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Abdullah Al-Hassan, Imen Benmohamed, Aidyn Bibolov, Giovanni Ugazio, and Ms. Tian Zhang
The Gulf Cooperation Council region faced a significant economic toll from the COVID-19 pandemic and oil price shocks in 2020. Policymakers responded to the pandemic with decisive and broad measures to support households and businesses and mitigate the long-term impact on the economy. Financial vulnerabilities have been generally contained, reflecting ongoing policy support and the rebound in economic activity and oil prices, as well as banks entering the COVID-19 crisis with strong capital, liquidity, and profitability. The banking systems remained well-capitalized, but profitability and asset quality were adversely affected. Ongoing COVID-19 policy support could also obscure deterioration in asset quality. Policymakers need to continue to strike a balance between supporting recovery and mitigating risks to financial stability, including ensuring that banks’ buffers are adequate to withstand prolonged pandemic and withdrawal of COVID-related policy support measures. Addressing data gaps would help policymakers to further assess vulnerabilities and mitigate sectoral risks.
Padamja Khandelwal, Mr. Ken Miyajima, and Mr. Andre O Santos
This paper examines the links between global oil price movements and macroeconomic and financial developments in the GCC. Using a range of multivariate panel approaches, including a panel vector autoregression approach, it finds strong empirical evidence of feedback loops between oil price movements, bank balance sheets, and asset prices. Empirical evidence also suggests that bank capital and provisioning have behaved countercyclically through the cycle.
International Monetary Fund
Economic and financial developments in the GCC economies are interwoven with oil price movements. GCC economies are highly dependent on oil and gas exports. Oil price upturns lead to higher oil revenues, stronger fiscal and external positions, and higher government spending. This boosts corporate profitability and equity prices and strengthens bank balance sheets, but can also lead to the buildup of systemic vulnerabilities in the financial sector. Banks in the GCC are well-capitalized, liquid, and profitable at present, and well-positioned to manage structural systemic risks. However, oil-macro-financial linkages mean that asset quality and liquidity in the financial system may deteriorate in a low oil price environment and financial sector stress may emerge. The scope for amplification of oil price shocks through the financial sector suggests a role for a countercyclical approach to macroprudential policies. Countercyclical macroprudential policy can prove useful to reduce the buildup of systemic risks in the financial sector during upswings, and to cushion against disruption to financial services during periods of financial sector stress. The GCC countries have considerable experience with implementing a wide range of macroprudential policies, but these policies have not generally been adjusted through the cycle. GCC central banks implemented several macroprudential measures before the global financial crisis and have continued to enhance their macroprudential frameworks and toolkits to limit systemic financial sector risks. Although there is some evidence of macroprudential tools being adjusted in a countercyclical way, most of the tools have not been adjusted over the financial cycle. Further enhancements to the GCC macroprudential framework are needed to support the countercyclical use of these policies. A comprehensive and established framework, supported by strong institutional capacity, is essential for countercyclical macroprudential policies. This framework should provide clear assignment of responsibilities and guidance on how policies will be implemented to maintain financial stability and manage systemic risks over the financial cycle. Addressing data gaps and the further development of reliable early warning indicators in signaling potential systemic stress are needed to help guide the countercyclical use of a broad set of macroprudential policies. Expanding the countercyclical policy toolkit and its coverage can help address emerging financial sector risks. The implementation of countercyclical capital buffers and dynamic loan loss provisions could boost resilience in line with systemic risks faced in GCC economies. At the same time, using existing macroprudential policies countercyclically would prove useful to address emerging financial sector risks in a more targeted way. Expanding the coverage of macroprudential tools to nonbanks can help boost effectiveness by reducing leakages.
Mr. Raphael A Espinoza, Ms. Ghada Fayad, and Mr. Ananthakrishnan Prasad

Abstract

The economies of the Arab states of the Gulf have gone through considerable changes in the last decade, spurred by high oil prices and ambitious diversification plans. Large-scale immigration provided the labor force while capital inflows and financial development leveraged oil wealth to finance diversification. The collapse in real estate prices around the world followed by the global crisis slowed growth and raised questions on the appropriateness of what has been dubbed the "GCC model." The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries have thus far managed to leverage their large natural resource wealth to achieve economic prosperity and finance social advances, and the region also emerged as an important source of funds for the other countries in the Middle East. Nevertheless, the GCC face several challenges. Productivity growth must increase to fully reap the benefits of investment. Jobs must be created for the nationals and the growing youth population. State intervention (which is prevalent, given that oil revenues accrue to the government) must become efficient and be used to diversify and modernize the economy. In addition, the recent crisis highlighted the importance of fiscal, monetary, and financial stability policies to manage macroeconomic cycles. This book analyses these issues and combines data and econometric analysis with theoretical discussions. It concludes with a discussion of the importance of the GCC for the wider region.

Mr. Raphael A Espinoza and Mr. Ananthakrishnan Prasad
According to a dynamic panel estimated over 1995 - 2008 on around 80 banks in the GCC region, the NPL ratio worsens as economic growth becomes lower and interest rates and risk aversion increase. Our model implies that the cumulative effect of macroeconomic shocks over a three year horizon is indeed large. Firm-specific factors related to risk-taking and efficiency are also related to future NPLs. The paper finally investigates the feedback effect of increasing NPLs on growth using a VAR model. According to the panel VAR, there could be a strong, albeit short-lived feedback effect from losses in banks’ balance sheets on economic activity, with a semi-elasticity of around 0.4.
Mr. Ananthakrishnan Prasad and Pierluigi Bologna
This note assesses the impact of the global financial risks on Oman's banking system and highlights the remaining risks. It concludes that the liquidity and prudential measures introduced by the authorities mitigated the adverse effects of the crisis on the banking system. Banks continue to make profits despite higher provisioning. Stress tests confirm the resilience of the banking system to credit and market risks. Banks have limited exposure to derivatives and the majority of the off-balance sheet exposures are conventional and relatively secure. Interest rate risks are within an acceptable range.
Samya Beidas-Strom, Weicheng Lian, and Ashwaq Maseeh
This paper examines housing finance and housing price dynamics in selected emerging Middle Eastern economies over the past two decades. It finds that (i) mortgage markets have experienced rapid development, which has led to lower private per capita consumer spending volatility this decade; (ii) a downward price correction occurred in the housing market after 2007, which appears to have bottomed out; (iii) the rental market appears to be largely determined by region-specific economic fundamentals-a youthful working-age population and wealth variables; and (iv) a segregation between self-owned house and rental price dynamics exists in this region, rendering the former more sensitive to the business cycle.
International Monetary Fund
This Selected Issues paper on Kuwait reviews its economic development strategy and uses a variety of analytical methods to highlight Kuwait’s policy challenges and their effectiveness. Kuwait has accumulated large fiscal surpluses, enabling it to build up a sizable asset position for future generations. The fiscal position is also expected to remain comfortable over the medium term, but the recent rapid increase in expenditures raises doubts about the sustainability of the current fiscal stance over the longer term.
International Monetary Fund

Abstract

This volume comprises two separate papers on key structural aspects of the reform process in the Gulf Cooperation Council countries. The first paper addresses issues related to financial intermediation and reform in the context of the evolving economic environment in the GCC countries. The second discusses the labor market challenges and policy issues in the GCC countries and their implications for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.