Political transitions inject new regional risks


MENA Monthly: 

Steady reform, heady politics

The MENA region is well versed in political transitions and administrative turnovers. This month’s story is no different. Bursts of democracy tasted by various regional players over the past couple of decades are starting to fade. Indeed, familiar (and not altogether unwelcome) faces are returning. The Shia Muslim cleric Moqtada Sadr can now tighten his grip on power in Iraq, while the return of Saif al-Islam Gaddafi to Libya’s political scene is stirring up memories of a more stable era. Elsewhere, military strongmen are stealing the limelight; Sudan’s recent coup suggests the country’s transition to civilian rule may have been a fanciful ideal. 

While transitions sometimes denote a shift in politics, this is not always the case. We discuss what to expect in the run-up to elections in Libya, as well as what we may see following forceful and ostensibly democratic political transitions in Sudan and Iraq, respectively. 

Meanwhile, the region’s markets remain on track, with the latest IMF data showing that MENA players are set to meet their growth targets. Thanks are owed to the oil market’s recovery, with prices this week reaching a record high of USD 85 pb. This figure has not been witnessed since 2014. Credit must also be given to regional fiscal policies and reforms, which constitute critical cogs for the region’s recovery. Budget deficits are set to narrow and investor confidence is high. We take a deeper dive into these developments by exploring Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. 

As ever, we also investigate the latest data from China, a key economic partner for the region. China’s Q3 numbers indicate slower GDP growth than anticipated. The country posted 0.2% growth QoQ compared with 1.3% in Q2. China, like its MENA partners, may need to diversify. However, rather than focus on continuing to invest abroad, the People’s Republic might prefer to concentrate on problems at home, at least for now. This will be felt in inward FDI to MENA from China. 

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