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 Pratap John
Pratap John
Pratap John is Business Editor at Gulf Times. He has mainstream media experience of nearly 30 years in specialties such as energy, business & finance, banking, telecom and aviation, and covered many major events across the globe.
In its latest country report, FocusEconomics estimated Qatar’s GDP at $242bn in 2025, $266bn (2026) and $289bn (2027) and $307bn (2028).
Business
Qatar's GDP set to exceed $300bn by 2028: FocusEconomics

Qatar's gross domestic product is set to exceed $300bn by 2028, researcher FocusEconomics said as it estimates the country’s GDP this year at $232bn.In its latest country report, FocusEconomics estimated Qatar’s GDP at $242bn in 2025, $266bn (2026) and $289bn (2027) and $307bn (2028).The researcher estimates GDP per capita at $79,955 this year, $83,140 (2025), $90,806 (2026), $98,148 (2027) and $103,634 (2028).The country’s GDP growth is seen rising in 2024 from last year but remaining below the Mena average, it said.The country’s public debt is estimated to fall consistently from this year to 2028, the researcher said.FocusEconomics estimates public debt (as a percentage of GDP) at 39.7 this year, 37.1 (2025), 36.3 (2026), 33.7 (2027) and 32.7 (2028).Qatar’s fiscal balance (as a percentage of GDP) has been estimated at 4.8 this year, 4.2 (2025), 5.4 (2026), 5.9 (2027) and 6.5 (2028).The country’s current account balance (in dollar terms) has been estimated at $35.6bn this year, $35.9bn (2025), $37.7bn (2026), $43.9bn (2027) and $41bn (2028).Current account balance (as a percentage of GDP) has been estimated at 15.3 this year, 14.8 (2025), 14.2 (2026), 15.2 (2027) and 13.4 (2028).Unemployment (as a percentage of active population will remain at a meagre 0.2 this year and in 2025 and 0.1 until 2028.Economic activity will be aided by increased capital outlays in the energy sector — in both renewables and fossil fuels — a growing tourism sector and improving relations with neighbouring countries. Heightened geopolitical tension in the region poses a downside risk, the report said.FocusEconomics panellists see GDP expanding 2.3% in 2024, which is unchanged from one month ago, and expanding 3.5% in 2025.Inflation rose to 1.6% in December from 1.3% in November. In 2024, inflation is seen declining on average from 2023 on a higher base of comparison and the lagged impact of past interest-rate hikes, FocusEconomics noted.That said, the riyal’s peg to the dollar will add upward pressure because the latter is set to depreciate ahead.FocusEconomics panelists see consumer prices rising 2.2% on average in 2024, which is unchanged from one month ago, and rising 2.1% on average in 2025.The Qatar Central Bank has kept interest rates unchanged since hiking the overnight lending rate from 6.00% to 6.25% in late July, following the US Federal Reserve’s same-sized hike.Interest rates are expected to decline in 2024 in line with monetary easing by the Fed. FocusEconomics panellists see the overnight lending rate ending 2024 at 5.25% and ending 2025 at 4.17%.The Qatari riyal is pegged to the dollar at QR3.64. The US dollar index traded at 104 on February 2, appreciating 1.7% month on month.The peg is likely to remain in place over our forecast horizon to 2028, given the economic stability it provides and the fact that Qatar has ample international reserves to defend it, FocusEconomics noted.The researcher noted Moody’s recently upgraded Qatar’s credit rating one level to its third-highest investment grade — on a par with France and the UAE. In making its decision, Moody’s noted the country’s solid fiscal metrics and rising LNG production.The economy notched a modest expansion in the first six months of 2023, FocusEconomics said. Available data suggests a similar level of performance in the third quarter; on the one hand, weaker readings for growth in energy output and construction permits will likely be offset by stronger PMI readings and visitor arrivals shooting above pre-pandemic levels.“Turning to Q4, 2023, available data is downbeat; energy output sank at the sharpest rate since February 2022 in October and continued to fall in November, while PMI data suggests that the non-oil sector stagnated over the quarter as a whole,” the researcher said.

A woman carrying luggage is silhouetted as she walks past aircraft operated by China Southern Airlines sitting on the tarmac at Terminal 2 of the Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport in China (file). The Asia-Pacific region's significance in the future growth of the aviation industry is driven by its economic dynamism, large population, expanding middle class, infrastructure development, and its role as a key hub for international air travel.
Business
Asia-Pacific aviation industry looks for support on the ground and in the air

Asia-Pacific is one of the fastest growing regions in global aviation, a trend which is expected to continue over the next 20 years..text-box { float:left; width:250px; padding:1px; border:1pt white; margin-top: 10px; margin-right: 15px; margin-bottom: 5px; margin-left: 20px;}@media only screen and (max-width: 767px) {.text-box {width: 30%;}}**media[140402]**The region plays a crucial role in the future growth of the aviation industry due to its economic growth and urbanisation, population size, emerging markets, infrastructure development, airline expansion and fleet renewal, tourism growth and strategic location for international connectivity.Some countries in the Asia-Pacific region have implemented liberalised policies and open skies agreements, promoting competition and boosting growth of the aviation sector.Obviously, these measures will lead to increased efficiency, better services, and more choices for passengers.While opportunities exist, challenges remain.Industry experts say a lot of travel in Asia-Pacific is "price sensitive" and with many airlines in the region still struggling financially, they will have little ability to absorb significant costs.Geopolitical issues, such as the war in Ukraine and the Middle East crisis could push fuel prices up. For airlines as a whole, this is a major concern and will lead to more cost, unavoidable ticket price increases, and possibly a subsequent drop in demand, they say.“Even so, we expect that Asia-Pacific will be the fastest growing region over the next 20 years,” points out Philip Goh, IATA’s regional vice-president (Asia-Pacific).“You have to weigh the challenges against the opportunities. I am sure that in the years ahead, China, India, Indonesia, and many others will be among the top aviation markets in terms of growth and absolute numbers.”Such a positive outlook requires support on the ground and in the air. In terms of airports, at first glance, Asia-Pacific seems to be in a good position, he says.New airports are due to open in India and there are several other projects ongoing, from Sydney to Vietnam to T5 in Singapore. Incheon, Seoul’s international gateway, also has ambitious plans.But Goh notes that it is important for infrastructure development to be well-timed and well planned.“That is why we need to keep a careful eye on the strength of markets in 2024 as the region competes its recovery,” he says.“We don’t want airports that are not aligned to demand. And most importantly, infrastructure costs need to be managed to avoid an increased burden on users.“That means there must be greater consultation with airlines,” he insists.“Carriers must be involved in the design and planning of facilities but too often there is a lack of transparency. Remember, airlines have to forward plan as well, so they need to be included in any major aviation projects.”Goh advises that new facilities should be as future-proof as possible. Sizeable infrastructure in many key cities will likely be increasingly difficult to build so what is being developed today must have longevity.“That is easier said than done. Notable changes in the existing processes are anticipated, including contactless travel for travellers, streamlined border controls, and driver-less vehicles on the apron. Moreover, bag drops are being transformed and air cargo is going through its own digital transformation.“We have to think through these topics carefully and ensure that infrastructure is fit for purpose, now and for years to come,” Goh suggests. “This can’t just be about building a bigger airport. We must be smarter than that.”The Asia-Pacific region's significance in the future growth of the aviation industry is driven by its economic dynamism, large population, expanding middle class, infrastructure development, and its role as a key hub for international air travel.As the region continues to develop, it is very likely to remain a major driver of global aviation industry expansion.

