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IMF concludes 2018 Consultation with Bahrain, economy projected to decelerate

Executive Directors welcomed the resilience of growth in Bahrain while noting downside risks to the outlook stemming from the rise in fiscal and external vulnerabilities, tighter global financing conditions, delays in fiscal adjustment, and lower energy prices.


IMF Bahrain
Updated: 16-07-2018 00:11 IST
IMF concludes 2018 Consultation with Bahrain, economy projected to decelerate

Under Article IV of the IMF's Articles of Agreement, the IMF holds bilateral discussions with members, usually every year. (Image Credit: Reuters)

On July 9, 2018, the Executive.Board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) concluded the Article IV in consultation with the Kingdom of Bahrain.

The decline in oil prices since 2014 and absence of buffers have led to a rise in fiscal and external vulnerabilities. Public debt increased to 89 per cent of GDP, with large fiscal and external current deficits persisting. Reserves remain low, covering only 1.5 months of prospective non-oil imports at end 2017.

Output grew by 3.8 per cent in 2017, underpinned by a resilient non-hydrocarbon sector, with robust implementation of GCC-funded projects as well as strong activity in the financial, hospitality, and education sectors. The banking system remains stable with large capital buffers. Growth is projected to decelerate over the medium term. Despite planned fiscal consolidation measures, fiscal and external deficits are projected to continue over the medium term, due to the large and growing interest bill. Delays in implementing a credible fiscal plan and changes in market sentiment as global financing conditions tighten present downside risks to the baseline.

Executive Board Assessment

Executive Directors welcomed the resilience of growth in Bahrain while noting downside risks to the outlook stemming from the rise in fiscal and external vulnerabilities, tighter global financing conditions, delays in fiscal adjustment, and lower energy prices. Against this background, Directors called for additional sustained efforts to improve Bahrain's fiscal and external positions, preserve financial sector resilience, and support diversified inclusive growth.

Directors welcomed the authorities' continued fiscal reform efforts but observed that public debt is expected to increase further over the medium term and reserves are projected to remain low. In this regard, they agreed that a comprehensive package of reforms is needed to reduce fiscal deficits over the medium term. Directors welcomed the authorities' commitment to continue subsidy reforms, cut non‑productive spending, and raise non‑oil revenues by introducing a value‑added tax by 2019. They considered that additional steps are needed to put public finances on a sustainable trajectory, striking the right balance between revenue and expenditure measures while protecting the most vulnerable. In this context, Directors emphasized the need to introduce direct taxation, including a corporate income tax, while containing the public wage bill and targeting subsidies to the poorest. They looked forward to the newly established debt management office developing a contingent financing strategy to mitigate financing risks and costs. Directors also encouraged the authorities to strengthen their macro‑fiscal framework and increase fiscal transparency and accountability, securing public support and awareness, and enhancing market confidence.

Directors agreed that the exchange rate peg remains appropriate for the economy, and delivers a clear and credible policy anchor, keeping inflation low and stable. They underscored the importance of fiscal adjustment in supporting the peg and rebuilding international reserves, and ensuring external sustainability. In this context, Directors recommended gradually unwinding central bank lending to the government.

Directors welcomed the central bank's continued efforts to implement the 2017 FSAP recommendations to further strengthen the regulation and supervision of the financial sector. They emphasized the need to develop a well‑defined emergency liquidity assistance framework, deepen the interbank market, and enhance the supervision of Islamic banks and insurance companies. Directors also encouraged close monitoring of the build‑up of household debt. They welcomed Bahrain's initiatives to promote fintech, while underscoring the importance of monitoring risks. Continued efforts to strengthen the AML/CFT framework were also encouraged.

Directors commended the authorities' initiatives to streamline business regulations to promote private sector development, diversification, and job creation. They welcomed recent developments in enhancing SMEs' access to finance, as well as recent labor market reforms to increase flexibility and promote employment in the private sector. They called for further structural reforms to boost productivity and competitiveness through more privatization plans and public‑private partnerships, and measures to strengthen the education system and support greater female labor force participation.

Bahrain: Selected Macroeconomic.Indicators, 2015–19

Est.

Proj.

Proj.

2015

2016

2017

2018

2019

(Percent change, unless otherwise indicated)

Production and prices

Real GDP

2.9

3.2

3.8

3.2

2.6

Real oil GDP1

-0.1

-0.1

-0.7

0.3

0.2

Real non-oil GDP

3.6

4.0

4.8

3.9

3.1

Nominal GDP (billions of US$)

31.1

32.2

35.3

39.1

41.3

Consumer price index (period average)

1.8

2.8

1.4

3.0

5.1

(Percent of GDP, unless otherwise indicated)

Fiscal variables

State revenue

18.2

17.6

18.3

22.2

21.9

Of which: oil revenue

13.8

12.0

12.6

15.6

14.7

State expenditure

31.0

31.0

28.2

27.1

26.6

State fiscal balance

-12.8

-13.4

-9.9

-5.0

-4.6

Overall fiscal balance 2

-18.4

-17.6

-14.3

-8.9

-8.4

(Billions of US$, unless otherwise indicated)

External sector

Exports

16.5

12.8

15.4

19.0

19.5

Of which: Oil and refined products

7.7

6.1

8.4

11.2

10.9

Imports

-15.7

-13.6

-16.1

-18.4

-18.9

Current account balance

-0.8

-1.5

-1.6

-0.9

-0.9

Percent of GDP

-2.4

-4.6

-4.5

-2.3

-2.1

Gross official reserves (end of period) 3

3.4

2.4

2.6

2.3

2.1

Months of imports 4

1.9

1.2

1.2

1.0

0.9

Months of imports (excluding crude oil imports) 4,5

2.3

1.5

1.5

1.2

1.1

Real effective exchange rate (percent change)

10.8

2.6

0.5

...

...

Sources: Bahraini authorities; and IMF staff estimates.

1 Includes crude oil and gas.

2 Includes State fiscal balance and Extra-budgetary expenditures.

3 Includes Special Drawing Rights and IMF Reserve Position.

4 Imports of goods and non-factor services for the following year.

5 All imported crude oil is exported after refining.


Note:

  • Under Article IV of the IMF's Articles of Agreement, the IMF holds bilateral discussions with members, usually every year. A staff team visits the country, collects economic and financial information, and discusses with officials the country's economic developments and policies. On return to headquarters, the staff prepares a report, which forms the basis for discussion by the Executive.Board.
  • At the conclusion of the discussion, the Managing Director, as Chairman of the Board, summarizes the views of Executive Directors, and this summary is transmitted to the country's authorities. An explanation of any qualifiers used in summings up can be found here:http://www.imf.org/external/np/sec/misc/qualifiers.htm
COUNTRY : Bahrain

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