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Can Tourism Be the Ticket to Turkey’s Economic Recovery?

Tourism is one of the most dynamic and fastest growing sectors in Turkey. The country is highly reliant on tourism for foreign exchange earnings. However, the COVID-19 outbreak and Russia-Ukraine war have affected the country’s tourism industry and resulted in decline in tourist visits. While spike in energy and commodity costs due to war has widened the current account deficit gap, it has also made tourism cheaper in the country due to a significant decline in currency value. This has resulted in an unprecedented influx of tourists once the pandemic subsided. Furthermore, various initiatives have been taken by the government to boost tourism in hopes to reduce current account deficit and bring down inflation rates and support economic growth.

Turkey is known for vast historical sites in major cities of Istanbul and Antalya, as well as the Aegean and Mediterranean Sea coasts. Tourism sector employs about 2.6 million people in the country. The sector also contributes significantly to new tourism-related business sources and foreign exchange earnings, and thus, plays a crucial role in the economic development of the country, especially in the post-COVID era. In 2021, it is estimated that Turkey generated about US$25 billion revenue from the tourism sector.

The country’s dependence on tourism has increased significantly over the past few years. Turkey’s travel and tourism sector contribution to GDP increased to 11% in 2019 as compared with 4.7% in 2014. As per the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), Turkey was the sixth-most visited country in the world in 2019. While the country’s rank came down to 15th in 2020 due to the COVID-19 outbreak, it jumped to fourth in 2021 in the post COVID-19 recovery phase.

In addition to this, as per 2022 Economic Impact Report (EIR) by the World Travel and Tourism Council, Turkey’s Travel and Tourism GDP is expected to increase by about 5.5% on an annual basis over the next decade (2022-2032) and create over 716,000 new jobs in the country. The projected growth rate in the country’s travel and tourism sector is more than double the projected growth rate of the overall economy, which is expected to be 2.5% during the same time period.

Challenges faced by tourism sector over the years

While the tourism sector remains one of the best performing sectors in Turkey, it has faced its own set of challenges over the past several years. Inflation is rapidly rising in the country since 2016 due to factors such as low interest rates, energy crisis, increase in commodity prices, and declining currency value. This has significantly affected domestic travelers and business owners in the tourism sector. Several terrorist attacks particularly in the south-east part of the country and Istanbul and Ankara by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and ISIS also severely affected tourist visits and economic growth in 2016.

Owing to the 2020 COVID-19 outbreak, spending on tourism by international visitors in Turkey declined by about US$20 billion, a 70% decline in comparison with 2019. This led to decline in demand and to unemployment in related sub-sectors including airlines, travel agencies, hotels, and car rental companies, among others.

Stringent measures and trade restrictions resulted in significant decline in air traffic and affected the aviation industry. For instance, the National carrier, Turkish Airlines, reported net loss of about US$761 million in 2020.

Hospitality industry was also hit due to fall in tourism in the country. Most hotels faced significant revenue loss during lockdown months. According to the Turkish Hotel Association (TUROB), the hotel occupancy rate in the first nine months of 2020 was just 35.4%, a decline of 47.8% from the same time period in the previous year. Moreover, revenue per available room declined by 52.5% to US$24.7 during the same period.

Can Tourism Be the Ticket to Turkey’s Economic Recovery? by EOS Intelligence

The 2022 war between Ukraine and Russia further affected the tourism sector growth in Turkey. Tourist visits from Russia and Ukraine used to account for a significant share of the total number of tourists visiting the country for holidays from Europe. Over 4.7 million Russians and 2 million Ukrainians visited Turkey for vacation in 2021. While 2.2 million Russians visited Turkey during January-July 2022, it is expected that the total number of tourists from Russia in 2022 will fall short of the 2021 figures due to prolonged war and imposition of western sanctions and flight suspension. The number of tourists from Ukraine declined to 374,000 in the first seven months of 2022 in comparison with 1.1 million during the same period in 2021.The war also spiked Turkey’s inflation rate, which touched about 80% in August 2022.

While the Turkish government is trying to attract tourists from Russia by collaborating with the Turkish aircrafts to transport foreign guests amid war, it is not likely to recover tourist visits to pre-war levels.