Under its methodology, Qatar’s trade credit risk is at 3.0, compared with regional average of 6.1, according to Oxford Economics. PICTURE: Thajudheen
Business
Qatar's private sector repayment risk 'very low' by regional standards: Oxford Economics

Qatar’s trade credit risk – a measure of private sector repayment risk – is very low by regional standards, Oxford Economics has said in a report.Under its methodology, Qatar’s trade credit risk is at 3.0, compared with the regional average of 6.1, Oxford Economics said in its country report.The main factors underpinning this rating are macroeconomic stability, the credible and well-established exchange rate regime, robust growth, very high GDP per capita, and a healthy, well-developed banking sector.“Higher oil prices will likely support bank liquidity despite rising exposure to construction and real estate and persistent foreign funding risk,” Oxford Economics noted.The sovereign credit risk score under Oxford Economics’ data-driven methodology is 3.1, well below the Mena average of 4.4. The score reflects Qatar’s sky-high per capita incomes, large government reserves, strong external finances, and political stability.The budget deficit in 2017 was temporary, returning to surplus in 2018. But it began to narrow again in 2019 and, due to the slump in oil and gas prices, moved into deficit of 2.1% of GDP in 2020.The balance returned to surplus in 2021, with surpluses of 10.4% and 6.3% of GDP in 2022 and 2023, respectively, amid supportive oil and gas revenues.“We forecast it will narrow to 4.5% of GDP this year,” Oxford Economics said.The main rating agencies downgraded Qatar to AA-/Aa3 in response to the regional dispute in 2017. Given ties are restoring and public finances are improving, the ratings are back on an upward trajectory.Moody's recently raised the rating to ‘Aa2’, while S&P upgraded its rating to ‘AA’. An upgrade from Fitch is likely to follow given the positive outlook on its rating, Oxford Economics noted.Under its methodology, exchange rate risk is now 1.7, lower than six months ago and well below the Mena average of 4.2.The stronger US dollar has supported the dollar-pegged Qatari riyal at QR3.64. Oxford Economics thinks there is only a minor chance of de-pegging in the near to medium term.The low risk score reflects the authorities’ long-standing commitment to the US dollar peg, as well as large foreign exchange reserves.In 2020, risk rose when the current account shifted into deficit, but the score improved as the current account shifted back to surplus in 2021, as exports recovered and oil and gas prices rebounded from 2020 lows.“The surplus halved in 2023 but remained wide at 13.5% of GDP. We project a narrower surplus of 11.2% of GDP this year,” Oxford Economics added.

In an era defined by rapid technological evolution, airlines and airports seem to be positioning themselves for a digital breakthrough. Picture courtesy: SITA
Business
Airlines, airports set for digital breakthrough; uptick in IT, technology spending seen

In an era defined by rapid technological evolution, airlines and airports seem to be positioning themselves for a digital breakthrough..text-box { float:left; width:250px; padding:1px; border:1pt white; margin-top: 10px; margin-right: 15px; margin-bottom: 5px; margin-left: 20px;}@media only screen and (max-width: 767px) {.text-box {width: 30%;}}**media[137425]**Global Information technology provider for the air transport industry SITA says that both airports and airlines saw IT spend increase year-on-year into 2023, reaching an estimated $10.8bn and $34.5bn respectively, with over two-thirds of airport and airline CIOs expecting continued growth into 2024.Airports also boosted IT spend as a percentage of revenue in 2022 and 2023 even as business benefitted from an uptick in travel demand, signalling just how crucial a role technology will play in the next-generation travel experience.According to SITA, 99% of airlines saw an uptick in IT and technology spending in 2023.Key investment priorities included Business Intelligence (BI) and artificial intelligence (AI). With generative AI’s booming popularity and utilisation in 2023, a shift is evident – airlines are investing in transformative technologies to navigate operational challenges, optimise the passenger experience, and advance environmental sustainability, making strides towards greener operations.In particular, they are exploring alternative revenue channels (with the use of BI in passenger processing for retail doubling year on year).Passenger-centric technology adoption is another key investment area with touchless identity verification, self-service solutions, and real-time monitoring gaining traction.Biometrics are becoming commonplace to help curb congestion, with 70% of airlines expecting to have biometric ID management in place by 2026, and 90% of airports investing in major programs or R&D in this area.As sustainability takes centre stage, airlines prioritise the renewal of their fleets efficiencies around aircraft turnaround and ground operations, and a commitment to Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF).The report reveals a joined industry push towards an environmentally responsible future, with SAF adoption projected to reach 83% by 2026. By 2026, over 90% of airlines plan to have IT in place to boost the efficiency of flight operations and aircraft turnaround.Strategic investments, innovation partnerships, and sustainability initiatives underscore a collective commitment to shaping a resilient, passenger-centric, and environmentally conscious future.Priority areas: Cybersecurity and cloud services will remain key areas of investment for airlines over the coming years, with 97% and 95% respectively having major programmes/R&D in place, an increase of approximately 5% on last year in each case.“Three areas stand out,” SITA says and adds these are aircraft maintenance (increased from 80% to 89%), business intelligence solutions (79% to 90%), and digital tags , with digital tags being a widely discussed topic in the aviation sector in recent months.As seen among airports, ‘greening by IT is an area where there is significant R&D/pilot investment planned, likely in response to upcoming regulations regarding emissions and industry milestones for carbon reduction.Passenger identity: When it comes to passenger digital identity verification, there is clear appetite among airlines for technologies that will save time, minimise disruption, and streamline the passenger journey through the airport.According to SITA, some 44% have already implemented touchless identity verification technologies and 35% have implemented biometrics – with a further 24% and 35% respectively planning to introduce these by 2026.While only 17% of airlines have currently adopted a single token for passenger identification across all touchpoints, over half plan to have this in place by 2026, ushering in a more seamless digitally enabled experience.Web check-in has become almost universal, increasing to 97% implementation. Staff using mobile devices to aid check-in jumped to 72% in 2023 and automatic check-in has seen a 18% increase year on year to 58% adoption.When it comes to bag tagging, this is still mostly done at the airport, but printing at home is the main area of growth, with 24% having implemented this now (up from 16% last year) and a further 29% planning to do so in the next three years.

Florence Tinguely Mattli, Switzerland ambassador: Picture: Shaji Kayamkulam
Business
Switzerland explores co-operation with Qatar on infrastructure development, fintech and new technologies: Envoy

