Syria imposes new fuel rations as sanctions bite

Drivers queue for gasoline in front of a petrol station in the Syrian capital Damascus on April 15, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 15 April 2019
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Syria imposes new fuel rations as sanctions bite

  • Owners of private cars would now be allowed just 20 liters (about 7.5 gallons) of fuel every five days, the ministry said

DAMASCUS: Damascus on Monday imposed new limits on subsidised petrol for cars and motorbikes in regime-held areas of Syria, in the latest bid to curb a fuel crisis it blames on Western sanctions.
Owners of private cars would now be allowed just 20 liters (about 7.5 gallons) of fuel every five days, said the ministry of petroleum and mineral resources.
At petrol stations in the capital, queues hundreds of meters (yards) long have stretched along streets in the past few weeks, with drivers waiting for hours to get their fill.
Qusay, a taxi driver in his 30s, said he had camped out in his car overnight to make sure he got some fuel from a station, so far to no avail.
“I got to the front of the queue after midnight with less than 20 cars ahead, but then the petrol ran out at the station,” he told AFP, adding that “it’s still closed.”
Ahmad Al-Hamawi, 45, gave up after four long hours of waiting.
“I’ll try to forget my car in the coming days and walk to work,” said the radio program director.
The measures announced on Monday allow taxi drivers to fill up 20 liters every two days.
Motorbikes would be permitted three liters every five days, the ministry said, in what it described as a “temporary measure to fairly distribute petrol.”
The measures are the latest in a series of restrictions on the daily consumption of subsidised petrol.
On April 8, the ministry of petrol and mineral resources said it was temporarily slashing the daily cap on subsidised petrol by half, to 20 liters from 40 per vehicle.
Then on April 10 it further halved the amount to 20 liters every two days.
On Sunday, the government said it would halve the amount of fuel allocated to public institutions to run their vehicles, state news agency SANA said.
The petrol crisis follow fuel oil and cooking gas shortages over the winter.
Syrian officials have blamed the crisis on a flurry of Western sanctions targeting the Damascus regime since the start of the civil war in 2011.
In November, the US Treasury issued an advisory threatening penalties against those “involved in petroleum-related shipping transactions with the Government of Syria.”
Prime Minister Emad Khamis told journalists earlier this month that petrol shipments from Iran had been suspended for six months as Egypt was not allowing them through the Suez Canal, an allegation Cairo has denied.
The regime, backed by Iran and Russia, controls almost two-thirds of Syria after a series of victories against rebels and extremists since 2015, but the country’s main oil and gas fields in the northeast remain out of government control.


Saudi Real Estate Refinance Co. plans up to $1.07bn sukuk sale this year

Updated 23 April 2019
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Saudi Real Estate Refinance Co. plans up to $1.07bn sukuk sale this year

  • The plan by SRC, a subsidiary of Saudi Arabia’s sovereign Public Investment Fund, comes as it prepares to purchase more home loan portfolios
  • SRC, formed in 2017, is also keen to tap foreign institutional investors for its debt sale this year

RIYADH: Saudi Real Estate Refinance Co. (SRC), modelled on US mortgage finance firm Fannie Mae, aims to issue up to 4 billion riyals ($1.07 billion) of long-term sukuk this year, its chief executive said on Tuesday.

The plan by SRC, a subsidiary of Saudi Arabia’s sovereign Public Investment Fund, comes as it prepares to purchase more home loan portfolios from mortgage financing companies and banks to boost the Kingdom’s secondary mortgage market.

SRC, formed in 2017, is also keen to tap foreign institutional investors for its debt sale this year, Fabrice Susini told Reuters in an interview.

“Our strategy is clearly to tap the market twice this year,” he said. “We are really looking at probably issuing something between ... 2 and 4 billion riyal that we may be issuing in two tranches.

He said SRC was looking at sukuk in the 10 to 15-year range, to help minimize refinancing risks. “Generally speaking we are trying to issue as long as possible,” Susini said.

He said the company was assessing whether it could also issue bonds in currencies other than the local riyal.

In March, SRC completed a 750 million riyal sukuk issue with multiple tenors, under a program that allows it to issue up to 11 billion riyals of local currency denominated Islamic bonds.

“The rule of the game for us is, like many projects across the Kingdom, attract liquidity from foreign investors,” Susini said.

He said SRC had spent 1.2 billion riyals from its balance sheet buying mortgages from local mortgage financing companies and provided liquidity to these firms.

It has also signed initial accords with several commercial banks to acquire housing mortgage portfolios.

Saudi Arabia’s housing ministry is targeting the mortgage market to reach a total value of 502 billion riyals by 2020 from around 300 billion riyals now.

The government wants to increase activity in the real estate market as it moves to revitalize the economy and is taking steps to reform the sector as part of its 2030 reform plan.

It has been working with developers and local banks to counter a shortage of affordable housing — one of the country’s biggest social and economic problems. Saudi Arabia wants 60 percent of its nationals to own homes by 2020, up from 47 percent in 2016.

The size of real estate financing relative to its gross domestic product is 5 percent in Saudi Arabia compared to 69 percent in the United States, 74 percent in the United Kingdom and 43 pct in Canada, the housing ministry has said.

“The goal of SRC in this market was to make sure that we will be able to refinance at least around 10 percent of the market in 2020, and 20 percent of the market by 2028,” Susini told Reuters.