Gulf banks will have fewer resources at hand to support the region's infrastructure rollout plan over the next years, especially if oil prices decline further or remain low for longer, Standard & Poor's said on Wednesday.
"This is one reason why Gulf countries are starting to look at alternatives such as public-private partnerships (PPP)," the rating agency's credit analyst Karim Nassif said.
Standard & Poor's estimates that Gulf sovereigns' overall capital spending will be $480 billion over the next four years. Standard & Poor's estimates that Gulf government spending on projects alone - including infrastructure contracts awarded over the period 2016-2019 - could be about $330 billion.
Taking this and other research into account, the rating agency estimates that about $50 billion out of the $330 billion will be spent on projects specifically for transport-related schemes. This compares with S&Ps estimates of about $604 billion in projects including $100 billion of infrastructure projects that will need funding through 2019.
The difference between S&P's estimates of capital spending on projects and project contracts awarded is as large as $270 billion through 2019, it added.
The rating agency said Gulf governments are protecting capital spending as a share of overall expenditure to support growth and further their diversification strategies.
In the UAE, the largest project planned is the Dubai World Central, the extension of Al Maktoum International Airport currently budgeted at $32 billion.
Another mega project is Al Gharbia Chemical Industrial City that is estimated to cost $20 billion.
Dubai is pressing ahead with key projects ahead of the Expo 2020 Dubai.
At the same time, Gulf sovereigns are cutting in areas where they can afford to, or for what the rating agency consider to be non-essential infrastructure spending.
"Saudi Arabia, for example, reduced its 2016 transport and infrastructure budget by 63 per cent from the previous year. This for us illustrates the challenge Gulf countries will face to pay for infrastructure through traditional sources, including government funding."
Last month, Abu Dhabi announced to suspend the tendering process on the second stage of its railway project that would link the entire country.
"We have determined, based solely on the developments described herein, that no rating actions are currently warranted. Only a rating committee may determine a rating action and, as these developments were not viewed as material to the ratings, neither they nor this report were reviewed by a rating committee," the report said.
By Haseeb Haider
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