布鲁金斯学会:低油价迫使海合会国家积极推进经济变革
2016-03-03 17:31:43
布鲁金斯学会:低油价迫使海合会国家积极推进经济变革(2016.03.03)

  提要:油价暴跌迫使海湾国家重新思考其财政问题。长远来看,当前的低油价为海合会各国提供了推进经济变革的机遇。就收入面而言,海合会成员国经过持续十年之久的争论,最终决定从2018年开始征收增值税,这是该地区首次对早已习惯了低税负的国民征收这一税种。在支出面,海合会国家已启动了一系列减支计划。此外,海合会国家还决定推进经济多元化,发展油气之外的行业。

  (外脑精华·北京)油价暴跌迫使海湾国家重新思考其财政问题。就收入面而言,海合会成员国经过持续十年之久的争论,最终决定从2018年开始征收增值税,这是该地区首次对早已习惯了低税负的国民征收这一税种。此外,海合会国家还决定推进经济多元化,发展油气之外的行业。在支出面,海合会国家已启动了一系列减支计划。

  油价暴跌令海合会国家面临财政挑战

  过去十年的大部分时间中,产油国都享有高油价带来的额外收入,因而得以大举支出。凭借高油价带来的收入,海合会国家在基础设施、国防、教育、公共部门工资和补贴等领域大规模支出。

  然而,到2016年,每桶油价已经比2014年6月下跌了70%以上。目前欧佩克预计,2040年之前油价都难以回归100美元/桶。仅2015年一年,海合会国家的收入就因油价下跌而减少了360亿美元。收入暴跌迫使海合会各国政府重估收入来源与支出计划。沙特已表示将设法增加收入,可能的举措包括对阿美石油公司(据认为是全球价值最高的企业)实行部分私有化。

  增值税并未改变低税负格局

  海合会已宣布将从2018年开始征收增值税,税率为5%。这是以低税收著称的海合会地区首次实行这一税种。不过,5%的增值税率仍远低于世界平均水平。

  海合会国家虽然削减了一部分补贴,但其国民仍享有国家提供的多种慷慨资助,包括土地分配、补贴、收入支出、免费教育和医疗服务。而且,海合会的个人所得税仍是零。因此,5%的增值税不会对海合会国家政府与国民的关系构成挑战。然而,如果5%的增值税不会引起普遍反对,那么将来海合会国家政府就可能会进一步增加课税。面对进一步加重的税负,海合会国民将要求在国家事务中获得更多发言权。

  低油价将促使海合会推进经济变革

  长远来看,当前的低油价为海合会各国提供了推进经济变革的机遇。在低油价的环境下,能源补贴改革面临的阻力就会减弱。而且,海合会各国的国民已经认识到油价下跌的潜在影响,这种情况下,他们就更容易理解政府采取的相应措施。

  为缓冲补贴改革对贫困人口和中等收入人口的影响,沙特计划增加福利支出。此举在短期内有效,但就长期而言,主要挑战之一在于,促使国民由政府部门就业转向私人部门就业。随着这项转变的推进,海合会各国政府能够净减其公共部门,并提高其效率。

  这项转变对海合会人口最多的成员国沙特(3000万人口)和阿联酋(1050万人口)尤为重要。目前沙特总人口的30%左右为外来劳工,而阿联酋人口中外来劳工的占比更高达90%。目前,两国都在推进以本国公民取代海外劳工的计划,即所谓“沙特化”和“阿联酋化”措施,但尚未取得理想成效。

  目前,沙特仍面临所谓的“双90问题”,即政府部门90%的本国就业人口集中在政府部门,而私人就业人口的90%则为外国劳工。麻省理工学院2014年进行的一项研究表明,虽然“沙特化”措施增加了本国劳动力的就业率,却使得11000家企业退出了市场。而且,虽然很多企业按政府要求增加了沙特籍的员工数量,但这些员工并不工作。沙特劳工部长最近承认,所谓“沙特化”计划成效不佳,还对企业产生了不利影响。

  除了努力提高国民就业率之外,海合会国家还力图推进经济多元化,发展油气产业之外的经济活动。各国在经济多元化方面取得进展各不相同,阿联酋(尤其是迪拜酋长国)最为成功。沙特还在继续推进多元化,但其经济活动仍严重依赖油气产业。阿联酋的成功因素之一在于旅游业开放度较高,并把迪拜定位为航运中心。长远来看,海合会国家经济多元化的成败将取决于经济激励措施的设计与实施。

  

  英文原文:Will the GCC be able to adjust to lower oil prices?

As oil prices continue to plummet, Gulf states have been forced to re-think how they fund their governments and spend money. On the revenue side-and after a debate that spanned over a decade-countries in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) have finally decided to introduce a value added tax (VAT) in 2018. This is the first tax of its kind on citizens and residents of the region, who have long been accustomed to a low tax environment. GCC states have also increased their efforts to diversify their economy beyond oil and gas. And they have begun a series of cuts, with various levels of severity in each country, to rein in their spending.

These issues were the focus of an event at the Brookings Doha Center on February 10, and part of a wider discussion currently unfolding in the region about how the GCC will be able to adjust to lower hydrocarbon prices.

