Pay It Back! 29 January 2022
In 2000, Dubai’s population stood at 862k – ten years later it had more than doubled to 1.321 million and then by 2020 had surged a further 79.1% to 3.411 million; in twenty years, the number of people living in the emirate had quadrupled. Because of Covid, the numbers initially dropped but, by the end of 2021, was at 3.456 million. The government’s Dubai Plan forecasts a more than doubling of the current population by 2040 to 7.0 million, with an annual growth rate of 3.75%. In the period from 2000 to 2021, the annual growth rate was 6.85%, so there are arguments to indicate that the population could grow at a faster rate and assuming this was at 5.75%, the population could top ten million by then.
When it comes to real estate, it is obvious that there will be a huge demand for housing and the problem facing the government and contractors is to estimate the actual number of new units needed to satisfy demand. In the four-year period to 2019, the population increased 36.1%, whilst the number of housing units rose by 42.0% to 686k, which included a 10.5% hike in 2019, equating to 65k units. According to the latest Dubai Annual Market Report by Core, 37k units were delivered last year, of which 5.9k were villas and the balance apartments.
Assuming that on average, 3.5 persons live in an apartment and 4.5 in a villa, and labourers comprise between 26% – 30% of the population, the following tables show the number of housing units that will have to be built over the next twenty years. It must also be remembered that, with an increased population, the rest of the economy benefits – more offices, more hotels, more roads, more schools, more leisure facilities etc. It is highly probable that the socio-economic mix will see the percentage of unskilled migrant workers declining, whilst the number of entrepreneurs will increase, as Dubai aims to become the world’s smartest city.
The following tables indicate Dubai’s actual population and number of ‘housing units’ in 2015, 2019 and 2021 and estimated figures for 2040, if the population were either 7 million or 10 million. The current number of housing units is 700.1k (126.4k villas and 573.7k apartments), whilst the estimates for the number of housing units in 2040 are estimated at 1.4 million – 252k villas and 1.148 million apartments – (if the population were to be 7 million) and 2.0 million, (360k villas and 1.640 million apartments), if the population were to grow to 10 million.
For the previous week, ending 21 January 2022, Dubai Land Department recorded a total of 1,559 real estate and properties transactions, with a gross value of US$ 1.12 billion. It confirmed that 1,059 villas/apartments were sold for US$ 613 million, and 287 plots for US$ 294 million over the week. The top three transfers for apartments and villas were all apartments – one was sold for US$ 80 million in Marsa Dubai, a second sold for US$ 64 million in Burj Khalifa, and the third for US$ 47 million in Palm Jumeriah. The top two land transactions were for a plot in Al Hebiah Fifth, worth US$ 52 million, and US$ 12 million for a plot in Al Thanyah First. The most popular locations, in terms of volume and value, were Al Hebiah Fifth, with 222 transactions, totalling US$ 171 million, followed by Jebal Ali First with eleven sales transactions, worth US$ 8 million, and Hadaeq Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid with nine sales transactions, worth US$ 29 million. Mortgaged properties for the week totalled US$ 190 million, with the highest being for land in Mankhool for US$ 25 million; sixty properties were granted between first-degree relatives, worth US$ 39 million.
According to Savills, this year will see residential and industrial property becoming the strongest real estate investment asset class globally. The international research firm also noted that for the twelve months to November 2021, volumes rose 38% to US$ 1.3 trillion, as an increasing number of funds looked to invest in the asset class. It forecast that, as regional population growth picks up again, especially in the UAE, residential development will continue to remain a key focus area and that Dubai property prices will continue to rise, driven by continuing government economic reforms. Savills noted that residential – including multi-family, student and senior housing – was the largest sector for investment globally in 2021, overtaking offices for the first time. Dubai prime residential properties will continue to attract investor demand, while other segments of the residential market play catch up.
The top five areas, with the highest volumes of luxury home sales, were Palm Jumeirah with US$ 900 million, Downtown Dubai at US$ 872 million, Business Bay at US$ 746 million, Mohammed bin Rashid City – US$ 477 million – and Dubai Marina, with total sales of US$ 346 million. In the prime residential market, Al Barari area recorded the highest Q4 growth in sales to US$ 102 million, up on the quarter from US$ 33 million, followed by Jumeirah, with sales of US$ 101 million from US$ 33 million, and Arabian Ranches 1, where sales rose to US$ 123 million from US$ 48 million.