Depreciating currency value boosts tourism in the country

The increase in current account deficit due to rising energy and commodity costs in the backdrop of war in Ukraine has led to massive currency value plunge for the Turkish Lira in 2022. Turkey is a net importer of oil and gas and spike in energy costs amid Ukraine-Russia war has widened the current account deficit gap. As per the Turkish Central Bank data, the current account deficit increased to about US$32.4 billion in the first half of 2022. As of September 2022, the Turkish Lira declined to about TRY18.3 per US$1 compared with an average of TRY 8.9 per US$1 in September 2021 and is likely to decline further in 2023 with rising inflation rates due to interest rate cut.

A significant plunge in the currency value has made Turkey a more affordable destination for holidays in comparison with other European tourist destinations. The cost of stay, food, and travel has become significantly lower for foreigners. Adding to this, there has been a decline in COVID-19 cases across the globe, which has also provided the tourism sector a strong boost.

The number of foreign tourists visiting Turkey increased by 94% in 2021 (compared with 2020) reaching 24.7 million. It further witnessed a y-o-y increase of about 128% for the period of January-July 2022 to reach to 23.3 million tourists during the period. The country’s revenue from tourism also witnessed a y-o-y increase of 190% in Q2 2022 to reach US$8.72 billion. In 2022, Germany accounted for the largest share of visitors reaching 2.9 million from January to August. The number of tourists from Middle Eastern and European countries has also increased significantly in 2022. This has also resulted in an increase in share prices of Turkish Airlines. For instance, the share value of Turk Hava Yollari AO, also known as Turkish Airways, increased by about 147% between January and May 2022.

Since Turkey is highly reliant on tourism for its foreign exchange earnings, the significant boost in tourism is likely to help lower the widening current account deficit in the country. Low current account deficit is likely to increase the value of Lira and thus, bring down the inflation rate and support economic growth. However, further decline in interest rates by the Central Bank is resulting in an increase in inflation rate, which reached 80.2% in September 2022. Therefore, while tourism can help soften the blow on the economy by reeling in foreign currency and earnings, it is unlikely that it will single-handedly help the economy recover from the ongoing crisis. That being said, the government is undertaking several efforts to capitalize on the growth in the tourism sector and provide a much needed cushion to the economy as a whole.

Initiatives aimed at boosting tourism in the country

The Turkish government realizes the role tourism can play in uplifting the economy and has been undertaking several initiatives to boost the sector. For instance, in 2021, the government adopted a new promotion strategy, ‘Go Turkey’, to boost tourism. The ‘Go Turkey’ website encompasses the use of advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence and communication models. It follows over 100 media and social media outlets which cover news about the country. Additionally, it also analyses positive or negative content on Turkey and determines promotion priority based on this analysis. The aim is to focus on advanced public relations by integrating all the 81 provinces under the system and promote tourism together as a single voice.

A few other initiatives taken up to boost tourism in the country include additional domestic flight routes, medical tourism support, transportation infrastructure development, and several hotel investments. In August 2022, Turkish Airlines signed a deal with the Services Exporters’ Association (HİB) to help increase medical tourism in Turkey to meet medical tourism industry’s export service revenue target aimed at US$5 billion in 2023.

About US$172 billion have also been invested in communication and transportation infrastructure during 2003-2021, and the government is planning to invest an additional US$198 billion by the end of 2053. Some of the key ongoing projects include The MBB – Gari – Mezitli Metro, The IBB – Kazlicesme – Sogutlucesme Metro Line and the IMM – Ucyol-Buca Koop Light Rail among others aimed at boosting transportation network in the country. Additionally, according to the Hotel Association of Turkey (TÜROB), new investments were planned in about 30 provinces in the first half of 2022. The new investment incentive includes applications for 11 five-star hotels, 18 four-star hotel, and 26 three-star hotels.

As of March 2022, TUI Group, a leading German travel and tourism company, together with its partners in Turkey, planned on expanding its holiday program and developing a winter program across destinations to attract more tourists as compared with pre-pandemic levels.

Additionally, in July 2022, Cengiz Construction, a leading construction company, started construction of villas and hotels in Bodrum’s Cennet Bay together with Bulgari, a luxury hospitality company, with significant increase in international visitors in the country.

