Mr. Olumuyiwa S Adedeji, Mr. Sohaib Shahid, and Ling Zhu
This paper examines real and financial linkages between Saudi Arabia and other GCC countries. Growth spillovers from Saudi Arabia to Bahrain are found to be sizeable and statistically significant, but those to other GCC countries are not found to be significant. Equity market movements in Saudi Arabia are found to have significant implications for other GCC countries, while there is no evidence of co-movements in bonds markets. These findings suggest some degree of interdependence among GCC countries.
"Financial systems in the GCC have developed significantly over the last couple of decades, but there appears to be further room for progress. The development of bank and equity markets has been supported by a combination of buoyant economic activity, a booming Islamic finance sector, and financial sector reforms. As a result, financial systems have deepened and, overall, the level of financial development compares well with emerging markets. However, it still lags advanced economies and, other than for Saudi Arabia, appears to be lower than would be expected given economic fundamentals, such as income levels.
Financial development in the GCC has relied to a large extent on banks, while debt markets and nonbank financial institutions are less developed and access to equity markets is narrow. The non-bank financial institutions—pension funds, asset management and finance companies, and insurance—remain small. Domestic debt markets are underdeveloped. While equity markets appear to be well developed by market size, they are dominated by a few large (and often public-sector) companies.
GCC countries have made progress on financial inclusion, but gaps remain in some important areas. Access to finance for SMEs, women, and youth, in particular, appears relatively low. This may partly reflect social norms, low levels of participation of women in the labor market and private sector activity, and the high level of youth unemployment.
Further financial development and inclusion is likely to be associated with stronger economic growth in the GCC countries. While there is uncertainty surrounding the empirical estimates in the paper, further progress with financial development and/or inclusion is likely to go hand-in-hand with stronger growth. The growth benefits, however, are likely to vary across countries depending on the current level of financial development and inclusion.
To realize these growth benefits, reforms to strengthen access to finance for SMEs, women, and youth are needed. Addressing institutional weaknesses and promoting financial sector competition would help boost access to finance for SMEs. Reforms to enhance financial literacy and improve SME governance structures and insolvency frameworks are critical. Other reforms encouraging female and youth employment and the use of emerging technologies in finance also appear promising.
Additional reforms to foster financial development should focus on developing debt markets and making stock markets more accessible to a larger pool of companies and investors. To grow domestic debt markets, the authorities should develop a government yield curve, seek to increase market liquidity through secondary market trading, and ensure requirements for private issuance are not onerous. Stock market reforms should focus on enhancing corporate governance and investor protection, removing restrictions on foreign ownership, and encouraging financial market competition. The latter would also help the development of non-bank financial institutions."
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.
Ms. Zsofia Arvai, Mr. Ananthakrishnan Prasad, and Mr. Kentaro Katayama
As undiversified commodity exporters, GCC economies are prone to pro-cyclical systemic risk in the financial system. During periods of high hydrocarbon prices, favorable economic prospects make the financial sector keen to lend, leading to higher domestic credit growth and easier access to external financing. Fiscal policy is a very important tool for macroeconomic management, but due to the significant time lags and expenditure rigidities, it has not been a flexible enough tool to prevent credit booms and the build-up of systemic risk in the GCC. This, together with limited monetary policy independence because of the pegged exchange rate, means that macro-prudential policy has a particularly important role in limiting systemic risk in the financial system. This importance is reinforced by the underdeveloped financial markets in the region that provide limited risk management tools and shortcomings in crisis resolution frameworks. This paper will discuss the importance of macro-prudential policy in the GCC countries, look at the experience with macro-prudential policies in the boom/bust cycle in the second half of the 2000s, and use the broad frameworks being developed in the Fund and elsewhere to discuss ways existing frameworks and policy toolkits in the region can be strengthened given the characteristics of the GCC economies.
The expenditure multipliers in Kuwait are likely to be high, and mostly operate through capital expenditure. Kuwait’s large state-controlled endowment of natural resource, pegged exchange rate regimes, and relatively open financial accounts are the mainstay. The nominal effective exchange rate diverged from the set pattern owing to higher inflation. Estimates from methodologies for exchange rate assessment indicate mixed results. Macroprudential policies in Kuwait would strengthen the management of systemic risk by reducing the probability and the impact of a financial boom-bust cycle on economic activity.
This paper analyzes the impact of global and regional spillovers to GCC equity markets. GCC equity markets were impacted by spillovers from U.S. equity markets despite varying degrees of foreign participation. Spillovers from regional equity markets were also important but the magnitude of the effects were on average smaller than that from mature markets. The results also illustrated episodes of contagion in particular during the recent global financial crisis. The findings suggest that given the degree of openness, and open capital accounts the financial channel is an important source through which volatility is transmitted. In this regard, GCC equity markets are not immune from global and regional financial shocks. These findings refute the notion of decoupling between the GCC equity and global equity markets.
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.