As there was a surge in demand for apartments, Dubai’s prime villa market posted a Q4 33.8% contraction to US$ 1.12 billion of sales, with an average price of US$ 2.89 million for a villa. Luxhabitat Sotheby’s indicated that the number of top-end apartments sold increased 35% to US$ 3.02 billion, with the average prime apartment costing US$ 654k, with an average price per sq ft at US$ 450. The company expects to see this year being the best ever year for Dubai’s luxury property market, but noted that there was a shortage “in stock of premium and luxury properties, specifically larger apartments, penthouses and luxury beachfront or golf course-view villas.”
In a bid to further enhance Dubai Land Department’s position as a major global real estate destination, it has signed three memoranda of understanding with Bayut, DXBinteract.com, and Property Finder, all Dubai firms that provide the market with smart and advanced real estate solutions. Under the agreements, DLD will receive up to date, reliable, interactive and comprehensive details of the many facets of the industry including regional buying and selling prices, and the changing data that takes place in the real estate market during price changes. It will not only help government, with updating relative legislation, it will also ensure that consumers have all the requiredinformation to make a real estate decision, whether it be for sale, purchase or renting
On Monday, Dubai’s Crown Prince, Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, officially opened the Arab Health and Medlab Middle East Exhibition and Congress 2022. Held under the banners, ‘United by business, driving the industry forward’ and ‘Connect with innovation that’s changing the face of diagnostics’, it is the largest in person event for healthcare and laboratory companies, technology and products in the MENA region. The four-day event, with 3.5k exhibitors from sixty countries, hosted 60k attendees.
After hosting 120 ‘economic events’ last year, Dubai has plans to more than triple that number to 400 by 2025. These ‘events’ include the likes of conferences, meetings and incentive travel programmes, and will add economic benefits, as Dubai becomes an even more popular global hub of choice for businesses, associations and talent across a wide range of sectors and professions. There is no doubt that Dubai’s rapid economic recovery, and its handling of the pandemic, have helped the emirate stand out as a preferred destination for events of all sizes. In recent months, Dubai became one of the first global centres to host large-scale in-person events, including Expo 2020 Dubai, (with ten million visits to date), The Big 5, Gitex, Arab Health and Arabian Travel Market. Some of the major events that Dubai won last year were the 27th International Council of Museums general conference in 2025, the BIR World Recycling Convention & Exhibition in 2022, Asian Congress in Paediatric Nephrology in 2023 and the Congress of the International Society for Peritoneal Dialysis in 2024. This year, it has added the likes of McDonald’s Russia Convention, AIA Star Convention and Oriflame Anniversary Gold Conference to its portfolio of corporate meetings and incentive travel programmes. During this year, Dubai Business Events will lead nine sales missions in traditional strongholds such as India, Europe and China, as well as markets, where it sees strong opportunities for growth, including Israel and Latin America.
Despite it forecasting a 40% hike in 2021 revenue to US$ 1.4 billion, 40% higher on the year, Dubai Duty Free has still some way to go to top its record 2019 record return of US$ 2.0 billion. However, the airport retailer is planning to recall more of its staff, laid off during the pandemic, as passenger traffic begins to rebound, with marked increases in numbers from the nationals of Russia and Saudi Arabia, as well as the relatively new Israeli market. It is expected that theoverall average spending per passenger will exceed pre-pandemic levels of US$ 40 in 2019 and could top US$ 55 this year. DXB is expected an almost doubling, of passengers from 28.7 million to 57.0 million in 2022.