Furthermore, travel companies and agencies are focusing on adoption of digital platforms to promote tourism in the country as people are becoming more technology savvy and prefer online booking. It also helps attract travelers from different countries across the globe. Hotel booking through digital platforms increased to 81% in 2019 up from 73% in 2014 and is expected to increase further with rising penetration of smart phones and easy internet access. Turkey’s Tourism Development Agency (TGA) is likely to spend about US$100 million to promote tourism in over 120 countries through internet platforms and media in 2022.

EOS Perspective

Tourism contributes a significant amount to the Turkish GDP and is likely to help limit the consequences of increasing commodity and energy prices by reducing the widening current account deficit gap and ease the pressure on the economy. That being said, it is unlikely to help the country recover completely from its economic woes. Although the depreciating Lira has made Turkey a very affordable destination for holidays, people operating in tourism businesses are significantly affected by the high inflation levels as well. Hotels and resorts are facing high costs of employee wages, food supplies, and car rents among others, which hurt their profits. Interest rates cut by the Central Bank are further increasing the inflation rate. In addition to this, the key tourist season, which is summer season for Turkey, last for just a few months, and the sector’s revenue and profitability falls in the winter season. This makes it evident that Turkish economy must base its recovery on a balanced mix of support across several sectors.

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Sri Lanka’s Economic Crisis May Just Turn into a Battle for Influence

Sri Lanka is currently facing its worst economic crisis since its independence and is the first country in the Asia-Pacific region to default on its external debt in over two decades. While the financial crisis is underpinned by political mismanagement, low tourism during COVID-19, and affected exports and payments due to the Ukraine-Russia war, growing Chinese debt in recent years is also considered to be a major factor in the country’s financial downfall. More so, with China withholding desired and critical support at this time, more questions are being raised over China’s relationship with Sri Lanka. This has provided India and to an extent, the West, with the perfect opportunity to strengthen its ties with the country and in turn limit China’s political and economic influence in the region.

In April 2022, the Sri Lankan economy witnessed an absolute collapse owing to skyrocketing inflation, shortage of essential goods such as fuel, food, and medicines, and foreign debt to the tune of US$50 billion with just US$2 billion in foreign reserves. The financial turmoil further spiraled into a political crisis with the president, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, fleeing the country amidst strong public outcry.

There is no one cause for the freefall of the economy. However, the situation is largely underpinned by unforeseen factors such as halt in tourism earnings due to the pandemic, the Ukraine-Russia war, which resulted in blocked payments from Russia for tea exports, along with deep-rooted issues such as political corruption, favoritism, and weak policies.

An example of weak governance could be the 2019 tax cuts and 2021 ban on imports of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, which forced majority of farmers to go organic overnight. While the ban on pesticides import was aimed at saving US$400 million that were spent annually on import of fertilizers (in addition to reducing the adverse effect of pesticides on health and environment), the move backfired as the ban led to a substantial drop in crop production. As a result, Sri Lanka had to spend US$450 million on rice imports to cover up for the 20% drop in rice production levels. Moreover, it saw a decline in tea exports by 18% due to limited production. To offset this loss by farmers, the government had to spend several hundred million dollars as compensation and subsidies for farmers who lost their livelihoods. While the policy was removed after only five months for some sectors such as tea production, the damage was done causing a huge dent to the economy.

However, one of the key reasons for the country’s downfall is attributed to the government’s close alliance with China and to several economically unviable infrastructure projects that were green-lighted with China’s financial support and influence. Currently China is Sri Lanka’s biggest unilateral creditor.

Sri Lanka’s Economic Crisis May Just Turn into a Battle for Influence by EOS Intelligence

Sri Lanka’s Economic Crisis May Just Turn into a Battle for Influence by EOS Intelligence

The Rajpaksa family, which has dominated Sri Lankan politics for the last two decades, has been a close ally of China, and has favored investments from the country at the cost of relations with India and other nations that have for long warned Sri Lanka (and other Asian and African countries) about China’s debt-trap diplomacy. Over the last 15 years or so, Sri Lanka’s government has authorized several Chinese infrastructure projects including some that were considered economically unviable.

