2012 sees continued consumer spending fuelled by salary increases
The consumer spending in Kuwait is set for another strong year in 2012 backed by solid salary increases and an improving employment scenario, according to a report by the National Bank of Kuwait (NBK).
The consumer spending growth moderated thus far in 2012 following an unprecedented year in 2011. Last year had benefited from a large Amiri cash grant early in the year and a series of pay hikes for nationals, the NBK said in its report.
This year has already seen another series of salary increases for Kuwaitis and it is expected to remain strong albeit not quite matching last year’s growth as indicated by the first half figures, it stated.
A number of pay hikes were approved for public sector employees this year along with hikes in benefits paid to Kuwaitis working in the private sector.
The salary benefits amounted to an estimated KD760 million ($2.7 billion) annually, of which KD700 million went to the nationals. The increases are of a similar magnitude to last year’s and are expected to provide a solid boost to spending and consumer borrowing again this year, the NBK report pointed out.
As a result of last year’s pay hikes, growth in total wages of Kuwaiti civilian employees is estimated to have accelerated to 8 per cent by the first quarter of 2012, its most rapid pace since the 2009 slowdown, it stated.
This rise in aggregate wage income, which captures growth in both salaries and employment, is expected to be sustained in 2012 thanks largely to the government’s wage increases, said the Kuwaiti lender in its report.
According to NBK, this trend is also apparent in the sustained growth in household borrowing. "Solid income growth and some improvement in hiring continue to support healthy growth in consumer credit," the country's top lender said in the report.
"Employment growth among Kuwaitis appears to be slightly stronger than a year ago while there are signs that expatriate hiring in the private sector is recovering further from the post-financial crisis slowdown," it added.
Point-of-sale transactions (debit and credit cards) during the second quarter saw a year-on-year increase of 15.6 per cent. This followed an easing in the first quarter. The acceleration in second quarter coincided with the retrospective payment of pay hikes in the government sector in June.
The second quarter is also expected to have benefited from vacationers travelling earlier than usual ahead of Ramadan, said the NBK report. Household credit will continue to benefit from this strength though growth rates will likely stabilize around the current pace, it added.
According to NBK, the pickup in household credit seen in 2011 has held up through the first half of 2012. The growth in personal loans at banks accelerated to 13 per cent year-on-year compared to 5.1 per cent a year ago.
"We expect growth to stabilize at around this rate through 2012. In fact, annualized growth during the first half of 2012 was 13.3 per cent," said the Kuwait lender. On the job scenario, NBK said Kuwaiti civilian employment appeared the strongest it’s been in over a year (y/y). "As of June, the net yearly gain in the number of civilian jobs to nationals in was 12,500, compared to 10,500 the prior year. Employment grew 4.6 per cent y/y. The Kuwait workforce in civilian jobs totaled 285,000 at the end of June, according to data published by the Public Institute for Social Security (PIFSS).
The top Kuwaiti bank said employment growth among Kuwaiti civilians continued to be driven primarily by the public sector, which accounted for over 80 per cent of net new jobs.
"This trend has been sustained since the second half of 2010. Growth in the government’s Kuwaiti civilian workforce stood at 4.1 per cent in the first quarter," it added.