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Egypt: Towards a greener economy

Egypt: Towards a greener economy

“The introduction of new environmental sustainability standards will bring Egypt closer to having a green economy”, elaborated on Ahramonline could drive the whole of the Middle East into reversing the trend, that of greening the desert as opposed to ever-increasing desertification. So how is Egypt moving towards a greener economy?

Egypt: Towards a greener economy

By Mahmoud Bakr, Saturday 14 Nov 2020

Fouad and Al-Said

The cabinet has agreed to produce guidelines for environmental sustainability standards that will be integrated into the state’s plans for sustainable development, it was announced this week.

Minister of Planning and Economic Development Hala Al-Said said the announcement brought the country one step closer to its transformation into a green economy. Decrees had been issued for various ministries to form teams to be trained in integrating environmental standards into their projects, she added.

Al-Said said that sustainability standards would be factored in when allocating budgets for projects, with the move accelerating Egypt’s progress towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and related international commitments and making it one of the first Arab countries to integrate the green economy into the state budget through so-called “green budgeting”.

Incorporating sustainability standards into the state’s economic and social development programmes and Egypt’s Vision 2030 would help to preserve resources for following generations, Al-Said explained.

The environmental sustainability standards will be considered in the 2021-22 budget. Priority will be granted to projects that follow the new environmental guidelines, and the assessment of investment projects will be conducted according to sustainability standards, she added.

Green initiatives will be launched in coordination with the ministries concerned, and periodical reports will follow up on progress in implementing the new standards.

Al-Said said that there were 691 green projects in the 2020-21 budget at an estimated cost of LE447.3 billion, 15 per cent of which, or LE36.7 billion, came from public investments, with a stated goal of doubling the allocations in the next budget.

Minister of Environment Yasmine Fouad said the cabinet’s approval of the environmental sustainability standards would help to spread a culture of sustainability and expand on integrating environmental dimensions into existing plans.

She said green investments targeting protecting natural resources from pollution and depletion, such as clean energy, recycling, and treating waste water, were being increased, and such green investments would improve Egypt’s competitiveness on the Environmental Performance Index by increasing such public investments from 15 per cent this year to 30 per cent in the next.

Green projects are development and service-oriented projects that take account of their effects on natural resources and increase the efficiency of their operations, she added.

The world was rearranging its priorities owing to changes resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic, Fouad said. In Egypt, the ministries of environment and planning collaborated to lay out a vision for Egypt’s transformation towards a green economy to increase the country’s investment opportunities, raise the competitiveness of local products, generate more job opportunities, and bring to a halt losses resulting from environmental deterioration, she added.

She said green projects helped to ensure the preservation of natural resources and biological diversity, reducing pollution, raising the efficiency of public spending, and increasing revenues. They also helped to increase competitiveness in production, rationalise water consumption, optimise benefits from non-conventional water resources, ensure the optimal utilisation of waste in safe and environmentally friendly means, and diversify energy sources to new and renewable resources.

Fouad cited as examples of green projects environmentally friendly industrial complexes, the development of canals, water desalination plants, treatment plants for medical waste, and solar energy projects.

The Ministry of Environment was providing the technical support for guidelines to integrate environmental factors into development projects and programmes to train public-sector executives in implementing and operating green projects, she said.

This was in tandem with the Ministry of Planning’s efforts to integrate sustainability standards into project evaluations, in addition to finding solutions to problems that could stand in the way of expanding projects across different sectors.

*A version of this article appears in print in the 12 November, 2020 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

Related:


The above feature picture is of the UN Page’s MAY – EGYPT LAUNCHES A NATIONAL STRATEGY FOR GREEN ECONOMY AT AMCEN


Record New Renewable Energy Capacity This Year and Next

Record New Renewable Energy Capacity This Year and Next

In these difficult days, Record new renewable energy capacity this year and next: IEA by Nina Chestney sheds some light in the unending and stuffy tunnel that the world’s economy finds itself stuck-in. Wind turbines lining the roads, roof mounted solar panels generating energy for all are more and more visible even in the MENA region, oil exporters or not.