Last year, DEWA invested US$ 790 million in opening sixteen new substations, comprising 14 132kV stations, with a conversion capacity of 2.1k megavolt amperes, and two 400kV stations, to keep up with increasing demand; these two are located in Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park and Al Quoz 2, with a conversion capacity of 4k megavolt amperes. The plan is to see Dubai’s energy needs being met from clean sources by 2050, whilst by 2030, it is hoped that the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park will have a capacity of 5k megawatt upon completion. It is estimated that the authority invested US$ 2.6 billion last year on existing and completed electricity transmission projects, including US$ 0.6 billion for 400 kV transmission projects and US$ 2.0 billion for 132 kV projects. Dewa plans to list on the DFM, becoming one of ten state-backed companies to be floated, as part of government plans to boost activity on the local bourse.
DEWA posted that last year saw a 9.8% hike in energy demand to 50.2k gigawatt-hours. On a daily basis, this equates to 13.4k megawatts of electricity and 490 million imperial gallons of desalinated water. In 2020, it managed to reduce electricity transmission and distribution networks losses to 3.3%, compared to 6% – 7% recorded in Europe and the USA; water network losses decreased to 5.1%, compared to around 15% in North America. It also achieved a new world record in electricity Customer Minutes Lost (CML) per year, recording 1.66 minutes in Dubai, compared to around 15 minutes recorded by leading electricity companies in the EU.
Last year, the country’s industrial exports reached US$ 33 billion, with the help of an increase of 220 new factories that commenced production in 2021. Many of these new production units benefited from the UAE’s national strategy for industry and advanced technology, whose main target is to more than double the sector’s contribution to the country’s GDP, from US$ 36.2 billion to US$ 82.0 billion, (AED 300 billion), over the next decade; the main aims of the recently national strategy, ‘Operation 300 bn’, is to ensure that the UAE becomes a global industrial centre within ten years and to support 13.5k SMEs over that period. Its recently launched its In-Country Value programme and expects to increase, by 50%, the redirection rate of government spending towards local companies by 2031.
The RTA estimates that since its September 2009 opening, Dubai Metro has eliminated over one billion private vehicle journeys and that it has reduced carbon dioxide emissions by 2.6 million tons, as well as having saved the economy over US$ 31 billion. The authority’s chairman, Mattar Mohammed Al Tayer, noted that it “has launched numerous projects and initiatives to boost the public and sustainable transport to increase the proportion of journeys made by sustainable modes and walk from 30% in 2020 to more than 43% by 2030”. In his address to the main session of the Dubai International Project Management Forum, he also noted that it was HH Sheikh Mohammed’s aim to make Dubai the best city for living and doing business in the world, and thus he established the Dubai Master Urban Plan 2040 to focus on serving its inhabitants and achieving sustainable urban development. The Strategy aims to encourage innovation in waste management, recycling and energy conversion, and complements a range of projects that will strengthen the city’s position as a leading global destination for investors, entrepreneurs and visitors.
With its recently announced partnership, with US blockchain company Ripple, Al Fardan’s customers will now be able to remit money internationally in real time. The Dubai money transfer company will be able to negate the ageing and expensive legacy infrastructure, replacing it with a more flexible, speedier and cheaper cloud-based system, as it joins RippleNet Cloud. Chief Executive, Hasan Al Fardan commented that “this partnership underscores our commitment to offer new channels and opportunities for people to remit money more securely, with more flexibility and convenience.” Customers are becoming more tech-savvy and more reliant on the ease and convenience of mobile apps to send money home, rather than visiting physical branches. According to the World Bank, remittances to poor and middle-income countries are projected to have grown 7.3% to $589 billion in 2021 and are projected to grow a further 2.6% this year.
The disgraced founder of the now closed Abraaj Group, Arif Naqvi, has been fined more than US$ 135 million by the Dubai Financial Services Authority and was also banned from conducting business in the Dubai International Financial Centre “for serious failings” in respect to the company; a much smaller fine of just over US$ 1 million, along with same ban, was levied on former managing director, Waqar Siddique. Both men dispute the findings and have referred the Decision Notices to the Financial Markets Tribunal. At its peak, it was the region’s biggest private equity firm, managing assets of over US$ 14 billion.
