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Will high oil prices setback Gulf reforms?

Push harder or take a breath on economic reforms? The question can be tricky for Gulf rulers
Kuwaiti traders follow the market movements at the Stock Exchange in Kuwait City on Dec. 17, 2014.

Just a year after oil prices tumbled, the world’s top commodity traders predict that Brent crude could return to $100 a barrel for the first time since the 2014-2016 collapse in oil prices. The impulsive oil rally is a real bonanza for the Gulf petro-states that still rely heavily on oil exports to fund a large chunk of their annual budget — over 80% in Kuwait.

With oil breakeven prices needed to balance their budgets within reach, Gulf states can slack off the debt-raising spree they have embarked on to counterbalance low oil prices since 2014. Total annual debt issuance by Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states will “average about $50 billion over 2021-2024,” S&P Global forecasted, compared to close to $100 billion in 2017.

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