LONDON, Nov 10 (Reuters) – Record levels of new renewable energy capacity are set to come on stream this year and next, while fossil fuel capacity will fall due to an economic slump and the COVID-19 crisis, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said in a report.

Record New Renewable Energy Capacity This Year and Next
FILE PHOTO: Wind turbines, which generate renewable energy, are seen on the Zafarana Wind Farm at the desert road of Suez outside of Cairo, Egypt September 1, 2020. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh

In its annual renewables outlook, the IEA said new additions of renewables capacity worldwide would increase by 4% from last year to a record 198 gigawatts (GW) this year.

This means renewables will account for almost 90% of the increase in total power capacity worldwide this year.

Supply chain disruptions and construction delays slowed the progress of renewable energy projects in the first six months of this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

However, the construction of plants and manufacturing activity has ramped up again, and logistical challenges have been mostly resolved, the IEA said.

Electricity generated by renewables will increase by 7% globally this year, despite a 5% annual drop in global energy demand, the largest since World War Two.

Next year, renewable capacity additions are on track for a rise of almost 10%, which would be the fastest growth since 2015.

“Renewable power is defying the difficulties caused by the pandemic, showing robust growth while others fuels struggle,” said Dr Fatih Birol, the IEA’s executive director.

Policymakers need to support the strong momentum behind renewables growth and if policy uncertainties are addressed, renewable energy capacity additions could reach 271 GW in 2022,the IEA said.

In 2025, renewables are set to become the largest source of electricity generation worldwide, supplying one third of the world’s electricity, and ending coal’s five decades as the topglobal power source, the report said.

Reporting by Nina Chestney; Editing by Mark Potter

Iraq’s Dire Fiscal Crisis

Iraq’s Dire Fiscal Crisis

Kirk H. Sowell describes in Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, how a newly appointed government finds it challenging to make ends meet through Iraq’s Dire Fiscal Crisis. In effect, like most oil-exporting countries of the MENA region, Iraq has to come to terms with the changing fundamentals of the world economy as aggravated by the pandemic.

Iraq’s Dire Fiscal Crisis


2 November 2020

Iraq’s Dire Fiscal Crisis

Iraq’s Prime Minister inherited a series of fiscal crises. As his interim government struggles to avert a complete economic collapse, austerity measures may come at the expense of much-needed reforms.

Since taking office, Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi has faced a series of fiscal and security crises amid collapsing public services and protests. The collapse in global oil prices due to the coronavirus pandemic and the Saudi-Russia oil price war caused Iraq to face an internal solvency crisis as early as June. This fiscal crisis has short and long-term implications. In the short-term, Baghdad continuously struggles to pay public sector salaries, which required the state to borrow from the Central Bank over the summer. With low oil revenue, the state’s monthly profits are covering just over 50 percent of its expenses. In the longer-term, Iraq faces a looming macro-fiscal state collapse—potentially within the next year.

The state is struggling to cover its monthly expenses. Over successive governments, the size of the public sector has grown to the point that Iraq needs to spend more than its total revenue on basic payments—public sector salaries, pensions, food aid, and welfare—to keep a majority of Iraq’s population out of destitution. In 2019, oil revenue averaged $6.5 million per month, and with modest non-oil revenues (largely customs, well less than $1 billion per month), this covered operational expenses with a small amount left over for capital spending. Since the recovery of oil prices after the March collapse, Iraq’s monthly oil revenues have averaged just over $3 billion/month, hitting a high of $3.52 billion in August. In testimony before parliament in September, Finance Minister Ali Allawi revealed[1] that with revenues at these levels, the government was still borrowing 3.5 trillion Iraqi Dinars (IQD) — just over $3 billion—from the Central Bank each month.

