Central Bank of Oman Annual Report unveiled
Muscat - The Annual Report of the Central Bank of Oman (CBO) for 2016 was released on July 16. The report contains the overall macroeconomic assessment of Oman during 2016 and analysis of major sectors of the economy through five Chapters on Output, Employment and Prices (Chapter II); Oil and Gas (Chapter III); Public Finance (Chapter IV); Money, Banking and Financial Institutions (Chapter V); and Foreign Trade and Balance of Payments (Chapter VI). Chapter I on Overview and Outlook provides a brief review of the macroeconomic developments along with an assessment of the outlook for the economy in the nearterm. The Annual Report also contains the audited balance sheet of the CBO as well as important CBO regulations issued during 2016 and the first half of 2017.
The Omani economy contracted in nominal terms for the second year in a row in 2016, after a sustained robust expansion over five years (2010-14), mainly due to steep decline in hydrocarbon prices. Despite expansion in output, the revenues from hydrocarbon sector declined reflecting lower level of oil prices caused by slackening of external demand. At the same time, domestic demand also weakened due to decline in Government expenditure by 5.8 per cent. Consequently, Oman’s nominal GDP contracted by 5.1 per cent in 2016, on top of a drop of 13.8 per cent in 2015. Component-wise, nominal oil sector GDP decreased by 23.7 per cent in 2016 while the non-oil sector registered a growth of 0.6 per cent during the period. Manufacturing sector declined by 17.2 per cent during 2016, mainly reflecting weak external demand. Agriculture and fishing sector, however, registered a solid growth of 16.3 per cent in 2016 as against an average growth of about 6.4 per cent in the previous five years. The intensive efforts of the government aimed at economic diversification have contributed significantly to the growth of services sector and its share to GDP improved to 53.5 per cent in 2016 from an average of 39.6 per cent during the previous five years. Notwithstanding contraction in nominal GDP, the real GDP growth is expected to be positive in 2016.
The recent policy programmes, including the Ninth Five Year Plan and Tanfeedh, aim at economic diversification with expanded participation of the private sector, and generating enough additional employment opportunities in Oman. The employment generation in the public sector remained subdued and grew by 1.6 per cent in 2015 with employment of Omanis increasing by 0.9 per cent. The share of Omanis in the public sector employment, however, continued to remain at around 85 per cent. On the other hand, the employment of Omanis in the private sector grew by 6.4 per cent in 2016.
Inflationary pressure in Oman is largely conditioned by government spending, international prices, and the movement of US dollar due to the pegging of Omani rial. Notwithstanding the decline in government expenditure, the average inflation based on CPI for the sultanate increased to 1.1 per cent during 2016 from 0.1 per cent in 2015 mainly due to the recovery in international commodity prices, and increase in energy prices and other user fees and charges. Nevertheless, the consumer inflation in Oman compares favourably with that of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) coun- tries which is projected to rise to 3.5 per cent in 2017 from 2.9 per cent in 2016. Both demand and supply side factors emanating from domestic as well as external sources have impacted the price level in Oman.
After plunging significantly in January 2016, international oil prices recovered subsequently but continued to be at the lower level and affected the oil exporting countries adversely, including Oman. Nonetheless, the hydrocarbon sector remained the mainstay of the Omani economy with its contribution to nominal GDP at 27.4 per cent in 2016.
Sharp decline in crude oil prices
The sharp decline in crude oil prices explained the sharp reduction in the contribution of this sector to GDP during 2016 and it certainly did not reflect the ongoing structural change in the Omani economy. The average price for the Omani crude oil dropped to US$40.14 per barrel in 2016 from US$56.45 per barrel in 2015 and US$103.23 per barrel in 2014. Oil and gas revenues accounted for 68.2 per cent of government revenues and about 57.9 per cent of total merchandise exports (including re-exports) during the year.
