Davos organizer WEF warns of growing risk of cyberattacks in Gulf

The World Economic Forum (WEF) has warned of the growing possibility of cyberattacks in the Gulf — with Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar particularly vulnerable. (Shutterstock)
Updated 16 January 2019

Davos organizer WEF warns of growing risk of cyberattacks in Gulf

  • Critical infrastructure such as power centers and water plants at particular risk, says expert
  • Report finds that unemployment is a major concern in Bahrain, Egypt, Morocco, Oman and Tunisia

LONDON: The World Economic Forum (WEF) has warned of the growing possibility of cyberattacks in the Gulf — with Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar particularly vulnerable.

Cyberattacks were ranked as the second most important risk — after an “energy shock” — in the three Gulf states, according to the WEF’s flagship Global Risks Report 2019.

The report was released ahead of the WEF’s annual forum in Davos, Switzerland, which starts on Tuesday.

In an interview with Arab News, John Drzik, president of global risk and digital at professional services firm Marsh & McLennan said: “The risk of cyberattacks on critical infrastructure such as power centers and water plants is moving up the agenda in the Middle East, and in the Gulf in particular.”

Drzik was speaking on the sidelines of a London summit where WEF unveiled the report, which was compiled in partnership with Marsh and Zurich Insurance.

“Cyberattacks are a growing concern as the regional economy becomes more sophisticated,” he said.

“Critical infrastructure means centers where disablement could affect an entire society — for instance an attack on an electric grid.”

Countries needed to “upgrade to reflect the change in the cyber risk environment,” he added.

The WEF report incorporated the results of a survey taken from about 1,000 experts and decision makers.

The top three risks for the Middle East and Africa as a whole were found to be an energy price shock, unemployment or underemployment, and terrorist attacks.

Worries about an oil price shock were said to be particularly pronounced in countries where government spending was rising, said WEF. This group includes Saudi Arabia, which the IMF estimated in May 2018 had seen its fiscal breakeven price for oil — that is, the price required to balance the national budget — rise to $88 a barrel, 26 percent above the IMF’s October 2017 estimate, and also higher than the country’s medium-term oil-price target of $70–$80.

But that disclosure needed to be balanced with the fact that risk of “fiscal crises” dropped sharply in the WEF survey rankings, from first position last year to fifth in 2018.

The report said: “Oil prices increased substantially between our 2017 and 2018 surveys, from around $50 to $75. This represents a significant fillip for the fiscal position of the region’s oil producers, with the IMF estimating that each $10 increase in oil prices should feed through to an improvement on the fiscal balance of 3 percentage points of GDP.”

At national level, this risk of “unemployment and underemployment” ranked highly in Bahrain, Egypt, Morocco, Oman and Tunisia.
“Unemployment is a pressing issue in the region, particularly for the rapidly expanding young population: Youth unemployment averages around 25 percent and is close to 50 percent in Oman,” said the report.

Other countries attaching high prominence to domestic and regional fractures in the survey were Tunisia, with “profound
social instability” ranked first, and Algeria, where respondents ranked “failure of regional and global governance” first.

Looking at the global picture, WEF warned that weakened international co-operation was damaging the collective will to confront key issues such as climate change and environmental degradation.


Saudi business chiefs back 2020 budget

Updated 11 December 2019

Saudi business chiefs back 2020 budget

  • 2020 spending plan hailed as a positive driver in boosting country’s economy

RIYADH: Saudi businesses have welcomed spending plans of SR1.02 trillion ($272 billion) next year, announced by King Salman.

The Council of Saudi Chambers praised the efforts of the monarch, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and others in reaching an agreement on the 2020 budget.

The government has predicted revenues of SR833 billion and a deficit of SR187 billion for next year, considered an indicator of the success of the Kingdom’s economic policies amid a bleak global economic backdrop.

Chairman of the Council of Saudi Chambers Dr. Sami Abdullah Al-Abaidi said that the Saudi business sector was optimistic about the new spending plans.

“These figures reflect the effective impact of the economic reform measures, the economy’s restructuring and diversification of sources of income,” he added.

Al-Abaidi praised the king and the crown prince for supporting the Saudi economy through numerous projects and initiatives aimed at boosting the business sector.

He said the most notable were business performance improvement initiatives, privatization, private-sector stimulation and local promotion programs.

“This has paved the way for the Kingdom to get the best international classifications, including its first world ranking in business environment reforms, which made it a hub for investments,” Al-Abaidi added.

The business chief reiterated King Salman’s determination to continue implementing reforms, diversifying sources of income, making optimal use of resources, empowering the private sector, and improving transparency and efficiency in government spending to boost growth rates.

“These trends are one of the most important requirements for achieving the Kingdom’s Vision 2030,” he said.

The council’s vice chairman, Muneer bin Saad, said the budget for the new year focused on investing in the human element and sectors that directly affected the lives of citizens, including the development of services.

Saad added the monarch had directed to extend the disbursement of the cost of living allowance until the end of 2020.

Council member Abdullah Al-Odaim said the budget met the expectations of Saudi citizens, and strengthened the confidence of international investors, as figures showed the determination of the state to move forward in its policies to raise the efficiency of government spending.

They also showed increases in non-oil revenues, projected to grow more in light of the improvement of economic activity.

The delegated secretary-general of the Council of Saudi Chambers, Hussain Al-Abdulqader, said the Saudi business sector welcomed the budget which through
its projects and programs would help improve investment opportunities as well as the Saudi economy, ultimately strengthening the Kingdom’s global economic standing.