One such example is the Sri Lankan Hambantota Port that was built by China Harbor Engineering Company on a loan of about US$1.26 billion taken by Sri Lanka from China. The project, which was also touted to be commercially unviable from the very start by several experts and was cleared primarily because of close ties between China and the Rajpaksa family, was a commercial failure. In 2017, the port was handed over to the Chinese government for a 99-year lease due to default in loan payment. Similarly, the Hambantota airport is considered to be one of the emptiest airports in the world and has not been attracting traffic as anticipated, while the Nelum Kuluna towers (touted to be the tallest building in South Asia), stand empty. This has resulted in huge debt to the Chinese government from projects that failed to generate revenue for Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka owes 10% of its total foreign debt to China alone.

Now in the midst of its worst financial crisis and ridden of the old political regime, Sri Lanka is realizing the burden of the foreign debt it has to China. Especially at the moment, when the support received from its once most valued partner has been lukewarm at best.

China has largely maintained silence on the current economic crisis faced by Sri Lanka as well as on the political turmoil and fall of the Rajapaksa clan. It has adopted a ‘wait and watch’ approach, which is being criticized globally. More so, China has only provided minimal relief support to the nation in crisis. To put it into perspective, China has provided only US$74 million of aid and has sent a large shipment of rice to Sri Lanka in response to the large-scale monetary assistance requested by the Rajapaksas, before their departure. Moreover, China has turned a deaf ear to Sri Lankan government’s plead for loan restructuring and is yet to consider the request for an additional financial aid of US$4 billion (which encompasses US$1 billion loan, US$1.5 billion credit line for Chinese imports and US$1.5 billion in bilateral currency swap). Furthermore, China has not cleared its stance on IMF’s relief package for Sri Lanka. While IMF is designing a relief package for Sri Lanka, it needs consent from all its creditors to write off some loans so that the relief sum is used for economic revival instead of just servicing foreign debt. While Sri Lanka is urging the IMF and China to work together, it is going to be a long round of negotiations.

On the other hand, India has been increasing its influence on its neighbor and has provided US$3.8 billion in monetary relief to Sri Lanka. In addition, it is willingly working with IMF to restructure loans to provide debt relief to the country in need. It is also collaborating with Japan to assist Sri Lanka during the crisis. Sri Lanka is of strategic importance to India as it connects several of its key trade routes to Africa and Europe. With China having close ties with Sri Lanka in the past, it had built a strong foothold in the Indian Ocean, which was threatening to India and led to a geopolitical rivalry between India and China.

This financial crisis comes as an opportunity to India to replace China as Sri Lanka’s preferred partner. In March 2022, the Indian government signed a deal with Sri Lanka to develop hybrid power projects in northern parts of the country after China suspended a similar project in December 2021, stating security reasons. Around the same time, India was awarded a US$12 million contract to build wind farms on three small islands in the Palk Strait (which lies between southern India and Sri Lanka) after the project was taken away from a Chinese firm. In March 2022, India’s National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) also signed an agreement with Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) to jointly set up a solar power plant in Sampur, Sri Lanka.

Moreover, in July 2022, several investment proposals to strengthen the economic ties between India and Sri Lanka were discussed between officials from both countries. The key sectors that were identified for investments by India in Sri Lanka include renewable energy, hydrocarbon, ports and infrastructure, IT, and hospitality. The talks also encompassed the development of the Trincomalee Port on Sri Lanka’s northeastern coast and a proposal to use Indian Rupee for transactions in Sri Lanka. In August 2022, the Sri Lanka government also gave an approval to Lanka’s Indian Oil Corporation (LIOC, a subsidiary of India’s Indian Oil Corporation) to open 50 new fuel stations in the country. While LIOC already operates 216 fuel stations in Sri Lanka, it plans to invest US$5.5 million in the proposed expansion. In a separate deal in December 2021, LIOC gained control of 75 oil tanks in a strategically significant storage facility near Trincomalee.

For China, on the other hand, this crisis presents a precarious situation. While it holds 10% of Sri Lanka’s debt, the perception is that China is one of the key reasons for Sri Lanka’s downfall. With China’s other BRI partners, such as Pakistan, heading towards a similar fate, it is important for China to understand the grip it has in deciding the fate of countries over which it holds such significant power. At the same time, it will not like to lose the control it holds over this region to India that would gladly step in to displace China as the preferred partner.