On October 10, as Iraq’s cash crunch became more acute, Allawi explained that state employee compensation rose from 20 percent of oil revenues in 2005 to 120 percent today. To help the public understand why the government of such an oil-rich country was broke, he explained that a government of this size should have at least $15 to 20 billion in funds to pay monthly expenses on an ongoing basis, but when this government took office, only about $1 billion was available.[2] This is in part due to weak revenues, the result of low oil prices and Iraq’s adherence to OPEC’s limitations on oil exports. In the past, Iraq’s oil exports have reached 3.5 million barrels per day (bpd), yet they decreased to 2.5 million bpd in recent months. Prominent figures, including former oil minister Ibrahim Bahr al-Ulum, have argued in favor of leaving the OPEC agreement unilaterally. Yet Allawi, speaking before Parliament, explained that while he agreed that OPEC’s quota formula was unfair, Iraq needs the OPEC agreement to keep oil prices from collapsing. More recently, according to the Iraq Oil Report, the government has signaled that it may try to thread the needle by increasing exports by 250,000 barrels per day to satisfy critics—an amount above its quota, but still about 750,000 barrels per day below peak production, and thus hopefully too small an increase to incur Saudi retaliation.

Iraq’s monthly oil revenue to collapsed from $6.2 billion in January to just $1.4 billion in April. The figure recovered to $2.9 billion in May and has gradually improved since, but in August was still just $3.5 billion. Since the government only had about $3 billion in expendable reserves in May, it became clear that Iraq could not pay state employees in June. Salaries over the summer were paid as money became available. As late as July 28, the prime minister’s spokesman admitted that employees at the Culture & Antiquities Ministry (apparently the lowest priority), were still waiting to be paid.

The government saw this crisis coming and began preparing the public for austerity. Finance Minister Allawi made multiple public appearancesdescribing Iraq’s situation as dire and arguing for radical reform. In particular, he predicted that the government, while protecting base salaries, would make large cuts to employee benefits and other costs. On June 9, the cabinet followed through when it voted to implement a series of austerity measures, including cutting benefits, cutting unessential spending, and capping income from “double-salary” payments.[3] Kadhimi’s advisor Hisham Daoud described the new policies as “not enough but only a start” toward reform.

Kadhimi, with no electoral base or political base of his own, has faced the fiscal crisis with a weak hand. This became clear when Parliament overwhelmingly rejected the government’s austerity policies on June 10, one day later. Even MPs friendly to the government described the government’s measures as premature, suggesting that they should try to raise revenue through customs first. Parliament eventually passed a borrowing law on June 24 to allow the government to borrow just enough to make basic payments. This law, however, prohibited the government from cutting benefits. Previously, the cabinet had the authority to cut benefits because, unlike salaries set by law, benefits were set by previous cabinet decrees. Thus, Parliament made the long-term problem worse.

In July, protests resurged in Baghdad as a result of the fiscal crisis. The shortage of money caused Iraq’s electricity shortage to worsen dramatically. Outgoing Electricity Minister Luay al-Khatteeb attributed the decline to two factors: lack of maintenance and the suspension of planned electricity projects.

The government has a few possible, but politically difficult, fixes at its disposal. They could cut the subsidy of roughly $1 billion per month to private electricity consumption, which exists because the ministry only collects a fraction of consumer payments. Finance Minister Allawi pointed out that “people don’t pay their electricity bills” and that “95 percent” of consumption costs was absorbed by the state, asserting that “electricity is not a constitutional right.”[4] Yet such an effort will recall former prime minister Haider al-Abadi’s experience trying to extract electricity payments in 2017, which precipitated a strong protest movement. So far, Kadhimi has shown no sign of pushing the issue. His published comments during a cabinet meeting devoted to the electricity issue focused on “reducing bureaucracy” and improving maintenance, sidestepping the fact that maintenance workers have to be paid.

Iraq’s fiscal crisis comes on the heels of the political crisis of the outgoing government, which left the country without a budget for most of 2020. In such cases, Iraqi law allows the government to spend one twelfth of the previous year’s actual spending each month. Since this year’s revenues have been low, it never had the money to spend that much and simply spent what it had on basic payments. In September, the government released a budget for 2020 and the planned deficit was large—well over 100 percent—so as with past budgets much of the deficit will likely not be spent. The total anticipated revenues are 67.4 trillion dinars, or $57 billion, compared with proposed expenditures of 148.6 trillion dinars, or  $125.7 billion. Oil revenue in 2019 was $78.5 billion yet is projected to be just $49.3 billion for 2020. The government withdrew the bill just two days after it arrived in parliament.

