawzan Al-Rabiah said the kingdom could eventually see 200,000 cases, many multiples higher than the current 11,631.

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African Energy - Issue 413 - 16/04/2020

South Africa’s crisis could finally force tough energy reforms

President Cyril Ramaphosa’s administration has frequently been criticised for the slow pace of reform, particularly as national utility Eskom has slipped deeper into crisis. However, the coronavirus pandemic has so far been widely seen as strengthening his political position, while dampening the impact of Moody’s downgrade of the sovereign debt rating to below investment grade. This could provide an opportunity for pushing through reforms and seeking more international support. A $1bn loan from the New Development Bank has already been secured, while ministers have mooted support from the World Bank Group and International Monetary Fund (IMF).

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Gulf States Newsletter - Issue 1100 - 02/04/2020

Dubai faces into another economic storm as the ‘coronacrisis’ forces Expo delay

Dubai’s decision on 30 March to seek a one-year delay of the Expo 2020 fair, which had been due to start on 20 October, represents a psychological body blow to the commercial hub’s economy. Even before the coronavirus pandemic had begun, the Dubai economy was in poor shape, with real estate prices in decline since 2015 and wider levels of activity muted. The sharp fall in oil prices was threatening to make the downturn even worse; even though Dubai has only limited oil and gas reserves, its economy relies to some extent on the recycling of oil-derived wealth from its neighbours.

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African Energy - Issue 412 - 26/03/2020

Coronavirus impact on Africa’s power sector is limited, so far

The coronavirus pandemic has so far been characterised by the dramatic speed of infection and a rapid escalation of policy responses by governments. While Africa has so far been less affected than Europe, South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa on 23 March announced a 21-day lockdown to begin on 26 March, and it is likely that many more countries will follow. The continent has had at least 2,000 recorded cases, mostly among people travelling from Europe, and almost certainly many more in reality.

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Gulf States Newsletter - Issue 1099 - 19/03/2020

Bani Salman leadership projects ruthless ambition as oil prices crash, virus spreads

Alargely unexpected conflict between Riyadh and Moscow has shattered the marriage of convenience which since 2016 has allowed the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) and Non-Opec countries to stabilise oil prices and with them their domestic finances. The fallout, which threatens huge new pressures on oil producing economies, was driven by one of Opec’s most experienced officials, Saudi energy minister (and royal son) Prince Abdelaziz Bin Salman.

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African Energy - Issue 411 - 12/03/2020

Price shock hits African producers already struggling with low demand

The fallout from Saudi Arabia’s 6 March decision to pull the plug on negotiations with Russia to extend and deepen Opec and non-Opec crude production cuts risks dragging Africa’s leading oil exporters into prolonged recession if oil prices do not recover quickly from their new levels of around $35/barrel.

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Gulf States Newsletter - Issue 1098 - 05/03/2020

Political trust and economic growth in the balance as Covid-19 spreads through Gulf

Th e spread of Covid-19 – the strain of coronavirus disease that emerged in central China’s Hubei province last year – is gathering momentum around the region. It is prompting serious questions about the standard of governance in Iran, while shaking the economies of even the best-run Gulf states. Governments have been trying to reduce the risk of infection by restricting travel to and from at-risk destinations, putting in place screening programmes and cancelling public events. But ultimately none have been able to prevent the virus from crossing their borders.

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African Energy - Issue 410 - 27/02/2020

West African oil exports hit by coronavirus effect as Chinese demand falls

West Africa oil exporters are scrambling to deal with a sharp drop in Chinese import demand caused by the coronavirus. China imported around 1.3m b/d of West African crude before the economic jolt caused by the virus. Imports fell to 1.1m b/d in February, causing major disruption to the key market for many sub-Saharan African oil exporters, according to tanker data and crude-loading programmes.

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African Energy - Issue 409 - 13/02/2020

Nigerian electricity regulator acts to rein in distribution chaos

A tumultuous few months in Nigerian electricity distribution that included the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) threatening to withdraw the licences of eight of the country’s 11 distribution companies (discos) in October has forced progress on some of the many intractable problems preventing investment in the sector. A clearer and more balanced regulatory framework has been put in place and, with a regulatory order on electricity distribution franchising expected later this month, discos have some options for attracting investment and improving service quality (AE 367/6, 363/7).

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Gulf States Newsletter - Issue 1097 - 06/02/2020

Trump’s ‘Deal of the Century’ leaves Gulf allies struggling to respond

The “Deal of the Century” has finally emerged, with typically Trumpian braggadocio, several Gulf ambassadors and embattled Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in attendance. This was countered by muted defiance from the aging Palestinian Authority (PA) leadership and a flurry of rockets from Hamas in Gaza, to which Israel predictably responded in kind. After decades of conflict in the post-colonial Middle East’s traditionally central issue, US President Donald Trump’s unbalanced proposal to wrap up the Israel-Palestine conflict was more notable for the majority of tired and ambiguous responses it received, than for shifting geopolitical tectonic plates.

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