It got into deep trouble in 2018, when an investigation was launched by a group of investors, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, into alleged mismanagement of money in Abraaj’s US$ 1 billion healthcare fund. It was also alleged that Mr Naqvi “attempted to appeal to more senior members of staff at the investors’ organisations to quash their queries [and] was central to the cover-up of a US$ 400 million shortfall across two funds by temporarily borrowing monies for the purpose of producing bank balance confirmations and financial statements to mislead auditors and investors”, as well as approving “the change of a fund’s financial year end to avoid disclosing a US$ 200 million shortfall; and personally arranged to borrow US$ 350 million from an individual in an attempt to make the Abraaj Group appear solvent and appease the demands of investors”, according to the DFSA notice”.
Both men have been charged in the US for fraud and money laundering. The founder of Abraaj, currently in the UK on bail of US$ 20 million, is facing extradition charges to the US to face the courts in New York. His former managing director is one of six former Abraaj executives facing extortion and securities fraud charges, following an investigation by US prosecutors into the collapse of Abraaj. Only one, Mustafa Abdel-Wadood, has faced the court and he pleaded guilty to seven counts of an indictment against him and is co-operating with the US authorities.
Emirates NBD posted a 53.0% Q4 increase in profit to US$ 544 million, as both net interest income and non-funded income headed north – by 7.0% to US$ 1.17 billion and doubling to US$ 600 million. On an annual basis, profit was 34.0% higher, at US$ 2.53 billion, as non-funded income was up 21.0% to US$ 1.88 billion, with impairment allowances 26.0% lower at US$ 1.61 billion. A much improved US$ 0.136 per dividend has been proposed. The improvement came as the local economy continued to make a strong recovery from the impact of the pandemic, greatly helped by the government’s US$ 106 billion economic stimulus, including the central bank’s US$ 13.6 billion Targeted Economic Support Scheme to boost liquidity in the financial and banking sector. Last month, there was a six-month extension, to 30 June 2022, for relief measures relating to banks’ capital buffers, liquidity and stable funding requirements.
Its sister bank, Emirates Islamic, reported a 15.0% hike in total income to US$ 651 million, resulting in a 271% jump in net profit to US$ 224 million, driven by higher non-funded income and a significant reduction in the cost of risk. By year end, assets were at US$ 17.7 billion, customer deposits had moved 1.0% up, to US$ 12.9 billion, and customer financing increased 4.0% to US$ 1.2 billion.
The DFM opened on Monday, 24 January, 8 points (0.2%) to the good on the previous week, nudged a further 10 points (0.3%) higher to close the week, on Friday 28 January, on 3,220. Emaar Properties, US$ 0.03 lower the previous three weeks, gained US$ 0.02 to close on US$ 1.34. Emirates NBD, DIB and DFM started the previous week on US$ 3.68, US$ 1.50 and US$ 0.68 and closed on US$ 3.77, US$ 1.50 and US$ 0.65. On 28 January, slightly improved trading saw 126 million shares change hands, with a value of US$ 72 million, compared to 61 million shares, with a value of US$ 54 million, on 21 January 2022.
By Friday 28 January 2022, Brent, US$ 13.46 (18.0%) higher the previous five weeks, continued its mega run and gained a further US$ 2.90 (3.3%), to close on US$ 90.68. Gold, up US$ 5 (0.3%) the previous week, lost US$ 46 (2.5%), to close Friday 28 January on US$ 1,790.
Apple posted record quarterly sales and net profit in Q1, of its 2022 financial year, despite supply chain challenges, with revenue 11.2% to the good at US$ 123.9 billion and net profit 20.0% higher on the year (but 68% up on the preceding quarter) at US$ 35.0 billion. All its product ranges posted growth, including smartphones, (which account for 57.7% of the total sales), 4.0% higher, with sales of US$ 71.6 billion, services, 23.8% higher at US$ 19.5 billion, wearables, home and accessories products up 13.3% to US$ 14.7billion, and 4.0% up to US$ 18.1 billion. Area-wise, the US contributed US$ 51.5 billion (41.5%) to the total followed by Europe and the Greater China market (China, Hong Kong and Taiwan), which added US$ 29.7 billion and US$ 25.8 billion. Apple is targeting a net cash neutral position in the future and declared a US$ 0.22 cash dividend, having already returned some US$ 27 billion to its shareholders. The tech giant’s share price rose more than 4.0%, to US$ 159 a share, in after-hours trading.