In September the government ran out of money, having used up the borrowing authority from the June bill.[5] Given the population’s overwhelming dependence on state salaries, this brought the short-term financial problems to the fore. Furthermore, Parliament refused to authorize the new borrowing authority Allawi sought because the government had not submitted a “reform plan.” Thus in early October the government released a “White Paper” reform plan. The plan draws a broad and long path to reform that does not directly address the immediate crisis, except to the extent that its publication formally satisfies Parliament’s precondition for new borrowing.

An important part of Allawi’s efforts was his advocacy of Iraq accepting an International Monetary Fund “Stand-By Agreement” (SBA) which might be the only way to prevent a fiscal collapse next year. The agreement would also require spending cuts that parliament has already rejected. Allawi stressed that the IMF would not require cuts to programs protecting the poor, but rather to public sector compensation that, in Allawi’s view, Iraq needed to cut anyway.[6]

This set the stage for a new debacle as the government then sent a new borrowing law to Parliament only to condemn it. A member of Parliament on the Finance Committee criticized the figures in the bill as irresponsible.[7] Given the parliament’s role in aggravating the crisis, this was grandstanding. The looming parliamentary elections, due no later than 2022 and possibly earlier, are driving the political theater. Parliament will presumably pass an amended version of the government’s borrowing bill to allow the government to pay salaries. In the meantime, with salaries being paid late, disposable income is squeezed, further damaging an already weak economy. But Iraq could face a much worse scenario in 2021, as the IMF’s updated forecast for Brent oil prices projects $46.70 per barrel. Iraq’s Central Bank, which rescued the government over the summer, relies on a steady flow of dollars from oil revenues and given current prices range from $40 to $45, reserves are gradually declining. According to financial analyst Ahmed al-Tabaqchali, at current oil prices the Central Bank can continue to print money to fund the government “for about eight or nine months.”[8]  

In terms of immediate steps, at a minimum, a devaluation of the Iraqi dinar (long pegged at 1,182 to the dollar) seems likely in 2021. This would relieve some pressure on the Central Bank and make the government’s expenses cheaper (since its income is in dollars), but it would also drive up inflation over time. The bigger threat is that by mid-to-late 2021, the Central Bank will no longer be able to support the government, forcing austerity through non-payment of operational expenses, including salaries.

It is clear that the government needed to adopt a policy of cutting public sector expenses while increasing its capital investment in agriculture and industry and devoting more resources to education and health. Kadhimi’s reform measures in June were too little, too late.  Still, the austerity that Parliament has resisted will be inevitable if oil prices do not rise dramatically in the months to come. A key priority from an international point of view is that the IMF, as a condition for its loans, impose upon Iraq the reforms for which Allawi has been advocating and which parliament has so rejected. It does not seem likely that reform will come to Iraq by any other means.

Kirk H. Sowell is the publisher of the biweekly newsletter Inside Iraqi Politics (www.insideiraqipolitics.com). Follow him on Twitter @uticarisk.

[1] See 2:13:00.

[2] In most of these comments, Allawi gives the figures in Iraqi dinars. I have converted them to dollars. Thus, he said, for example, that the Finance Ministry had 1.3 trillion IQD when he came into office. This is slightly over $1 billion.

[3] When a family received a payment for a deceased breadwinner and receives another government benefit.

[4] Discussion begins around 1:06:00.

[5] Testimony by the finance minister and discussion of the budget starts at 1:38:00.

[6] In the previously cited video from Parliament on September 8, he refers to the IMF briefly around 2:25:00, then again around 2:48:00, and once more near then end of the four-hour video in response to an MP attacking the IMF option.

[7] The reading begins at 00:09:00 and the comments referred to in the text follow.

[8] Author interview conducted on October 28, 2020 via Skype.More on: 

OPEC, Unconventional Oil and Climate Change

OPEC, Unconventional Oil and Climate Change

OPEC, Unconventional Oil and Climate Change – On the importance of the order of extraction by Benchekroun, Hassan, Gerard van der Meijden, and Cees Withagen. Published by the Journal of Environmental Economics and Management is a long-awaited reflection on what could be the most important topic of the century. The abstract and part of the introduction are republished below, and the whole text could be found in the original referred to document.

