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MENA: Arab world ahead of developing economies in cellular, mobile broadband and Internet penetration
Figures released by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) show that the penetration rate of fixed telephone lines in the Arab world reached 8.9 lines per 100 inhabitants at the end of 2013 compared to a penetration rate of 10.9% in developing economies. The total number of fixed telephone lines in Arab states reached 32.6 million at the end of 2013. Also, the ITU estimated the penetration rate of mobile cellular lines in Arab states at 108.8% at the end of 2013, up from 105.4% at end- 2012 and 26.8% at end-2005, and relative to 87.6% in developing economies. The total number of mobile cellular subscriptions in Arab states reached 398.6 million at end-2013 but accounted for just 7.7% of subscriptions in developing economies. Further, Arab states' Internet penetration reached 37.4 users per 100 inhabitants at end-2013 relative to rates of 33.8% at end-2012 and 8.3% at end-2005, and compared to a rate of 30% in developing countries. The ITU estimated the number of Internet users in the Arab world at 137.2 million at the end of 2013, up from 121.3 million at end-2012 and 26.2 million at end-2005. In parallel, mobile broadband penetration in the Arab world rose to 20.6 users per 100 inhabitants at end-2013 from 16.1% at end-2012 and 5.1% at end-2010, compared to 16.8% in developing economies. The number of Arab mobile broadband subscribers was 75.4 million at the end of 2013 relative to 58 million at end-2012 and 17.9 million at end-2010. In addition, the penetration rate of fixed broadband in Arab states was 2.8 users per 100 inhabitants at end-2013, compared to 5.8% in developing economies. The number of fixed broadband subscriptions in Arab economies reached 10.4 million at end-2013.
Source: International Telecommunication Union, Byblos Research
EGYPT - Egypt on the way to the polls with little suspense
Egyptians are expected to cast their ballots across the country this Monday and Tuesday, fulfilling the next steps in the political roadmap announced by then-Defence Minister Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi on Morsi's removal. El-Sisi and leftist politician Hamdeen Sabahi are the only two contenders in the presidential race. El-Sisi is expected a very large victory, as already indicate results from Egyptian expats, who voted during 15-19 May: out of 318,033 votes, El-Sisi won 296,628 (94.5 percent).
In the meantime, Egypt's central bank allowed the Egyptian pound to weaken further at a dollar sale on Wednesday after the currency slid to an all-time low in the official market last week, narrowing the gap between official and black market rates. The pound has weakened around 2.3 percent against the dollar this year, according to Capital Economics. "Given that the central bank (CBE) had kept the exchange rate stable for the best part of the past year, this ... marks a significant change in policy," Capital Economics economist Jason Tuvey said in a note issued on Tuesday. A weaker currency could boost the country's economy, currently growing only around 2 percent, by improving the competitiveness of Egyptian exports, Tuvey said.
Source: Ahram Online
MAGHREB - Morocco: outlook revised to stable by S&P, Fitch
Standard & Poor's revised to 'stable' from 'negative' the outlook on Morocco's 'BBB-' long-term foreign and local currency sovereign credit ratings, and maintained the short-term ratings at 'A-3'. It attributed the outlook revision to the continued narrowing of the country's fiscal and external deficits on the back of public finance reforms and a more favorable external environment. It said that the ratings are supported by positive growth prospects, a moderate public debt burden and political and social stability. But it noted that the ratings remain constrained by low income levels, ongoing social needs, a relatively high external liability position, and the deterioration in the external debt stock and fiscal balance in recent years. It considered that improvements in the fiscal balance would require measures beyond subsidy reforms, such as addressing the public-sector wages that cost about 13% of GDP per year. Further, it pointed out that Morocco's net external liability position remains high at about 140% of current account receipts, or 60% of GDP. It projected the country's gross external financing requirements at over $15bn or 96.7% of current account receipts plus usable reserves in 2014. It expected the external financing needs to be covered by $4bn in FDI, by the full rollover of $5.5bn in short- term external debt, by sovereign and private-sector external issuances and by multilateral and bilateral debt. In parallel, Fitch Ratings affirmed Morocco's long-term foreign and local currency Issuer Default Ratings at 'BBB-' and 'BBB', respectively, with a 'stable' outlook. It attributed its decision to the country's resilience despite the turmoil in the region. Source: Standard & Poor's, Fitch Ratings
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