By every statistical measure, 2008 has been a bumper year for the Middle East. The regional economy expanded strongly, by about 6 per cent over the year. Record oil prices, which averaged slightly above $100 a barrel for the year, delivered another year of record budget surpluses to the region’s oil producers.
The Gulf’s major projects market topped $2.8 trillion, up 62 per cent since 1 January. And most companies doing business in the region have enjoyed strong revenue and profit growth.
But despite this, 2008 will be regarded as a bad year by most business people in the region - the year the boom ended. Fears of a slowdown in the global economy sent oil prices tumbling from a peak of $147 a barrel in July to less than $40 a barrel in December, casting a shadow over the region and triggering a crash in Gulf real estate.
It is at times such as these that decision-makers need reliable, timely business intelligence. And this is why, after more than 50 years of award-winning coverage of the Middle East economy, MEED remains essential for anybody doing business in the region.
Throughout 2008, MEED has kept its readers ahead of the curve on all the key developments in the region. MEED’s front covers throughout the year tell the story of a period when business sentiment swung from bullish optimism at the start of the year to deep uncertainty at the end.
The Middle East economy will contract sharply in the first half of 2009, perhaps by as much as 30 per cent. But the prospects for the region are bright. The Middle East remains the world’s most exciting growth market, and the slowdown provides the region with an opportunity to consolidate its gains of the past few years.
The contraction in money supply from falling oil prices and the credit crunch will remove the inflationary pressures that have blighted the region over the past two years. And the slowdown in the pace of real estate development will allow its overstretched infrastructure to catch up. Despite the gloom at the end of this year, 2009 will be another year of changing fortunes, with the region ending the year far better placed than it has ever been for sustainable long-term growth.