OPEC, Unconventional Oil and Climate Change-On the importance of the order of extraction

OPEC, Unconventional Oil and Climate Change

We show that OPEC’s market power contributes to climate change by enabling producers of relatively expensive and dirty oil to start producing before OPEC reserves are depleted. We examine the importance of this extraction sequence effect by calibrating and simulating a cartel-fringe model of the global oil market. While welfare net of climate damage under the cartel-fringe equilibrium can be significantly lower than under a first-best outcome, almost the entire welfare loss is due to the sequence effect of OPEC’s market power. In our benchmark calibration, the cost of the sequence effect amounts to 15 trillion US$, which corresponds to 97 percent of the welfare loss. Moreover, we find that an increase in non-OPEC oil reserves decreases global welfare. In a counterfactual world without non-OPEC oil, global welfare would be 13 trillion US$ higher, 10 trillion US$ of which is due to lower climate damages.

Introduction

What is the impact of imperfect competition in the oil market on climate change? This question is relevant given the sizable carbon footprint of oil and the prominent size of OPEC. Oil is responsible for close to a quarter of anthropogenic carbon emissions (IEA, 2016)1 and, with OPEC producing 40 percent of global oil supply and owning 70 percent of world oil reserves (EIA, 2019b), it is not realistic to assume that OPEC is a price taker in the market of oil.

An old adage says that “the monopolist is the conservationist’s best friend” (e.g., Dasgupta and Heal, 1979, p. 329). Indeed, we know from non-renewable resource economics that market power typically leads to higher initial resource prices and slower resource depletion. However, in the case of oil, the consequences of imperfect competition for the Earth’s climate are more complex because different types of oil reserves with varying carbon contents are exploited. The reason is that imperfect competition does not only affect the speed, but also the order of extraction of different reserves of oil (cf. Benchekroun et al., 200920102019). Conventional OPEC oil is cheaper and its extraction is less carbon intensive than unconventional oil owned by relatively small oil producers (Malins et al., 2014Fischer and Salant, 2017OCI, 2019). Technically recoverable reserves and production of unconventional types of oil by non-OPEC countries have grown significantly over the last decade. The supply of oil sands from Canada has more than doubled, and shale oil production in the US has increased more than tenfold since 2007 (CAPP, 2017bEIA, 2019b). Current recoverable reserves of Canadian oil sands and of US shale oil amount to 165 and 78.2 billion barrels, respectively (CAPP, 2017aEIA, 2019c). In this paper, we take into account that when OPEC exercises market power it does not only slow down its rate of extraction—which tends to be good for the climate—but it also opens the door for earlier production by the fringe. As a result, OPEC’s relatively cheaper and cleaner oil is extracted later, while the fringe’s costlier and dirtier oil is extracted earlier. This ‘sequence effect’ leads to higher discounted extraction costs and climate damage.


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

Euro Auctions reports Rise in Lot Prices in online bids in Dubai

Euro Auctions reports Rise in Lot Prices in online bids in Dubai

Anirban Bagchi Posted on October 21, 2020 in MEConstruction News that Euro Auctions reports rise in lot prices, bidders and online bids at September Dubai sale. What is the meaning of such a movement? Anirban Bagchi explains.

Internet buyers double in number as average lot prices go up 63% while first time bidders grow exponentially

Euro Auctions has reported a year-on-year increase of 63% in average lot prices at its September sale in Dubai while first-time bidder registrations rose by nearly 300%, with 20% of the new bidders placing successful winning bids.

The global machinery auctioneers said the results prove that there “is an appetite for good used equipment in the region” and that Euro Auctions is “fast becoming the auction of choice for buyers and sellers in the Middle East for the disposal of stock to a true international audience”.

According to Euro Auctions the Dubai sale on September 28th attracted increased number of bidders, doubling the number of internet buyers, and also increasing the number of UAE vendors. The one-day sale resulted in 33% of all bids being transacted online proving the success of the marketing reach for this sale.

