April 2014

Gulf Industry Magazine helps you catch up with the numbers behind economic and industrial developments in the region.

Qatar ‘most expensive country in the Gulf’

QATAR’S tight rental market has made it the most expensive country to live in the GCC region, according to an analysis on the cost of living in the region.

The Bharat Book Bureau’s “Cost of Living – GCC Report” has found that in a like-for-like comparison of seven measures, Qatar came out the most expensive overall, followed by the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Oman and Kuwait.

Qatar also emerged as the most expensive GCC nation for renting a car with a monthly fee of $2,773 to rent a small SUV – almost double the $1,390.50 cost for the same car in the UAE – while an annual gym membership in Qatar was $2,686.5.

It is also noted the UAE had the biggest range of healthcare in terms of international hospitals and clinics, while the more than seven big, local drug manufacturing plants in Saudi Arabia, where insurance was $1,350 per year, brought down pharmaceutical costs somewhat.

Sections in the report cover accommodation, commercial property, education, healthcare, travel and transport, household and utilities, business set-up and licences, lifestyle and hospitality and job markets across all six GCC countries, comparing equivalent roles across multiple industrial sectors.


Saudi ‘can achieve 4.4pc growth’

THE International Monetary Fund’s forecast for Saudi Arabia’s economic growth of 4.4 per cent this year is reasonable and achievable, the country’s central bank governor Fahad Al Mubarak said.

“We see that the private sector will be the main growth driver this year. Government investments continue to be the main driver for private sector growth, so I am optimistic,” Mubarak said.

“I do not see high risks in specific areas,” he added.

The Opec member’s economic growth slowed to 3.8 per cent in 2013 from 5.8 per cent in the previous year.


Most consumers prefer in-store shopping

AN overwhelming majority (91 per cent) of consumers find it easier to purchase in-store than either online or by mobile, while about 46 per cent said they plan to buy more online in future, according to a survey.

Accenture’s retail survey, which polled 15,000 respondents in 20 countries, suggested that retailers working to provide a seamless, cross-channel customer experience may need to re-think some aspects of their approach.

In mature markets, just 48 per cent now rank online shopping as convenient, versus 56 per cent in last year’s survey.

In key sectors such as consumer electronics, apparel and home improvement, shoppers are now webrooming (looking online then buying in-store) more than they are showrooming (looking in-store before buying online) – 54 per cent intend to webroom more often versus 48 per cent intending to showroom more often.

Meanwhile, consumers also want online to be more convenient. They value the ability to reserve a product online before viewing it in-store. Regarding the service they would value the most, the highest ranked answer was the ability to check product availability across channels in real time, which would improve the experience, said the survey.

Consumers also want some of the convenience of online shopping to be transferred to stores. More than half of all global shoppers surveyed wanted additional services in-store via mobile devices, including being able to access shopping list, scanning products for more information and paying by phone.

The survey found that the basics of consumer loyalty remained the same – a convenient location, product assortment, the best prices and good customer service.

It also found that nearly 50 per cent of global shoppers are happy to provide retailers with their personal information, as long as it results in personalised offerings as promotions based on purchase history or subscription programmes.


GCC insurance growth remains high

GROWTH rates in the GCC insurance markets remain higher than those of developed markets and have kept pace with those of some key emerging markets, according to the latest report from AM Best.

The report, titled, “GCC Growth Outpaces Developed, Other Emerging Markets”, analysed an extensive portfolio of companies in 19 countries over the past nine years, comparing the GCC markets with developed markets and those of the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) countries.

The gross premiums written (GPW) in the GCC countries had a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 21 per cent from 2002 through 2012, the same as Brazil and China, while Russia was at 18 per cent and India at 16 per cent, the report stated.

Mahesh Mistry, the director, analytics, said: “Interestingly, growth of GPW in the Gulf markets continued to accelerate from 2010, and despite depressed financial markets, the region’s insurance sector outpaced most other markets in the analysis.”

According to the report, the general economic growth and public spending in the GCC were likely to increase in the short to medium term, providing further impetus for the insurance market.

However, much of the recent growth in insurance has come from compulsory covers, it stated.


Kuwait GDP growth to hit 3.5pc in 2014

KUWAIT’S economy is expected to grow between three and 3.5 per cent this year, the country’s central bank governor said.

Mohammad Al Hashel also said that there would be less non-performing loans in Kuwait this year compared to 2013.

Analysts in a Reuters poll in January expected GDP growth of 2.8 per cent in Kuwait in 2013 and 3 per cent in 2014.


Qatar spending jumps 33pc in first half

QATAR’s government spending rose nearly 33 per cent to QR93.2 billion ($25.6 billion) in the first half of this fiscal year, speeding up after a slow start to soccer World Cup 2022 projects, data showed.

Expenditure in April-September accounts for a little over 44 per cent of the record QR210.6 billion Qatar plans to spend in the 2013/14 fiscal year.

The rate of increase compared with the same period a year ago is the fastest since at least 2008, preliminary finance ministry data released by the central bank showed.

The world’s top liquefied natural gas (LNG) exporter spent QR70.3 billion in the same period of the previous 2012/13 fiscal year. Qatar’s fiscal year ends in March.

Revenue fell 19 per cent to QR118.5 billion in the first half, the first decline in this period since the quarterly data series started in 2008. That was more than 54 per cent of the QR218.1 billion anticipated in the 2013/14 budget.

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