EOS Perspective

The Sri Lankan crisis and its management is being closely observed by several global economies. While China has been Sri Lanka’s prominent partner over the last decade and a half, a new regime in Sri Lanka, China’s tepid response, and India’s support may lead to a shift in allegiances in the region. However, it is still early to offer any definite comments. China still holds significant influence in the region. This can be seen in the recent events, when in August 2022, China docked its ballistic missile and satellite tracking ship, Yuan Wang 5, (also termed ‘spy’ ship) at Sri Lanka’s Hambantota port for six days, despite significant resistance and raised security concerns by India. Therefore, while India is trying to get closer with Sri Lanka, it is very difficult to match China’s control over the region. That being said, there is definitely an opening to improve both political and business relations with Sri Lanka for India. While politically Sri Lanka is of strong geopolitical significance, the country can also prove to be a valuable economic partner with regards to growing trade as well as large scale power and infrastructure projects in the long run.

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Commentary: Truck Drivers’ Strike amid Brazil’s Recovery from Recession

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In May 2018, Brazil witnessed a nationwide strike conducted by 200,000 truck drivers, which managed to paralyze the entire country for over 10 days and caused major issues such as shortage of food, death of poultry, and unavailability of public transport, among others.

In 2017, Brazil’s Oil and Gas Company, Petrobras, tied its fuel prices to float with international prices. This was following years of being exposed to high prices paid by Petrobras for refined fuel in international markets and the company’s inability to pass on these higher costs onto the customers domestically, due to existing price controls. The decision to float the domestic prices was further sealed by Petrobras’ attempt to seek recovery of profits after the company’s share prices fall due to a corruption scandal.

The floating price mechanism brought an increase in domestic fuel prices, which greatly affected truck drivers whose earnings were gradually slashed, in a scenario where the Real, Brazil’s official currency, weakened by 17% against the US dollar between May 2017 and May 2018. As a result, truck drivers decided to take their demands for a fuel price control policy to the streets, paralyzing many activities and sectors of the Brazilian economy, and exposing some of Brazil’s main weaknesses.

Brazil greatly depends on the truck industry for distribution

The strike caused substantial fuel shortage as oil trucks were not delivering petrol to gas stations, which affected delivery of other goods across the country. Subsequently, disruption in the distribution of food and other products translated into a visible shortage of items on supermarket shelves and a general hysteria that made people over-purchase what was left. The strike also exposed Brazil’s over-dependency on road distribution system for various sectors to operate (instead of using a balanced mix that would include other means of transport, e.g. cargo trains). Most importantly, the strike, in which truck drivers blocked main road arteries within the country’s 19 states, caused great losses, including (but not limited to) US$826.8 million worth of poultry during those 10 days.

After several attempts by the Brazilian government to reach an agreement with truck drivers, both parties settled to pause the strike – initially for 15 days although now for unlimited time, despite truck drivers’ reservations about the government eventually meeting their demands. The potential of the strike being resumed is still looming on the horizon of the Brazilian economy. The persistence of this conflict and the threat of a longer strike could lead to longer interruption of businesses and industrial activities, which is detrimental for a country that is recovering from one of its deepest recessions of 2015-2016.

Consumers’ purchasing power and confidence may decline

Consumers’ purchasing power is expected to slightly decline due to price increase after the temporary food shortage. According to the price index released by the FIPE (Economic Research Institute Foundation) during the strike, general food prices rose by 1.82%, resulting in a 0.62% increase above what was expected when compared to the same period of 2017. Price of half-finished goods (e.g. poultry) rose by 8.43%, while dairy products prices increased by around 5.85%. In some cases, such as with potatoes, the price increase was of 50.3%. Further, a spread hysteria among consumers led to over-purchasing of products, even at a higher value, meaning Brazilians’ disposable income was reduced for the month of May.

Inflation in May reached an unexpected 3.22%, an atypical increment for a month with usually low inflation rate. In a country overcoming a two-year deep economic recession, uncertainty about food availability and low disposable income have affected consumers’ confidence, which has fallen 4 percentage points in June, potentially translating into reduction of expenditures and hindering Brazil’s economic growth.