Oman continued to face various macroeconomic challenges, including large fiscal deficit. The 2016 budget undertook various reforms and initiatives to boost economic activities in the private sector, contain fiscal deficit, and promote macroeconomic stability. Notwithstanding these reform measures, total government revenue declined by 16.1 per cent in 2016 due to substantial fall in oil revenues which contracted sharply by 35.4 per cent. Fiscal measures announced in the budget, however, contained the government expenditure, which declined by 5.8 per cent to RO12,908.2mn in 2016. As curtailment in expenditure fell short of decline in revenues, the fiscal deficit exacerbated to RO5,300mn in 2016 from RO4,361.4mn in 2015. The 2017 budget has reaffirmed the government’s commitment to undertake fiscal consolidation and accordingly, the fiscal deficit has been budgeted to decline to RO3,000mn in 2017. Rationalisation of expenditure in favour of development expenditure, proposed in 2017 budget, suggests qualitative improvement.
The monetary policy continued with its accommodative stance during 2016 in order to support real economic activities, despite some uptick in inflation. Despite a sharp fall in reserve money, the broad money grew by 1.8 per cent at the end of 2016 due to increase in money multiplier. The outstanding banks credit, however, grew by 10.1 per cent as at the end of December 2016, which was partly driven by greater flexibility provided to banks in their liquidity management by treating investment in government securities as part of eligible reserves up to a maximum of two per cent of the deposits. On the other hand, aggregate deposits held with banks increased by 5.2 per cent in December 2016. Lower growth in deposits as compared to credit growth resulted in some tightening of liquidity conditions, and increase in interest rates in the economy.
The CBO continued with its financial reforms agenda in order to ensure that financial system becomes more resilient and fi- nancial stability is not undermined. Several regulatory and supervisory initiatives undertaken by the CBO during 2016 focused on improving financial inclusion, strengthening riskbased supervision, implementation of Basel norms, and ensuring adequate liquidity and improvements in payment and settlement systems.
Consequently, the banking sector continued to remain robust and met the credit needs of all segments of the economy. Notwithstanding incipient delinquency due to economic slowdown, the capital adequacy ratio further improved to 16.8 per cent at the end of 2016 as compared to 16.1 per cent at the end of previous year and continued to be significantly higher than the minimum regulatory requirement.
Global crude oil prices continued to be at lower level, and as a result, the balance of payments position came under severe pressure with the current account remaining in a sizable deficit during the second year in a row during 2016. The merchandise trade surplus decreased by 31 per cent to RO2,406mn in 2016 from RO3,506mn a year ago mainly due to decline in exports which was partly offset by sharp decline in imports by 19.9 per cent. The combined deficit on services, income and current transfers stood lower at RO7.1bn in 2016 in comparison to RO7.7bn in 2015.
The current account deficit increased to RO4,737mn in 2016 (18.6 per cent of GDP) from about RO4,212mn (15.7 per cent of GDP) in 2015. The capital and financial accounts witnessed much lower net inflows at about RO1,700mn in 2016 as against about RO4,617bn in 2015. The overall balance of payments po- sition registered a deficit of RO3,521mn during 2016, which was funded by drawing down from foreign exchange reserves by the equivalent amount. As at the end of 2016, the gross foreign assets of the CBO stood at RO7,791mn, providing merchandise cover for around 11 months of imports of the merchandise goods (net foreign assets, however, provided import cover of about eight months).
Outlook for the Omani economy
Lower hydrocarbon prices continued to weigh on the overall macroeconomic scenario in Oman, notwithstanding various reform measures undertaken by the authorities to improve fiscal balance, and promote economic diversification to reduce dependence on the oil sector. Both the current account balance and fiscal balance remained in large deficit for the second consecutive year in 2016.
The output in hydrocarbon sector declined significantly, while non-hydrocarbon sector output grew marginally in 2016. Overall nominal GDP (at market prices) contracted by 5.1 per cent, while inflation inched up to 1.1 per cent during 2016.
The fiscal deficit further burgeoned and consequently, debt to GDP ratio shot up from 12.8 per cent at the end of 2015 to 31.4 per cent at the end of 2016. Broad money grew moderately reflecting economic slowdown. Notwithstanding the banking sector remained robust, interest rates in the economy hardened reflecting some tightening of liquidity.
The full report is available at www.cbo.gov.om under the title Publications.
H E Hamoud Sangour al Zadjali, executive president of CBO