Switzerland looks to enhance its already robust relationship with Qatar, exploring prospects for co-operation in infrastructure development, fintech and new technologies, says the country’s ambassador Florence Tinguely Mattli.She said the second session of the Joint Commission on Financial and Economic Areas will be held in Doha on February 8, during the visit of a high-level Swiss delegation, led by Federal Councillor Guy Parmelin.Parmelin, head of the Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research (EAER), will be accompanied by around 30 representatives from various economic sectors in Switzerland, the ambassador said.She said the Joint Commission on Financial and Economic Areas was established in 2022 to promote and strengthen bilateral relationship between the two countries in the areas of finance and economy for mutual benefit. The first session of the Joint Commission was held in Switzerland.The ambassador said the delegation would comprise Swiss experts from its renowned watch industry, manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, banking and reinsurance.“We already have a strong base and the potential to grow our bilateral relationship. Qatar is undergoing significant economic and social reforms under its National Vision 2030, which offers interesting opportunities for Swiss businesses. Qatar has committed to diversifying its economy and reduce dependence on fossil fuels.“Major infrastructure investment projects are currently being planned or implemented, and Swiss technology and expertise are in demand,” ambassador Florence said in an interview with Gulf Times.Switzerland maintains strong economic relations with Qatar, based on a solid foundation of bilateral agreements, in particular on free trade, investment protection and double taxation.Trade with Qatar was worth CHF2.3bn in 2022.Switzerland's main exports to Qatar are pharmaceuticals, gold and precision instruments. There are more than 30 Swiss companies in Qatar. They create a significant number of local jobs.The ambassador noted that free trade, investment protection and double taxation with Qatar is based on the Free Trade Agreement Switzerland signed with the GCC countries in 2014.In Doha, Federal Councillor Parmelin will meet HE the Minister of Commerce and Industry, Sheikh Mohamed bin Hamad bin Qassim al-Abdullah al-Thani; HE the Minister of Finance Ali bin Ahmed al-Kuwari; and HE the Minister of Municipality Abdullah bin Hamad bin Abdullah al-Attiyah among other dignitaries.They will discuss how Swiss companies can potentially contribute to the implementation of the Qatar National Vision 2030.Together with HE al-Kuwari, Parmelin will open the financial and economic dialogue between the State Secretariat for International Finance, the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) and the Qatari Ministry of Finance.At the invitation of Qatar’s Minister of Municipality, Parmelin and his delegation will attend the Expo 2023 Doha.He will visit the Swiss pavilion and take part in an event on innovation in the agri-food sector with HE al-Attiyah.Parmelin will also visit the Doha Jewellery and Watches Exhibition, where many renowned Swiss brands are on display, the ambassador said.The Federal Councillor’s Qatar tour may also include a visit to the Education City, which is “quite impressive”.Switzerland remains a major tourist attraction for Qataris and residents.“For Qataris, procedures for obtaining a Swiss visa have been simplified. Also, they are now given long-term multiple entry visas. For eligible residents, we try to provide visas within two weeks of applying. But Swiss visa applicants should take note of the fact that the period from March to August is high season,” ambassador Florence said.In 2023, the Switzerland Embassy in Doha issued nearly 2,000 regular visas. This means, the actual number of visitors from Qatar will be much higher, given the fact that certain visitors either do not require visa or will already be holding one.Currently, she said about 240 Swiss nationals reside in Qatar. They include pilots (with Qatar Airways) and professionals working in the energy industry, banking, finance and insurance sectors among others.

Gulf Times
Business
Qatar banks' total assets rise 3.4% to reach QR1.969tn in 2023: QNBFS

Total assets of banks in Qatar increased by 3.4% to reach QR1.969tn in 2023, QNB Financial Services (QNBFS) said in its latest update.Assets grew by an average 6.8% over the past five years (2019-2023), QNBFS noted.Loans increased by 2.5% in 2023 to reach QR1,287.9bn, compared to a growth of 3.3% in 2022. Loans grew by an average 6.5% over the past five years (2019-2023)Deposits declined by 1.3% in 2023 to reach QR986.0bn, compared to a growth of 2.6% in 2022. Deposits grew by an average 4.1% over the past five years (2019-2023)Qatar banking sector total loan book went up 1.1% MoM while deposits moved up 0.5% MoM in December 2023.The public and private sectors pushed the overall credit higher. As deposits edged up in December, the Loans to Deposits ratio (LDR) went up to 130.6% compared to 129.7% in November 2023.The overall loan book made gains of 1.1% in December 2023. Total public sector loans increased 2.6% MoM (-1.6% in 2023). The government segment (represents 29% of public sector loans) was the main growth driver for the public sector with a surge by 7.9% MoM (-8.5% in 2023), while the government institutions’ segment (represents 65% of public sector loans) moved up 0.6% MoM (-0.2% in 2023).However, the semi-government institutions’ segment declined very marginally MoM (+23.9% in 2023).Total private sector loans moved up 0.7% MoM (+4.9% in 2023) in December 2023. The services segment was the main driver for the private sector loan rise.Services (contributes 32% to private sector loans) went up 2.0% MoM (+12.3% in 2023), while general trade (contributes 21% to private sector loans) moved up 0.9% MoM (+8.6% in 2023), and consumption and others (contributes 21% to private sector loans) gained 0.7% MoM (+8.4% in 2023).However, the real estate segment (contributes 20% to private sector loans) declined 0.9% MoM (-7.3% in 2023) in December last year. Outside Qatar loans went down by 1.2% MoM (-3.9% in 2023) during December 2023.Public sector deposits increased by 4% MoM (-1.6% in 2023) in December 2023.Looking at segment details, the government institutions’ segment (represents 56% of public sector deposits) rose by 5.5% MoM (-1.1% in 2023), while the government segment (represents 28% of public sector deposits) increased by 2.8% MoM (-7.9% in 2023), and the semi-government institutions’ segment edged up 0.7% MoM (+9.8% in 2023) in December 2023.Private sector deposits declined by 1.1% MoM (+1.3% in 2023) in December 2023. On the private sector front, the companies and institutions’ segment dropped by 3.2% MoM (-5% in 2023). However, the consumer segment edged up by 0.8% MoM (+7.7% in 2023) during December 2023.Non-resident deposits declined by 1.9% MoM (-7% in 2023) in December 2023.Qatar's banking sector loan provisions to gross loans was at 4% in December 2023, compared to 3.9% in November 2023. Liquid assets to total assets was at 31.6% in December 2023, compared to 31.4% in November 2023.An analyst told Gulf Times, “With the December 2023 data out, we can have a look at the performance for 2023, with overall assets showing an increase by 3.4% in 2023 as domestic assets rose due to credit facilities and interbank. The overall growth in the banks’ loan book in 2023 was driven by the private sector, which gained by 4.9% in 2023, driven by a resurgent tourism sector that led to a rise in credit facilities by 12.3% to the services sector in 2023.“General trade and private consumption was also strong in 2023, going up by 8.6% and 8.4% respectively. Overall banking sector deposits witnessed a decline by 1.3% in 2023 as non-resident deposits and the public sector deposits drop caused the overall drag”.

Oxford Economics expects Qatar's economy will grow by 2.4% this year, 0.1ppt lower than its forecast last month. PICTURE: Shaji Kayamkulam
Business
Qatar’s public spending may rise 'modestly' this year after flatlining in 2023: Oxford Economics

Qatar’s public spending is expected to rise modestly this year after flatlining in 2023, according to Oxford Economics.The researcher’s baseline shows a budget surplus of QR36.1bn this year, equivalent to 4.5% of GDP.“This is down from an estimated 6.3% in 2023 but a better outcome that what is pencilled into Qatar's 2024 budget. Elevated energy prices will cushion the revenue side, despite some weakening, with our 2024 Brent oil price forecast at $76.7/barrel, significantly higher than the $60/b assumed in the budget,” noted Oxford Economics in its Qatar economic forecast prepared by Maya Senussi, lead economist.According to Q3, 2023 budget data, revenues fell 24.5% year-on-year (y-o-y) while spending slipped by nearly 4% y-o-y, widening the quarterly budget surplus to QR12bn.Oxford Economics expects Qatar's economy will grow by 2.4% this year, 0.1ppt lower than its forecast last month. Survey data suggest growth momentum is faltering, as the PMI slid into contractionary territory in December for the first month since January 2023, when output adjusted following the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022.Meanwhile, all components of industrial activity are in decline, boding ill for the outlook.The soft PMI survey for December continued the trend of subpar non-energy sector growth in 2023.Oxford Economics estimates the non-energy sector of the economy grew 1% in 2023 and see it expanding by 2.9% this year.There are pockets of strength, most notably tourism, as arrivals surpassed 3.5mn in the year to November, an all-time high. The number of visitors will likely climb near 4.5mn this year.The stock market also ended 2023 on a promising footing, as did the real estate sector, as the number of permits issued matched that of Q4, 2022 and values gradually recovered.The researcher’s 2024 external balance projection is modestly lower than a month ago at $24.6bn (11.2% of GDP) in light of our weaker gas price outlook. Shipping disruptions in the Red Sea could have a further negative impact as they have led to delays in Qatar's LNG shipments to Europe, according to the report.The 2023 trade in goods surplus narrowed by a third but remained wide at $66.3bn.The 2024 budget signalled fiscal prudence, reflected in Moody's upgrade of Qatar's credit rating, its first since 2007.Qatar's rating was boosted to ‘Aa2’ with a stable outlook, leaving it among the highest rated countries in the region (on par with Abu Dhabi and the UAE) and globally.“We project Qatar’s fiscal surpluses averaging around 4.5% of GDP in the next three years,” Oxford Economics noted.

