Middle East and Central Asia > Saudi Arabia

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Ms. Genevieve Verdier, Brett Rayner, Ms. Priscilla S Muthoora, Charles Vellutini, Ling Zhu, Vincent de Paul Koukpaizan, Alireza Marahel, Mahmoud Harb, Imen Benmohamed, Mr. Shafik Hebous, Andrew Okello, Nathalie Reyes, Thomas Benninger, and Bernard Sanya
Domestic revenue mobilization has been a longstanding challenge for countries in the Middle East and Central Asia. Insufficient revenue has often constrained priority social and infrastructure spending, reducing countries’ ability to reach the Sustainable Development Goals, improve growth prospects, and address climate related challenges. Moreover, revenue shortfalls have often been compensated by large and sustained debt accumulation, raising vulnerabilities in some countries, and limiting fiscal space to address future shocks. The COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine have compounded challenges to sustainable public finances, underscoring the need for revenue mobilization efforts. The recent global crises have also exacerbated existing societal inequalities and highlighted the importance of raising revenues in an efficient and equitable manner. This paper examines the scope for additional tax revenue mobilization and discusses policies to gradually raise tax revenue while supporting resilient growth and inclusion in the Middle East and Central Asia. The paper’s main findings are that excluding hydrocarbon revenues, the region’s average tax intake lags those of other regions; the region’s fragile and conflict-affected states (FCS) face particular challenges in mobilizing tax revenue; In general, there is considerable scope to raise additional tax revenue; countries have made efforts to raise tax collection, but challenges remain; tax policy design, notably low tax rates and pervasive tax exemptions, is an important factor driving tax revenue shortfalls; weak tax compliance, reflecting both structural features and challenges in revenue administration, also plays a role; and personal income tax systems in the region vary in their progressivity—the extent to which the average tax rate increases with income—and in their ability to redistribute income. These findings provide insights for policy action to raise revenue while supporting resilient growth and inclusion. The paper’s analysis points to these priorities for the region to improve both efficiency and equity of tax systems: improving tax policy design to broaden the tax base and increase progressivity and redistributive capacity; strengthening revenue administration to improve compliance; and implementing structural reforms to incentivize tax compliance, formalization, and economic diversification.
Mr. Matthieu Bellon
We examine the role of market characteristics and timing in explaining observed heterogeneity in VAT pass-through. We first extend existing theory to characterize the roles of imperfect competition and product differentiation, then investigate these relationships empirically using a panel of 14 Eurozone countries between 1999 and 2013. We find important roles for product market regulation and product quality, and little impact of advance announcement of reforms. Our findings have important implications for policy-makers considering VAT rate adjustments, by illuminating which of the consumers or the producers would experience the brunt of a reform across different settings.
Samya Beidas-Strom and Marco Lorusso
We build and estimate open economy two-bloc DSGE models to study the transmission and impact of shocks in Russia, Saudi Arabia and the United Kingdom. After accounting for country-specific fiscal and monetary sectors, we estimate their key policy and structural parameters. Our findings suggest that not only has output responded differently to shocks due to differing levels of diversification and structural and policy settings, but also the responses to fiscal consolidation differ: Russia would benefit from a smaller state foot-print, while in Saudi Arabia, unless this is accompanied by structural reforms that remove rigidities, output would fall. We also find that lower oil prices need not be bad news given more oil-intensive production structures. However, lower oil prices have hurt these oil producers as their public finances depend heavily on oil, among other factors. Productivity gains accompanied by ambitious structural reforms, along with fiscal and monetary reforms could support these economies to achieve better outcomes when oil prices fall, including via diversifying exports.
International Monetary Fund. Middle East and Central Asia Dept.
Selected Issues
International Monetary Fund. Middle East and Central Asia Dept.
This Selected Issues paper explores policies to drive diversification for Saudi Arabia. Diversification is needed to create jobs for Saudis and to mitigate the impact of uncertainty in oil markets. Although the business climate should be improved, and remaining infrastructure gaps addressed, reforms need to go beyond these areas. Diversification in Saudi Arabia that creates jobs for nationals could be held back by the effects of relatively high wages and their impact on cost competitiveness. Creative solutions are needed to address the impact of high government wages and employment on competitiveness. Industrial policy could help overcome the incentives that encourage companies to focus on the nontradable sector, but should be handled carefully, keeping lessons from other countries’ experiences in mind. Export orientation and competition are crucial mechanisms to ensure discipline. Strengthening human capital to raise productivity and provide workers with the skills needed in the private sector will be essential to success.
Ian W.H. Parry, Victor Mylonas, and Nate Vernon
Following submission of greenhouse gas (GHG) mitigation commitments or pledges (by 190 countries) for the 2015 Paris Agreement, policymakers are considering specific actions for their implementation. To help guide policy, it is helpful to have a quantitative framework for understanding: i) the main impacts (on GHGs, fiscal balances, the domestic environment, economic welfare, and distributional incidence) of emissions pricing; ii) trade-offs between pricing and other (commonly used) mitigation instruments; and iii) why/to what extent needed policies and their impacts differ across countries. This paper provides an illustrative sense of this information for G20 member countries (which account for about 80 percent of global emissions) under plausible (though inevitably uncertain) projections for future fuel use and price responsiveness. Quantitative results underscore the generally strong case for (comprehensive) pricing over other instruments, its small net costs or often net benefits (when domestic environmental gains are considered), but also the potentially wide dispersion (and hence inefficiency) in emissions prices implied by countries’ mitigation commitments.
International Monetary Fund
countries face similar challenges to create jobs and foster more inclusive growth. The current environment of likely durable low oil prices has exacerbated these challenges. The non-oil private sector remains relatively small and, consequently, has been only a limited source of growth and employment. Because oil is an exhaustible resource, new sectors need to be developed so they can take over as the oil and gas industry dwindles. Over-reliance on oil also exacerbates macroeconomic volatility. Greater economic diversification would unlock job-creating growth, increase resilience to oil price volatility and improve prospects for future generations. Macro-economic stability and supportive regulatory and institutional frameworks are key prerequisites for economic diversification...
Mr. Kamiar Mohaddes and Mr. Mehdi Raissi
This paper investigates the global macroeconomic consequences of falling oil prices due to the oil revolution in the United States, using a Global VAR model estimated for 38 countries/regions over the period 1979Q2 to 2011Q2. Set-identification of the U.S. oil supply shock is achieved through imposing dynamic sign restrictions on the impulse responses of the model. The results show that there are considerable heterogeneities in the responses of different countries to a U.S. supply-driven oil price shock, with real GDP increasing in both advanced and emerging market oil-importing economies, output declining in commodity exporters, inflation falling in most countries, and equity prices rising worldwide. Overall, our results suggest that following the U.S. oil revolution, with oil prices falling by 51 percent in the first year, global growth increases by 0.16 to 0.37 percentage points. This is mainly due to an increase in spending by oil importing countries, which exceeds the decline in expenditure by oil exporters.