Bidders for the sale came from 65 countries, of which, 21 countries successfully bought on the day. Online bids came from 19 countries around the globe, with the top bidding countries being the UAE, Saudi Arabia, the Netherlands, the UK and Africa countries as a whole.

Derek Bleakly, general manager of Euro Auctions, Dubai, said: “Euro Auctions has been working hard with consignors across the Middle East over the last three years to build awareness and trust, demonstrating that our auctions are the place to bring good equipment, which in the Gulf, is in high demand. Plant and machinery auctions are no longer seen as the place to dump old, poor quality, low-spec machinery. Quite the reverse in fact, with many rental companies sending entire fleets of good, well-maintained two- to three-year-old machines to auction, making ideal purchases for dealers, contractors, and civil engineering companies.

“In last 12 months since mid-2019, there has been a marked uptake in the Middle East market for good machinery and equipment. Contractors and rental companies in the Middle East have been buying relatively low levels of new machines for the last 4-5 years and, as a result, stocks of plant are aging. Not buying through dealerships, buyers have turned to auctions for good late-year machines as well as new unused stock.”

Euro Auctions added that now with Covid-19 affecting the global economy, the used equipment market could well boom in the next 12 months. The auctioneer projected that with major OEMs pausing production globally, as happened in 2008, it is likely that when demand increases, OEMs will be unable to accelerate production, fuelling a demand for good, late, low-hours equipment. Euro Auctions has several other sale events around the world for the remainder of this year, including another in Dubai on December 14th.


Reviving MENA Regional Integration in the Post-COVID Era

Reviving MENA Regional Integration in the Post-COVID Era

The World Bank gives us the comprehensive Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Economic Update: It is about Trading Together — Reviving MENA Regional Integration in the Post-COVID Era.


The combination of a COVID-19 pandemic and a collapse in oil prices has affected all aspects of the economies in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). The region’s economies are projected to contract by 5.2% in 2020, which is 4.1 percentage points below the forecast in April 2020, and 7.8 percentage points worse than that of October 2019, reflecting an increasingly pessimistic outlook for the regional economy. The region is expected to recover only partially in 2021.

The outlook for MENA’s current account and fiscal balances also deteriorated sharply. Driven largely by lower oil export revenue, a drop in fiscal revenue, and the large increase in fiscal expenditure required to respond to the health crisis, the region’s current account and fiscal balances in 2020 are forecast at -4.8% and -10.1% of GDP respectively, much worse than the forecasts in October 2019. Public debt is projected to rise significantly in the next few years, from about 45% of GDP in 2019 to 58% in 2022.

In dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, the top priority is responding to the health crisis while aiming to preserve consumption and production capabilities. If financially feasible, countries should postpone fiscal consolidation until recovery is well underway. Reallocating spending to deal with the immediate impacts of the crisis and making such spending more efficient, for example, by proactively reducing leakages to ensure relief measures reach the intended beneficiaries can help create fiscal space. In the medium run, there is a strong need to boost productivity to restore growth and stabilize the debt. A powerful way to do that would be to pursue profound institutional reforms that would reshape the role of the state, promote fair competition, accelerate the adoption digital technology, and pursue regional integration, which is the focus of this report.

CHAPTER I: Coping with a Dual Shock in the Middle East and North Africa

Countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) face both a COVID-19 pandemic and a collapse in oil prices. Trade volumes are estimated to have fallen sharply. Preliminary data for April from the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development suggests a roughly 40% decline in trade for the region. The downturn is expected to accelerate in sectors with strong value chains, particularly in electronics and automotive products.

CHAPTER II: Reviving Middle East and North Africa Regional Trade Integration in the Post-COVID-19 Era

Trade openness can be significant in achieving inclusiveness. However, to promote growth that benefits all segments of society, trade reforms must move in parallel with other policy reforms. The benefits of trade openness might otherwise be canceled by other economic and social measures. The contributions of trade openness to inclusive growth can be uneven and cannot be understood without considering how it affects all factors of production, benefiting some and hurting others.



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