Willie Walsh, director general of IATA.
Business
Middle Eastern airlines see 33.3% year-on-year traffic rise in 2023: IATA

Middle Eastern airlines saw a 33.3% traffic rise in 2023 compared to 2022, IATA said in a report.Capacity increased 26% and load factor climbed 4.4 percentage points to 80.1%. December demand climbed 16.6% compared to the same month in 2022.The International Air Transport Association noted that the recovery in air travel continued in December 2023 and total 2023 traffic edged even closer to matching pre-pandemic demand.Total traffic in 2023 (measured in revenue passenger kilometres or RPKs) rose 36.9% compared to 2022. Globally, full-year 2023 traffic was at 94.1% of pre-pandemic (2019) levels.December 2023 total traffic rose 25.3% compared to December 2022 and reached 97.5% of the December 2019 level. Fourth quarter traffic was at 98.2% of 2019, reflecting the strong recovery towards the end of the year.International traffic in 2023 climbed 41.6% compared to 2022 and reached 88.6% of 2019 levels. December 2023 international traffic climbed 24.2% over December 2022, reaching 94.7% of the level in December 2019. Fourth quarter traffic was at 94.5% of 2019.Domestic traffic for 2023 rose 30.4% compared to the prior year. 2023 domestic traffic was 3.9% above the full year 2019 level. December 2023 domestic traffic was up 27.0% over the year earlier period and was at 2.3% above December 2019 traffic. Fourth quarter traffic was 4.4% higher than the same quarter in 2019.IATA’s Director General Willie Walsh said, “The strong post-pandemic rebound continued in 2023. December traffic stood just 2.5% below 2019 levels, with a strong performance in quarter 4, teeing-up airlines for a return to normal growth patterns in 2024. The recovery in travel is good news. The restoration of connectivity is powering the global economy as people travel to do business, further their educations, take hard-earned vacations and much more. But to maximize the benefits of air travel in the post-pandemic world, governments need to take a strategic approach.“That means providing cost-efficient infrastructure to meet demand, incentivising Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) production to meet our net zero carbon emission goal by 2050, and adopting regulations that deliver a clear cost-benefit. Completing the recovery must not be an excuse for governments to forget the critical role of aviation to increasing the prosperity and well-being of people and businesses the world over.”Walsh added, “Our push to connect our world even more strongly than before the pandemic must not come at the expense of our environment. The industry’s goal to reach net zero CO2 emissions by 2050 remains steadfast. To accelerate the transition, we need governments and fuel suppliers to step up and do more. We saw a strong increase in the use of SAF in 2023, but SAF is still only 3% of all global renewable fuels production. That is unacceptable. Aircraft have no option but to rely on liquid fuels, whereas other transport modes have alternatives. A massive collective effort is needed to increase SAF output as a proportion of overall renewable fuel production as quickly as possible.”

A cargo handler prepares air freight containers for a British Airways flight at Heathrow Airport in London. More manufacturers are reportedly seeking to fly their products these days as attacks on Red Sea shipping force them to find alternate routes, a potential boon for a sector dealing with muted post-pandemic demand and overcapacity.
Business
Freight forwarders look to the sky amid Red Sea disruptions

Sea freight has always been cost-effective for transporting large quantities of goods over long distances..text-box { float:left; width:250px; padding:1px; border:1pt white; margin-top: 10px; margin-right: 15px; margin-bottom: 5px; margin-left: 20px;}@media only screen and (max-width: 767px) {.text-box {width: 30%;}}**media[134580]**While sea cargo is slower compared to air freight, it is suitable for goods, where speed is not a critical factor.But more manufacturers are reportedly seeking to fly their products these days as attacks on Red Sea shipping force them to find alternate routes, a potential boon for a sector dealing with muted post-pandemic demand and overcapacity.The Red Sea, which leads to the Suez Canal, lies on the key east-west trade route from Asia's manufacturing hubs to Europe and onto the east coast of the Americas.About 12% of world shipping traffic accesses the Suez Canal via its waters, according to a Reuters estimate.Air freight is costly compared to sea freight, and not competitive for bulky, low-margin items. Such constraints have limited air cargo to less than 1% of global trade by volume, according to airline industry association IATA.The diversion of container vessels away from the risk of attacks in the Red Sea is pushing up air freight costs as shippers try to keep Asian-produced goods on shelves despite delays to sea traffic, according to The Financial Times.Logistics providers said the rerouting of ships from the Suez Canal to longer passages between Asia and the west following Houthi missile and drone attacks had generated intense interest in moving goods by a mixture of sea and air. A logistics provider said demand for this method was 25-30% higher than normal for January.The shift in transport mode, mainly a result of decisions by big container shipping line to send ships around the Cape of Good Hope, has helped push up air freight costs.The average cost to fly 1kg of cargo from the Middle East to Europe has increased 35% in the last month to $2.03, according to Freightos, a logistics information service.As tensions in the Red Sea continue to disrupt ocean freight, retailers and manufacturers are increasingly turning to air shipping as an alternative to maintain supply chains.The latest report from freight platform Xeneta reveals a significant increase in air cargo volumes from Vietnam to Europe, a major trade route for clothing exports.The route witnessed a significant rise in air cargo volumes in January. This surge in demand has pushed up air shipping rates last month compared to December, 2023. This development marks the first impact of the Red Sea crisis on air freight.The Financial Times quoted Freightos’s chief marketing officer Eytan Buchman and said shippers were resorting to air because of the delays from the extended transit times via the Cape.“One strong argument for bridging part of a supply chain by air would be to avoid the delays and uncertainties,” Buchman said.He said supply chains that could be disrupted included those for the manufacture of computers and cars and even for the making of sauces that needed a single key ingredient sourced from Asia.Although sea freight is slower compared to air cargo, container ships are the main means of worldwide transport for finished and semi-finished goods.Ships have a much larger cargo capacity, making sea freight a more economical choice for bulk shipments.Obviously, it is suitable for goods where speed is not a critical factor.On the other hand, limited cargo space is available in aircraft, so it's more suitable for smaller shipments or high-value goods.Many businesses have been using a combination of both modes, known as multimodal or intermodal transportation, to optimise their logistics based on the unique characteristics of each shipment.