The $100 oil gravy train

For much of the past decade, oil-producing countries enjoyed windfall revenues due to high oil prices, and were able to spend accordingly. In Venezuela, the late president Hugo Chávez financed his Bolivarian revolution domestically and internationally with oil revenue. When the 2011 Arab Spring protests began spreading to Algeria, Africa's second-largest producer of oil, the government revised the annual budget and increased public spending by 25 percent with the extra amounts going into higher subsidies, social housing, and public sector wages. In Russia, Vladimir Putin went on a spending spree that included an incredible $51 billion spent on the Sochi Olympics, a project with an initial budget of $7.5 billion.

Higher oil prices enabled the GCC countries to spend handsomely on infrastructure, defense, education, public sector wages, and subsidies. In Saudi Arabia, the late King Abdullah commissioned the building of a desert megacity at a cost of $100 billion that will include the $1.2 billion Kingdom Tower, slated to become the tallest building in the world. In Kuwait, over 90 percent of locals continue to be employed in the public sector. Due to increasing regional geopolitical security concerns, the GCC combined spent $113 billion on military hardware in 2014; with Saudi Arabia alone spending approximately $81 billion. In addition, after the Arab Spring, GCC countries spent $150 billion on social welfare to cushion the political impact of the uprisings in the region.

2016: $100 oil, where art thou?

Fast forward to 2016, and the price of a barrel of oil has fallen more than 70 percent since June 2014. Meanwhile, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) is forecasting that a $100 per barrel price for oil will not return until after 2040. The fall in oil prices wiped out $360 billion of GCC revenue in 2015 alone, forcing GCC capitals to reassess income sources and spending. In Saudi Arabia, the deputy crown prince indicated that the Kingdom will seek to bolster revenue. He stated that nothing is off the table, including privatizing parts of Aramco-considered to be the highest valued company in the world.

In his 2015 address, the Qatari emir advised people that lower oil prices should not be cause for panic, but at the same time, he advised Qataris that "the government can no longer provide for everything." Several GCC countries also undertook subsidy reforms; in Saudi Arabia, gasoline prices have increased by 50 percent in 2015, with hikes in the price of water and electricity. In December 2015, Oman's cabinet approved a set of belt-tightening measures that include public sector spending cuts and subsidy reforms.

Taxation without representation?

In addition to cuts in public spending, the GCC announced it will start implementing a 5 percent VAT levy in 2018. This is a first of its kind tax for a region known for its low tax environment. Nonetheless, compared to other much higher VAT rates around the world, this remains a relatively modest imposition.

Despite some cuts in subsidies, GCC nationals continue to enjoy a wide range of state largesse that includes land distribution, subsidies, income support, free education, and health care. In addition, the personal income tax rate remains zero. For that reason, it is unlikely that this 5 percent levy will challenge existing state-society relations between GCC rulers and their people. However, if GCC governments see that the 5 percent VAT raises enough revenue without widespread opposition, it can always be increased down the line. Should the tax burden increase further in the future, then it is likely that GCC citizens will look for increased accountability and representation from their respective governments.

Turning lemons into lemonade

Taking a more long-term view, current oil prices provide an opportunity for GCC governments to reform their economies for the next generation. Energy subsidy reform is less controversial in a low oil price environment. In addition, GCC governments have been forthcoming with their citizens, who are now more aware of the potential impact of lower oil prices. As such, they are more susceptible to understanding the measures undertaken by their governments.

To cushion the impact of subsidy reform on the country's poor and middle class, Saudi Arabia plans to extend welfare payments. Such payments will work in the short term, but in the long term one of the main challenges will be increasing the participation of GCC nationals in the private sector, away from government employment. As such redirection occurs, GCC governments can foster a leaner and more efficient public sector.

This process is particularly key for Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which have the largest populations in the GCC (30 million and 10.5 million, respectively). Of those numbers, approximately 30 percent of Saudi residents are expatriate workers, while the proportion of foreigners living in the UAE is estimated as high as 90 percent. Both countries have embarked on efforts known respectively as the Saudization and Emiratization, whereby foreign workers in the private sector would be replaced with Saudis or Emiratis. These ongoing processes have yet to yield the intended results, and recent figures showing a 38 percent year-over-year drop of Saudi employment in the private sector.

Saudi Arabia remains in what is referred to as the "90/90-employment gridlock": the government employs approximately 90 percent of Saudis, and 90 percent of the jobs in the private sector are filled by expatriates. A 2014 study by Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that while Saudization increased native employment, had a negative effect on companies operating in Saudi Arabia and caused 11,000 firms to exit the market. In addition, many firms add Saudi nationals on the payroll to meet government quotas, but they do not actually show up for work. The Saudi minister of labor recently admitted that such cosmetic Saudization is unproductive and negatively impacts companies.

In addition to the localization of jobs, the GCC countries have also attempted to diversify their economies beyond hydrocarbons, which currently dominate the economy. Diversification efforts have progressed at different paces in each of the GCC countries. Arguably, the UAE (and in particular Dubai) have proven the most successful in that regard. Saudi Arabia continues to pursue diversification, but overall, its economy remains very dependent on hydrocarbons. One of the factors that helped the UAE succeed is that it has been more open to tourism than Saudi Arabia, and has positioned Dubai as a transit hub (with 69 million passengers per year passing through Dubai alone). The long-term success of economic diversification in the GCC will depend on the design and implementation of policies that focus on creating economic incentives both for firms to move beyond hydrocarbons, as well as for GCC nationals to seek employment outside the public sector.

Adel AbdelGhafar

Brookings Doha Center - Qatar University Joint Fellow, Foreign Policy, Brookings Doha Center

来源:布鲁金斯学会,作者:Adel Abdel Ghafar
作者:Adel

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