MasterCard posted a 27% hike in Q4 revenue to US$ 5.2 billion, as net profit rose by 33% to US$ 2.4 billion, driven by a recovery in global spending and surge in cross-border transactions, increasing 53% over the quarter, and now returning to pre-pandemic levels. Its operating income rose 37%, on an annual basis to US$ 2.8 billion, while operating expenses were up 16% to US$ 2.4 billion. During the quarter, it repurchased 3.7 million shares, costing US$ 1.3 billion, and paid out US$ 434 million in dividends. Purchase transactions totalled US$ 38.9 billion – 25.6% higher than in Q4 2020. Over the year, it posted a 23% rise in revenue to US$ 18.9 billion, whilst net profit came in 35% higher at US$ 8.7 billion. Last month, MasterCard agreed to acquire McDonald’s personalisation platform and decision engine company, Dynamic Yield.
Visa delivered very strong results with revenue, net income and EPS all growing at 24% or higher, as total quarterly transactions rose 21%, over the year to reach 47.6 billion, payments volume was up 20%. Revenue, at US$ 7.1 billion, topped US$ 7.0 billion for the first time, helped by a quicker-than-expected resumption in travel spending and sustained growth in categories like e-commerce. Net income in fiscal Q1 was 29% higher at US$ 4.0 billion, equating to US$ 1.83 per share. In fiscal Q1, Visa rebought 19.4 million shares for a total of US$ 4.1 billion, at an average price of US$ 210, and it authorised a new US$ 12 billion common stock share repurchase programme. By 31 December, Visa’s cash, cash equivalents and investment securities stood at US$ 18 billion. Last month, it acquired Currencycloud – a global platform that enables banks and FinTechs to provide innovative foreign exchange solutions for cross-border payments.
Samsung Electronics posted a 24% hike in Q4 revenue to US$ 63.5 billion, resulting in a 53% surge in Q4 operating profit to US$ 11.5 billion, as record sales helped the company quickly rebound despite supply chain disruptions. The world’s biggest mobile phone manufacturer also posted an 18.0% rise in annual revenue to US$ 191.7 billion, driving profit 43.4% higher to US$ 42.8 billion attributed to a marked improvement in the sales of premium smartphones, including foldable phones, as well as TVs and home appliances. With a market cap of US$ 400 billion, Samsung is the world’s third-largest chip manufacturer behind Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company and California-based Nvidia, but ahead of Intel, Qualcomm and Advanced Micro Devices. In Q4, its semiconductor business had revenue of US$ 17.9 billion, producing a US$ 7.3 billion profit, accounting for 64% of its quarterly profit; for the year, it accounted for 57% of the company’s operating profit and over a third to revenue. In the last quarter, Samsung lost its top position, in the smartphone market to Apple, having 20% of the global market to its rival’s 22%. Quarterly revenue came in at US$ 23.9 billion, with an operating profit of US$ 2.2 billion. Despite its impressive 2021 results strong earnings, its share price dipped 2.73% on Thursday.
A miserable Q4 for Boeing saw the US plane maker posting a massive US$ 4.1 billion deficit, attributable to factors mainly involving its troubled wide-body 787. Revenue was 3.3% lower at US$ 14.8 billion. In the quarter, it accounted for a total of US$ 3.8 billion in one-time expenses, associated with compensating airlines for delayed deliveries and more costly production processes. It has also suspended deliveries of the 787 due to quality problems, but some good news for the troubled manufacturer was the resumption of 737 MAX planes which had been on hold for twenty months following two fatal crashes.