Gulf Times
Business
Qatar food inflation among world's lowest in 2023: World Bank

Qatar's food inflation is among the lowest in the world, according to the World Bank’s food price inflation tracker.In 2023, until September, Qatar's food inflation was less than 2% and from October to December, it was less than 5%, World Bank said in its latest ‘Food Security Update’.Based on a traffic light approach, Qatar was given green and yellow colour code with green indicating a year-on-year increase of less than 2% and yellow a year-on-year increase of 2% to 5%.Qatar’s food price inflation (percent change, year on year) in 2023, according to the World Bank, was -0.6% (January), -1.9% (February) 0.7% (March) 1.4% (April), -2.2% (May) -0.7% (June), 1% (July), 0.5% (August), 1.9% (September) 3.7% (October) 3.8% (November) and 4.6% (December).According to the World Bank, food insecurity remains high in the Middle East and North Africa and is exacerbated by the ongoing conflicts.In Gaza, food insecurity has reached alarming levels and is projected to increase. The IPC (Integrated Food Security Phase Classification) Famine Review Committee was activated on December 11, 2023.Based on data covering November 24 through December 7, 2023, 25% of the population in the northern governorates, 15% of internally displaced people in the southern governorates, and 10% of residents of the southern governorates were in catastrophe (IPC Phase 5).The committee warned that the risk of famine was increasing daily amid intense conflict and restricted humanitarian access. It is projected that, between December 8, 2023, and February 7, 2024, the entire population of the Gaza Strip (about 2.2mn people) will be classified in IPC Phase 3 or above (crisis or worse), with half of these expected to be in emergency (IPC Phase 4) and 25% in catastrophic (IPC Phase 5) conditions.“This is the highest share of people facing high levels of acute food insecurity that the IPC initiative has ever classified for any given area or country,” the World Bank noted.In Lebanon, the most recent IPC acute food insecurity analysis, published in December 2023, estimates that, for October 2023 through March 2024, about 1.05mn Lebanese refugees, Syrian refugees, Palestine refugees in Lebanon, and Palestine refugees from Syria will face acute food insecurity and be classified in IPC Phase 3 (crisis) or above, corresponding to 19% of the analysed population.It is projected that this will increase to 1.14mn people between April and September 2024.The causes of the decrease in food security in Lebanon are the country’s continued economic crisis and food inflation.The projection assumed that the tensions at the southern border will not escalate into a wider conflict.Although Jordan is considered to have moderate food insecurity overall, according to the 2023 Global Hunger Index, its refugee communities are facing an increase in food insecurity.“Funding shortfalls for the UN aid organisations, which the conflict in the Middle East has exacerbated, are limiting the aid available to these communities, further undermining their food security,” the World Bank said.

The baggage claim area at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in Georgia.  
Carriage of dangerous goods on aircraft poses several significant challenges and concerns due to the potential risks associated with transporting hazardous materials. These materials, often referred to as dangerous goods or cargo, include substances or articles that can pose a risk to health, safety, property, or the environment.
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Airlines renew commitment to global standards for safe carriage of dangerous goods

Carriage of dangerous goods on aircraft poses several significant challenges and concerns due to the potential risks associated with transporting hazardous materials..text-box { float:left; width:250px; padding:1px; border:1pt white; margin-top: 10px; margin-right: 15px; margin-bottom: 5px; margin-left: 20px;}@media only screen and (max-width: 767px) {.text-box {width: 30%;}}**media[131654]**These materials, often referred to as dangerous goods or cargo, include substances or articles that can pose a risk to health, safety, property, or the environment.Some items may endanger the safety of an aircraft or travellers on board, and these dangerous materials can either be forbidden or restricted for air transport.These can only be transported by air if they are prepared by qualified personnel, unless exempted.However, some dangerous goods may be carried in baggage by passengers and crew if the specified requirements are met.Industry guidelines indicate there are restrictions on carrying lithium batteries, small lithium battery powered vehicles and battery-powered mobility aids in an aircraft.All portable electronic devices (PED) carried on an aircraft are subject to specific requirements to ensure that they do not pose a hazard to aircraft systems due to electromagnetic radiation.PEDs, which may include electronics such as cameras, mobile phones, laptops and tablets containing batteries, when carried by passengers for personal use, should be carried in carry-on baggage.If devices are carried in checked baggage, experts say, measures must be taken to protect the device from damage and to prevent unintentional activation and the device must be completely switched off (not in sleep or hibernation mode).Spare lithium batteries: Spare batteries must be individually protected to prevent short circuits by placement in the originalretail packaging or by otherwise insulating terminals, e.g. by taping over exposed terminals or placing each battery in a separate plastic bag or protective pouch and carried in carry-on baggage only.Articles containing lithium cells or batteries, the primary purpose of which is to provide power to another device, e.g. power banks, are considered as spare batteries and are restricted to carry-on baggage only.Electronic cigarettes including e-cigars and other personal vapourisers containing batteries when carried by passengers for personal use must be in carry-on baggage only.Recharging of these devices and/or batteries on board the aircraft is not permitted and the passenger must take measures to prevent accidental activation.For a baggage equipped with lithium battery, other than lithium button cells to be checked in, the lithium battery must be removed from the baggage and carried in the cabin; or the baggage must be carried in the cabin.Baggage where the lithium battery is designed to charge other devices and cannot be removed, is forbidden for carriage.Recently, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) extended their long-standing co-operation on setting and implementing global standards for the safe carriage of dangerous goods by air.IATA began issuing guidance for the carriage of Dangerous Goods on aircraft back in 1956 and has been updating and devising standards ever since.A more formalised approach on this subject was taken at a regulatory level by the adoption of ICAO Annex 18 in January 1984. This outlines the broad principles for the international transport of dangerous goods.‘Technical Instructions for the Safe Transport of Dangerous Goods by Air’ amplify the basic provisions of Annex 18 and contain all the detailed instructions necessary for the safe international transport of dangerous goods by air. In addition, they provide guidance to States for inspection and oversight.Based on the technical instructions agreed on at government level through ICAO, IATA works with the aviation industry to develop the applicable practical tools and operational recommendations.These are issued as the ‘Dangerous Goods Regulations’ and are global standards applicable to the entire value chain – manufacturers, shippers, airlines, freight forwarders and ground handlers.These regulations include operator variations, supporting documents, tools, guidelines and notes which are essential for a practical, consistent approach to the safe acceptance, inspection, handling and carriage of dangerous goods on aircraft.IATA’s Director General Willie Walsh noted: “The safe carriage of dangerous goods has become common practice, thanks to the strict adherence to global standards and guidelines. Today’s agreement ensures that dangerous goods will continue to be handled according to the highest globally applicable standards. To this effect, IATA will continue its advocacy work with key stakeholders to maintain a globally aligned, and practically focused approach to the regulated transport of dangerous goods. This will lead to more efficient and robust supply chains whilst upholding aviation’s number one priority of safety”.Certainly, the carriage of dangerous goods on aircraft requires strict adherence to regulations, comprehensive training, effective communication, and a strong focus on safety to mitigate the associated risks and ensure the well-being of passengers, crew, and the general public.