Investors’ trust may also fall

The 2015-2016 recession weakened local demand, however, Brazil managed to register a trade surplus and a low account deficit due to positive exports volumes and foreign direct investments (FDI) entering the country. Since the government and the truck drivers are still in talks to reach an agreement, the threat of another strike of similar nature is real. Experts agree that investors may become wary and cease to invest further, if political unrest and economic instability were to continue in the country. As a result, Brazil may not be capable of improving, or even maintaining, its low deficit in the account balance. In 2017, investments reached US$70.3 billion and, before the strike happened, experts believed FDI would register US$80 billion in 2018.

Brazilian president, Michel Temer, offered Petrobras US$274 million as compensation for losses it would incur by cutting oil prices. Though this may offer a 60-day solution to the worried truck drivers, it is only a short-term compensation which Brazil does not plan on extending forever.

EOS Perspective

It should come as no surprise that the strike was conducted only a few months away from Brazil’s presidential elections. Analysts believe it to be a strategy to weaken the image of president Temer, and shed some positive light on the Worker’s Party, of which Lula Ignacio Da Silva, former Brazilian president, is a current member. Despite Lula’s conviction in January 2018 for corruption, its party requested Brazil’s Supreme Court to grant a “suspensive effect” to the conviction, which would eventually allow him to run in the next presidential elections.

Regardless of who will be elected president, the strike has certainly stirred the economic and political scene, and has uncovered several of Brazil’s vulnerabilities.

by EOS Intelligence EOS Intelligence No Comments

GCC to Introduce VAT: What It Means for Businesses, Economy, and People

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries are gearing towards rolling out a 5% Value Added Tax (VAT) starting January 1, 2018. Economies of GCC countries are highly dependent on the oil and gas sector revenues, which account for about 80% of the GCC governments’ budgets. The recent volatility in oil prices have battered GCC nations’ revenues, which motivated the governments to initiate a reform in the form of indirect taxation with a goal to diversify income sources. VAT is a measure that will impart more stability and robustness to the governments’ income considering the outlook for crude oil still remains volatile, while diversified revenue sources will cushion the GCC economies in times of financial crisis.

A standard rate of 5% will be applied on most products, except specified food items, domestic public transportation, and healthcare, education, and financial services. The proposed VAT rate is much lower in comparison with rates in most European countries, China, and Australia. Nonetheless, the GCC countries still stand to gain in income with the tax implementation – for instance, the UAE is forecast to generate US$3.27 billion revenue during the first year of VAT introduction.

Industries such as construction and automotive are likely to benefit from VAT implementation, while retailers might feel a pinch due to dwindling margins. The sentiment among the citizens is wary to say the least – for instance, according to a survey conducted by CFA Society Emirates, citizens of the UAE did not seem quite optimistic towards the economic impact of VAT across certain parameters such as price inflation, cost of doing business, and inflow of foreign direct investments (FDI).

GCC to Introduce VAT

EOS Perspective

Introduction of VAT could empower the GCC economies by bolstering revenue generation, aiding infrastructure development, and improving productivity levels. While some may believe that VAT implementation could tarnish GCC countries’, particularly the UAE’s, competitiveness and tax-free haven status, it is important to consider that GCC markets’ attractiveness goes way beyond only the tax benefits. GCC’s appeal also lies in developed infrastructure, competitive labor costs, lower trade barriers, and proximity to the developing Asian and African markets – implementation of a new tax reform will not change this favorable business environment.

There have been some discussions regarding the negative implications of VAT, considering residents and businesses have grown accustomed to high incomes and low deductibles for a long time. Post VAT implementation, businesses are expected to incur certain additional costs related to administrative expenses, upgrading IT systems, and training staff members, among others.

Also, highly competitive industry sectors, or those operating with thin margins are likely to witness cash flow burden, as they will be required to meet the VAT costs on purchases before they can be reclaimed from the government – in certain scenarios, when the businesses end up paying more as VAT to suppliers as compared to the VAT collected from customers, the difference can be reclaimed from public funds. The way businesses operate is likely to fundamentally transform once VAT is applied, however, with adequate preparation businesses should be able to introduce systems and processes to avoid unnecessary cost implications as well as smoothly align themselves with the new tax system.

The way businesses operate is likely to fundamentally transform once VAT is applied, however, with adequate preparation businesses should be able to introduce systems and processes to avoid unnecessary cost implications as well as smoothly align themselves with the new tax system.

