Middle East Regional Analysis
PwC’s Middle East Economy Watch has reported that the fall in oil prices has led to a rethink across the region. Following on from a particularly disappointing year for oil exporters in 2016, the search for diversification in the Middle East has led to the emergence of several new opportunities.
“The flurry of activity in debt markets, privatisation and PPPs has only just got started and should generate interesting business opportunities in the next few years. Investors can expect to see GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) economies make increasing use of international debt markets and to work harder to attract foreign direct investment in the next few years.” – Richard Boxshall, PwC Middle East’s Economist
The introduction of VAT across the region will mean that there will be additional funding available for investment along with other large-scale events, including the FIFA World Cup in Qatar and Expo 2020 in Dubai, expected to pull in significant sums to government coffers. Although challenges remain, these events have signalled to a positive future in the coming years.
Saudi Arabia’s economic outlook has been viewed as largely positive by experts with Moody’s revising its outlook of their banking system from negative to neutral. The government’s ‘Saudi Vision 2030’ has plans to diversify from the current oil-based economy to a broader service-based economy. This could prove to be a decisive strategy to help transform the biggest economy in the region and will lead to more government investment in infrastructure. This is being described as ‘mega construction projects’ throughout the Kingdom. According to reports, the size of real estate investment funds in Saudi Arabia is estimated at $10 billion.
Is it easier or harder for international accountants to now work in the Middle East?
One significant development in the region has been the lifting of tight procedures that required degrees/higher educational documents to be attested by both a lawyer and a representative of the relevant Embassy (UAE/Qatar/Bahrain etc) which the applicant was applying to work in. This caused delays in the past as each appointment would have had to be made in person and could not be done via email or post. Now this part of the process can be skipped for qualified Chartered Accountants, especially when applying for roles in Big Four firms.
Is there market demand for international accountants in the Middle East?
Despite the oil downturn, there has remained a continuous need for accountants across all the countries which we work with and that has increased due to the introduction of VAT. As stated in a report done by KPMG, the GCC countries are basing their model on the European VAT system so experience implementing tax procedures in European countries is highly advantageous for potential applicants.
On the whole, the Middle East region appears to remain very much open for business to international accountants. There are still challenges to face but there are significant plans in place to stabilise the GCC economies as they move into the post-oil dependent era. This offers a huge of opportunity for accountancy and finance professionals to get involved with some of the biggest and most interesting projects the region has seen to date.
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