Dr Abdulbasit Ahmad al-Shaibei, QIIB CEO.
Business
QIIB gains ‘significantly’ from robust Qatari economy: Al-Shaibei

QIIB, which successfully issued Qatar’s first Sustainable Sukuk and listed it on the London Stock Exchange (LSE), has gained significantly from the strength of the robust Qatari economy, noted bank CEO Dr Abdulbasit Ahmad al-Shaibei.“The success achieved by the bank is due to many factors, foremost of which is the great confidence and strong position of the Qatari economy, which continues to achieve distinguished results in its various sectors. These enhance the appetite and interest of international investors to invest in Qatari financial instruments in particular, and Qatari economy in general,” Dr al-Shaibei told Gulf Times in an interview.“This $500mn issuance is not just a financial transaction; it is a testament to QIIB’s unwavering commitment to sustainability and responsible banking.“In an age where environmental, social, and governance considerations play a pivotal role in shaping the financial landscape, we are proud to take the lead in aligning our financial activities with the principles of sustainability,” Dr al-Shaibei stressed.He said QIIB’s success in issuing Sustainability Sukuk and its listing on the London Stock Exchange is part of its support and interest in implementing the contents of the Third Financial Sector Strategy, recently launched by the Qatar Central Bank, which pays special attention to environmental, social and institutional governance and sustainability.Dr al-Shaibei noted: “QIIB has a long history in the field of sukuk and was the first Qatari bank to issue an “AT1” sukuk and list it on the London Stock Exchange. We are proud to follow our success story in this field, as our current issuance of sukuk amounts to $500mn. We are now celebrating its listing on the London Stock Exchange, which was successful by all standards.”Highlighting QIIB’s relationship with the LSE, Dr al-Shaibei said: “This is our third sukuk to be listed on the LSE. Our first sukuk on the LSE was in 2019. Our journey with the LSE has been one of collaboration, trust, and shared commitment to excellence.“We value the strong relationship we have built, and the launch of this Sustainable Sukuk stands as a testament to the enduring partnership between QIIB and the LSE.“The incredible success of our issuance of sukuks, and the tremendous demand they received from investors after they were priced at distinguished rates, is also based on the solid position and trust that QIIB enjoys regionally and internationally. This is also based on the high credit ratings that QIIB enjoys, with an ‘A2’ rating from Moody’s and ‘A-‘ rating from Fitch.“We chose LSE to list the bank’s sukuk due to many factors including the high-level professional working relationship established with the LSE and the pivotal economic role that London plays, especially in Islamic finance,” Dr al-Shaibei noted.“This marks a historic moment for QIIB and, indeed, for our nation as a whole. Qatar and the United Kingdom enjoy an exceptionally strong and unique relationship because of the historic friendship and the economic cooperation between our two countries,” he added.

Gulf Times
Business
Qatar real estate market sees downward pressure on value, rent: Report

Qatar's housing market is in the "midst of a mismatch" between supply and demand, global real estate consultancy Knight Frank said and noted that in one year up to Q3-2023, residential sales transactions declined by 18%. The housing market in Qatar is in the midst of a mismatch between supply and demand, with the latter still lagging the former, sustaining downward pressure on value and rent, Knight Frank said in a recent report. Furthermore, with the headline interest currently standing at 6.25%, up from 5% last November, affordability issues are being exacerbated, contributing to a decline in residential sales activity. Despite this, however, the total value of residential sales climbed by 12% over the same period, highlighting the significant price appreciation in some submarkets, such as Doha and Al Daayen municipalities, where prices have risen by 58% and 46% over the last 12 months. However, the number of transactions in these districts declined by 37% and 38%, respectively, over the same period. Al Rayyan (235 sales) and Doha (174 deals) municipalities recorded the highest volume of residential transactions during the third quarter, Knight Frank said. Average villa prices decreased by 2.5% over the past 12 months, falling to QR7,100/sq m in Q3-2023, with West Bay Lagoon commanding the highest sales price at QR8,471/sq m, while Al Kharaitiyat has the lowest sale price at QR5,773/sq m. Neighbourhoods with modern infrastructure and proximity to essential facilities such as schools, hospitals, and shopping centres, offering more services and amenities, tend to command higher sales prices. Similar to sales prices, rental rates for both villas and apartments have also decreased over the past 12 months. Lease rates have declined across almost all districts, with West Bay and The Waterfront recording the highest quarterly depreciation, at 24% and 20%, respectively, for average quoted rents for apartments, Knight Frank noted in its report.

The global aviation industry's efforts to reduce carbon emissions are significant primarily because it contributes to greenhouse gas emissions, primarily through the combustion of fossil fuels in aircraft engines. A recent international conference has given a clarion call to achieve 5% carbon reduction by the aviation industry in another six years.
Business
Global aviation’s decarbonisation efforts have new goals set for 2030

The global aviation industry's efforts to reduce carbon emissions are significant primarily because it contributes to greenhouse gas emissions, primarily through the.text-box { float:left; width:250px; padding:1px; border:1pt white; margin-top: 10px; margin-right: 15px; margin-bottom: 5px; margin-left: 20px;}@media only screen and (max-width: 767px) {.text-box {width: 30%;}}**media[128685]**combustion of fossil fuels in aircraft engines. A recent international conference has given a clarion call to achieve 5% carbon reduction by the aviation industry in another six years.The 3rd Conference on Aviation Alternative Fuels (CAAF/3) hosted by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) was an important step forward for the industry as it agreed a global framework to promote sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) production in all geographies.The agreement calls for fuels used in international aviation to be 5% less carbon intensive by 2030. At this point, at current rates, CO2 emissions for international aviation are expected to reach 682mn tonnes, meaning SAF and low carbon aviation fuel (LCAF) need to abate some 34mn tonnes of CO2.To achieve this requires about 17.5bn litres or 14mn tonnes of SAF to be produced. Airlines’ desire to buy SAF at this quantity is already there. Forty-three airlines have nearly $50bn of voluntary agreements in place that equate to approximately 13mn tonnes and that will doubtless increase. The demand for SAF is so strong that they added $756mn to a record high fuel bill in 2023, global body of airlines IATA said in a recent analysis.Supply is a different story, however. In 2023, airlines were able to put just 0.5mn tonnes of SAF into their aircraft. To get to the 14mn tonnes of SAF required by the CAAF/3 agreement, as well as other commitments, means that SAF need to account for about 25%-30% of the 63mn tonnes of renewable fuels that will be produced in 2030.“In 2023, though, it accounts for only 3%,” says Hemant Mistry, IATA’s director, Energy Transition.“We had hoped SAF would be about 0.5% of total aviation fuel by now but it is only 0.2%. SAF production is increasing though, and we hope additionally that SAF will be 6% of renewable fuels in 2024, which should get us to SAF representing 0.5% of total jet fuel.”There are new refineries pledged to SAF support coming online. A new $7.7bn bio-refinery is under construction in Panama, for example. Due to come online in 2027, the bio-refinery is reported to have earmarked SAF as a core product and Panama’s logistical excellence will add to the proposition. And Neste’s Singapore plant was expanded in early 2023.Furthermore, IATA reports that though only 10 facilities are producing SAF, over 150 projects in 35 countries are being explored that could be used for SAF production by 2029.Policy support: Even so, significant policy support will be essential. “Governments want aviation to be net zero by 2050,” says Mistry.“Having set an interim target in the CAAF process they now need to deliver policy measures that can achieve the needed exponential increase in SAF production.”Incentivising the scaling up of SAF production is a primary focus though mandates are coming into force in the European Union and elsewhere. In total, some 40 countries have either implemented or are known to be discussing SAF-related policies.Promoting the diversification of feedstocks will be an essential element of any good policy. Approximately 85% of SAF facilities coming online over the next five years will use the hydrotreatment (HEFA) pathway, which relies on inedible animal fats (tallow), used cooking oil, and industrial grease as feedstock. But these substances are limited in quantity and high in price.Other certified pathways include Alcohol-to-Jet (AtJ) and Fischer-Tropsch (FT), which use bio/agricultural wastes and residue. In fact, there are eight pathways certified for SAF production with an additional seven being assessed in the coming years.“We need to leverage all SAF technologies to provide diversification and regional options, including those with side-benefits, such as environmental restoration,” says Mistry. “Aggregating wastes or re-cultivating land adds socio-economic benefits, for example, and every region has an opportunity to create new value chains.”Passenger support: Mistry points to passenger support for aviation’s efforts to encourage SAF production. In a recent survey, 86% of travellers agreed that governments should provide production incentives for airlines to access SAF.In addition, 86% agreed that it should be a priority for oil companies to supply SAF to airlines.“As an industry, we are committed to reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2050,” Mistry noted.“That means we need a cost-effective and environmentally efficient way to incentivise the scaling up of SAF production but avoid the physical matching of SAF supply and demand in any specific geographic location. There is a long road ahead and oil companies and governments must support our ambition. But we can get there and meet the CAAF/3 goal and other commitments on our way to the 2050 aspirational target,” Mistry said.Undoubtedly, the significance of carbon reduction by the global aviation industry lies in its contribution to environmental sustainability, climate change mitigation, regulatory compliance, technological innovation, economic considerations, and fostering global collaboration to address a shared environmental challenge.