VAT is not expected to have much impact on a common man, as vital household expenditure items will be exempted from it – this includes about 100 varieties of staple food items and essential services such as healthcare and education. However, for a section of the population with an appetite for luxury goods, services, and lifestyles, as well as for tourists (along with VAT, they will have to pay duty tax again on some goods in their country of origin) the brunt of new taxation is likely to be felt.

Nonetheless, a modest tax rate of 5% will ensure that certain social-economic distortions often associated with VAT are minimized. Also, the decision to exempt a few vital sectors (basic food items, and healthcare, financial, and education services) will ascertain that they are not affected by the tax reform.

VAT imposition is expected to become an essential part of GCC regions’ economic reforms and the taxation policy will immensely aid in diversification of revenue sources. Further, the pre-implementation period should be used by the GCC countries to develop a modern tax administration system that ensures compliance, so that once VAT is implemented, businesses and residents are able to smoothly adapt themselves to the new taxation policy.

by EOS Intelligence EOS Intelligence No Comments

The Gloomy Post-Olympic Scenario for Brazil

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Now that the Rio Olympics have ended, Brazil will soon get to see whether the expected benefits of its enormous investment start materializing. The sports extravaganza was heavy on Brazil’s pocket, as the country spent massive amount of money on construction of sports venues, housing, transportation, and other infrastructure. Hosting Olympics has indisputably driven tourism, created job opportunities, and generated profit from industries such as transportation, hospitality, entertainment, food, retail, etc. However, this upsurge seems to have been momentary, and mostly limited till the time games lasted. The mid and long term benefits of Olympics are still questionable and raising doubts whether Brazil will pay a high price for the Olympic glory.

Hosting a massive event like Olympics is always exorbitant, requiring huge investments to spruce infrastructure, improve accommodation facilities, etc. Brazil invested heavily to host the games resulting in cost overrun of 51%. Some of the major cost heads included administration, technology, and infrastructure.

1-Cost

During the games, Brazil was flocked with visitors, restaurants and hotels were buzzing with people, who spent mammoth amount of money, adding on to Brazil’s revenue. Foreign visitors spent about US$ 617 million, while ticket sales alone generated US$ 323 million. Bars and restaurants witnessed upsurge in sales and hotels enjoyed much higher occupancy rates than any other time.


2-Impact

The post-Olympic scenario looks gloomy with minimal impact on economic growth of the country (meager addition of 0.05pp to GDP) while Brazil remains engulfed with rising inflation, public debt, and high insolvency rate. Further, results of a survey conducted by Fecomércio MG (Federation of Trade in Goods, Services, and Tourism) in 2016, suggests that only 4% people believe that Brazil will reap benefits post-games and 53.3% people consider that Olympics will have no impact on businesses.


3-Post Olympic Impact

EOS Perspective

In 2009, when Rio was chosen to host the 2016 Olympics, Brazil was at the crest of its economic boom. However, currently, Brazil is struggling to fight its third straight year of recession, growing unemployment, and double-digit inflation. The economy is expected to shrink by 3.5% in 2016 owing to weak commodity prices, political instability, and low import demand from China (one of Brazil’s key trade partners). Amidst all the economic mayhem, hosting Olympics further deepened the financial crack such that Rio had to declare a state of financial emergency, when the Brazilian government authorized a loan of US$ 850 million to pay for Olympic infrastructure and security.

Economic benefits of hosting extravagant events like Olympics are often quite exaggerated. For instance, London earned revenue of barely US$3.5 billion after its lavish spending of US$ 15 billion.

For Brazil, Olympics will definitely drive a modest short-term growth in terms of economy, tourism, and job creation, however, the net impact is likely to be negative. Investment in building massive infrastructure for Olympics and additional public spending are expected to escalate public debt. Organizing a mega sporting event like Olympics amidst rising public debt is likely to result in high inflation rate visible until 2020 and an increase in regional business bankruptcies. The benefits generated by hosting Olympics might be insufficient to compensate for the economic turmoil that had already plagued Brazil even before the games commenced. Unfortunately, the timing of hosting opulent events like World Cup and Olympics back to back might jeopardize the much needed positive impact expected from these sports events.

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