Gulf Times
Business
Qatar energy sector investments and tourism to gear up GDP growth in 2024: FocusEconomics

Qatar's GDP growth is projected to accelerate in 2024, FocusEconomics said and noted the country's energy sector investment — in both renewables and fossil fuels - as well as tourism sector, will boost momentum.GDP growth is projected to accelerate this year from 2023 despite lingering below the average of the Mena region.A strengthening tourism sector and improved relations with neighbouring countries will also boost momentum, FocusEconomics said in its latest country report.FocusEconomics panellists see Qatar’s GDP expanding 2.3% in 2024, which is down by 0.2 percentage points from one month ago, and expanding 3.6% in 2025.According to FocusEconomics, Qatar’s GDP will scale up from an estimated $232bn to $301bn in 2028. Next year, it may total $245bn, $265bn in 2026 and $285bn in 2027.GDP per capita has been projected to scale up to $101,627 in 2028 from $80,015 this year. Next year, it may total $84,018, $90,292 in 2026 and $96,770 in 2027.GDP grew at a modest rate in the first six months of 2023, and available data suggest a similar pace of expansion in the third quarter.Energy output shrank year on year in August for the first time since January, and the government issued fewer construction permits in the third quarter (Q3) than in the same period a year earlier.More positively, non-oil business activity rose robustly from the prior quarter, according to PMI data.In addition, visitor arrivals shot up 78% to rise above pre-pandemic levels. Turning to Q4, available data is downbeat.Energy output tanked at the sharpest speed since February 2022 in October, while non-oil business conditions came close to stagnating.Inflation dropped to 1.3% in November from 2.5% in October last year.“Average inflation is projected to cool in 2024 from 2023 on a tougher base effect and the lagged impact of past interest-rate hikes. That said, the riyal’s peg to the US dollar will add upward pressure, given that the dollar is set to depreciate ahead,” FocusEconomics noted.FocusEconomics panelists see consumer prices rising 2.2% on average in 2024, which is unchanged from one month ago, and rising 1.9% on average in 2025.The Qatar Central Bank (QCB) has kept interest rates unchanged since hiking the overnight lending rate from 6% to 6.25% in late July (2023), following the US Federal Reserve’s same-sized hike.“Interest rates are expected to decline in 2024 in line with monetary easing by the Fed,” FocusEconomics said and noted its panellists see the overnight lending rate ending 2024 at 5.25% and ending 2025 at 4.17%.Qatari riyal’s peg (at QR3.64 per USD) is likely to remain in place over the researcher’s forecast horizon to 2028, given the economic stability it provides and the fact that Qatar has ample international reserves to defend it.The country’s public debt (as a percentage of GDP) will drop from an estimated 40.4% this year to 35.5% in 2028. Next year, it may be 38.8%, 39.5% in 2026 and 36.6% in 2027.The unemployment rate in Qatar (as a percentage of active population) will remain at a meagre 0.2% this year and in 2025 and may drop to 0.1% in 2026, FocusEconomics noted.

A cargo handler prepares air freight containers for a British Airways flight at Heathrow Airport in London. Air cargo is set for a positive 2024 with all regions expected to experience growth this year, according to the International Air Transport Association, the global body of airlines.
Business
Air cargo set for ‘positive’ 2024; Middle East to drive global growth this year

Air cargo is set for a positive 2024 with all regions expected to experience growth this year, according to the global body of airlines..text-box { float:left; width:250px; padding:1px; border:1pt white; margin-top: 10px; margin-right: 15px; margin-bottom: 5px; margin-left: 20px;}@media only screen and (max-width: 767px) {.text-box {width: 30%;}}**media[125867]**The Middle East, whose aviation is driven by the GCC countries, is set for the biggest rise at 12.3% while Africa will see a more modest 1.5% growth. On average, air cargo is forecast to grow 4.5%, noted the International Air Transport Association (IATA).“Yields will likely decline in 2024 but they will still be above their 2019 levels,” noted Rachel Yuting Fan, senior economist at IATA Sustainability and Economics.“Cargo revenue will also be about 11% above 2019 and comprise 12% of total industry revenue. In other words, 2024 will see sustained revenue growth and the sector outperform pre-pandemic levels,” she said.The relevant economic markers are also positive with 3.5% growth in global trade projected for 2024. Broadly, belly capacity is back and will carry the majority of air cargo while freighters have disappeared entirely. Dedicated freighters will maintain their usual share of the market.Other beneficial factors include the continued growth of e-commerce, the reduction in delivery times, and the robust performance of high-value specialised products, such as pharmaceuticals, which seem resilient to the industry’s usual volatility, IATA said.Possible downsides, according to the association, include China’s supply chain and currency fluctuations.Overall, cargo revenues are expected to fall to $111bn in 2024. Yields will remain high by historical standards, despite falling last year, and likely in 2024. Cargo volumes are expected to reach 61mn tonnes in 2024.According to IATA, digitalisation and sustainability will continue to be critical to air cargo’s progress.Digitalisation must overcome 50-year-old legacy systems and embrace a true data-sharing environment rather than just digitise paper documents.The problem is the varied data in air cargo, which covers different functions, stakeholders, and formats. This makes any streamlining attempts extremely complex.“ONE Record will help,” says Henk Mulder, IATA’s Head, Digital Cargo.Explaining ‘ONE Record’, Mulder said: “It is an open standard that will connect the data and will be vital to digitalisation success. It has been tested and validated by over 200 companies for reliability and efficiency and all airlines must implement it by January 1, 2026.”With ONE Record in place, there will be a unified approach to structuring air cargo data, which in turn will facilitate consistency in information exchange.Importantly, this seamless data sharing will utilise advanced encryption and security protocols to protect sensitive information.According to IATA, the implementation of Preloading Advance Cargo Information (PLACI) will also be a notable milestone. The objective is increased cargo security, but PLACI is a complex undertaking and governments are not harmonising their efforts.Unaligned PLACI programmes make data sharing more difficult and run the risk of slowing down cargo flows.Digitalisation will give air cargo not only the ability to serve e-commerce growth and smooth capacity fluctuations but also provide the analytics to boost sustainability, the association says.Several elements of sustainability—aside from carbon emission reduction—are at play in air cargo, including eliminating single use plastics, lowering the loss of perishables, advocating for sustainable facilities and attracting and retaining young talent.Air cargo will also continue to be a conduit for humanitarian aid, IATA said.In 2023, the UN World Food Programme estimated that 362mn people were in need in humanitarian assistance globally. This was a record high, with basically one in 22 people in the globe requiring assistance.Air cargo is pivotal to people receiving assistance where necessary. Since 2020, the EU Humanitarian Air Bridge has delivered more than 4,000 tons of aid.And following the earthquake in Türkiye and Syria, some 29 key carriers delivered over 3,500 tons of aid from over 90 countries and provided transport for over 130,000 responders from across the world.“The air cargo industry is in a better place than it was in 2019,” says Brendan Sullivan, IATA’s head (Cargo).“We had an exceptional period during the pandemic. We became financially stronger, more efficient with advances in digitalisation, and were appreciated for the heroic efforts that we all made to keep cargo going during a very difficult crisis. Now, the challenges and opportunities that we face are familiar to us and we will work hard to make progress in every aspect,” Sullivan said.

GCC governments will need to rein in spending growth to prevent budget balances shrinking further as little rebound in oil revenues is expected in 2024, according to Emirates NBD
Business
Qatar may record budget surplus in current financial year, says regional bank

Qatar may record budget surplus in the current financial year, Emirates NBD said and noted GCC governments will need to rein in spending growth to prevent budget balances shrinking further as little rebound in oil revenues is expected in 2024.Qatar’s general budget for 2024 approved last month expects revenue of QR202bn and expenditure of QR200.9bn and forecasts a deficit of QR6.2bn.According to the banking group, the budget surpluses enjoyed in 2022 (by GCC countries) narrowed sharply last year on oil production cuts and lower oil prices, while spending increased.“We expect Saudi Arabia to run a deficit of -4.3% of GDP this year, up from -1.9% in 2023, as ambitious development plans will require continued investment spending. Bahrain and Kuwait are also likely to run small deficits this year, but Oman, the UAE and Qatar are expected to record surpluses.“Overall, sovereign balance sheets in the GCC are much stronger than a few years ago, with lower public debt and healthy FX reserves, which should allow governments to tap capital markets at attractive rates, if needed,” Emirates NBD said.In 2024, global growth is expected to slow slightly to 2.9% from 3% in 2023 as tight monetary policy continues to weigh on demand and investment, particularly in the first half of the year.This scenario is consistent with softer demand for oil, particularly in the advanced economies, and oil GDP growth in the GCC will remain a drag on headline GDP growth in 2024.“We expect oil prices to average $82.5/barrel this year, similar to 2023,” Emirates NBD said.However, the researcher thinks non-oil growth will remain relatively robust, averaging 3.6% across the GCC in 2024, underpinned by continued investment as oil exporting countries push ahead with ambitious economic diversification programmes.While government expenditure growth will likely be more modest in 2024 than over the last couple of years, it does not expect governments to cut spending or tighten fiscal policy through higher taxes (other than those already announced such as the UAE’s corporate income tax, which came into effect in mid-2023).In addition, economic and social reforms are likely to support continued private sector investment, and growth in the expatriate population particularly in Saudi Arabia and the UAE.Rate cuts from the US Federal Reserve, expected in H2, 2024, should also boost demand for credit and support investment and consumption.Finally, tourism is expected to remain a key driver of economic growth in the region in 2024 (and beyond), with the return of visitors from China and the growth of the Saudi tourism sector off its relatively low base.Inflation slowed to an average 2.8% in the GCC (weighted by nominal GDP) from 3.5% in 2022. Lower fuel, food and services inflation were offset in the UAE and Saudi Arabia by rising housing costs.“We expect the disinflation trend to continue in 2024, with average CPI inflation for the region forecast at 2.6% this year,” Emirates NBD noted.

Gulf Times
Business
Qatar banking sector sees growth in deposits, promising rise in private sector credit in November 2023: QNBFS

Overall growth in deposits and a promising rise in private sector credit were the highlights of the latest Qatar Banking Sector update by QNB Financial Services (QNBFS).Driven by the government segment, deposits with Qatari banks inched up 0.2% during November 2023 to reach QR981.5bn, QNBFS said Monday.The country’s private sector remained resilient with total sector loans going up 0.8% MoM (+4.2% in 2023) in November last year, QNBFS noted.The Qatai banking sector's total assets went up 0.4% MoM (up 2.2% in 2023) in November 2023 to reach QR1.946tn, while total loan book edged lower by 0.2% MoM (up 1.4% in 2023) to QR1,273.4bn.The public sector pushed the overall credit lower. As deposits went up in November, the loans to deposits ratio (LDR) declined to 129.7% vs. 130.3% in October 2023.The overall loan book was slightly down 0.2% in November 2023. Total public sector loans declined 2.5% MoM.Loans moved up by 1.4% in 2023, compared to a growth of 3.3% in 2022. Loans grew by an average 6.7% over the past five years (2018-2022).Loan provisions to gross loans was at 3.9% in both November and October 2023, QNBFS noted.The government segment (represents 27% of public sector loans) was the main drag on the public sector with a drop by 9.0% MoM (-15.2% in 2023), while the semi-government institutions’ segment declined by 5.4% MoM (+23.9% in 2023).However, the government institutions’ segment (represents 66% of public sector loans) moved up 0.8% MoM (-0.8% in 2023).Total private sector loans went up 0.8% MoM (+4.2% in 2023) in November 2023. Consumption and others, general trade and services segments were the main drivers for the private sector loan rise.Consumption and others (contributes 21% to private sector loans) increased 2.2% MoM (+7.7% in 2023), while general trade (contributes 21% to private sector loans) went up 1.7% MoM (+7.6% in 2023), and services (contributes 31% to private sector loans) moved up 1% MoM (+10.1% in 2023).However, the real estate segment (contributes 20% to private sector loans) went down 1.0% MoM (-6.5% in 2023) in November 2023. Outside Qatar loans edged up by 0.2% MoM (-2.7% in 2023) during the month of November 2023.Non-resident deposits increased 1.3% MoM (-5.2% in 2023) in November 2023, QNBFS said.Public sector deposits went up 0.4% MoM (-5.4% in 2023) in November 2023.Looking at segment details, the government segment (represents 29% of public sector deposits) increased by 4.4% MoM (-10.4% in 2023).However, the government institutions’ segment (represents 55% of public sector deposits) went down 0.8% MoM (-6.3% in 2023), while the semi-government institutions’ segment declined 2% MoM (+9.0% in 2023) in November 2023.Private sector deposits moved lower by 0.3% MoM (+2.5% in 2023) in November 2023. On the private sector front, the companies and institutions’ segment went down slightly by 0.5% MoM (-1.9% in 2023), while the consumer segment edged down by 0.2% MoM (+6.8% in 2023) during November 2023.According to QNBFS, the deposits gain in November 2023 was mainly due to an increase by 1.3% in non-resident deposits and by 0.4% in the public sector.Deposits went down by 1.8% in 2023, compared to a growth of 2.6% in 2022. Deposits grew by an average 4% over the past five years (2018-2022)Loan provisions to gross loans was at 3.9% during both November and October 2023.The sector’s liquid assets to total assets was at 31.4% in November 2023, compared to 31.1% in October 2023.An analyst told Gulf Times: “The main highlights for the month of November 2023 is the overall growth in deposits and the promising rise in private sector credit. The overall growth in deposits was driven by the government segment as oil and gas prices remained buoyant, adding to government revenues.“Even as overall loans declined due to the cutback in short-term funding for the government through overdrafts, the private sector remained resilient with gains in private consumption, general trade and the tourism sector.”