After a record 2021, with revenue up 71% to US$ 53.8 billion, and profit at US$ 5.5 billion, Elon Musk is confident that Tesla sales will be more than 50% higher in 2022; he did note that its supply chain was “the main limiting factor” to growth, “which is likely to continue through 2022”. In 2021, “a breakthrough year for Tesla, and for electric vehicles in general”, it delivered an almost 90% increase in the number of electric vehicles to 936k units.. Tesla has an added advantage, compared to many of its major competitors, because it uses microchips that are less scarce and is able to quickly re-write software, while competitors continue to suffer, with supply chain problems and slow production, causing a shortage of microchips, among other production and supply chain snarls, though Tesla has been seen to be faring better than most. Increased production is more likely now that its two latest factories in China and Texas are operational and that a new Berlin factory is under construction. He does not seem too perturbed with increased investment from legacy carmakers entering the electric car market with intent, noting that companies like GM have “some room for improvement”. He also expected fully self-driving cars “will become the most important source of profitability for Tesla”.
Bentley is planning to pump in US$ 2.5 billion into its electric vehicles division in Crewe and is on record that its first electric car will roll of the assembly line by 2025, and it will only be producing electric models by 2030. The luxury car manufacturer, which employs 4k, “aims to become the benchmark not just for luxury cars or sustainable credentials but the entire scope of our operations.” It also plans to make its Crewe plant carbon neutral, including becoming net-zero with waste and water-use. Sales of new cars and vans, powered wholly by petrol and diesel, are set to be banned in the UK from 2030.
Even before the onset of Covid-19 in Q1 2020, and the uncertainty that followed the Brexit vote, UK car production was on the decline and because of this, investment in the sector had been slowly drying up. Latest figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders saw UK vehicle production of under 860k units, its lowest level since 1956, mainly attributable to the ongoing disruption caused by the Covid pandemic and a severe shortage of semiconductors; (it is estimated that a modern vehicle may utilise between 1.5k and 3k chips to operate engine management systems). This figure was 6.7% lower than a year earlier and a marked 34% down on pre-Covid 2019 figures. Although there is some hope that the impact of Covid may dissipate this year, the industry will face another disruptor – soaring energy costs that see the UK paying more for energy than any other European nation. Even though other car-making countries have had a head start on the UK industry, in the electric vehicle segment, the recent US$ 6.6 billion of new investment may result in the start of the UK becoming a global player.
New Zealand’s annual inflation rate, at 5.9%, is the highest recorded in the country since the mid-1990s, and because it was much higher than expected, it is inevitable that the RBNZ will take further action to negate its impact; it had already raised rates at its last two meetings and could do it again on 23 February. Petrol prices have jumped 30%, over the past twelve months, whilst prices for construction and rentals for housing have also increased. The problem is not unique to New Zealand, as other economies are taking steps to clamp down on the rising cost of living.
Christine Lagarde and the ECB seem to have a different approach, to the Federal Reserve and the BoE, when it comes to tackling soaring inflation. Whilst the latter two are in the throes of raising rates, as early as next month, she stands steadfastly against pressing the button, warning the bank had “every reason not to act as quickly or as ruthlessly”. The French banker indicated that raising interest rates too soon risked “putting the brakes on growth”, arguing that she wanted its monetary policy to act as “a shock absorber” instead. Echoing what she has been preaching for too long now, she has reiterated that inflation in the bloc would stabilise and “gradually fall” over the course of this year. By the end of last year, inflation was at a record 5%, well above the ECB’s 2% target. Not only will there be no 2022 rate hikes, according to the ECB’s mantra, it will also continue buying large amounts of bonds for most of this year, raising its longstanding asset purchase programme, from US$ 23 billion a month to US$ 45 billion, to partly offset the ending of new purchases under its US$ 2.10 trillion pandemic emergency purchase programme (PEPP) in March. Maybe the main reason for what seems an illogical policy is political – leading European governments have been borrowing significantly during the pandemic, and any tightening of monetary policy could create serious problems for highly indebted eurozone members, as borrowing costs will head north.
Following a 5.9% hike in worldwide GDP, the IMF has lowered its global economic 2022 growth forecast, by 0.5% to 4.4%, driven by the continuing threat of Omicron and the supply chain disruptions, which do not appear to be going away, both stoking inflation amid higher energy prices. The recent markdown in both the US and Chinese markets also dragged the annual forecast south. For the major economies, the biggest growth last year was in India (9.0% with 2022 expansion forecast at 9.0%), China (8.1%: 4.8%), the UK (7.2%: 4.7%), the US (5.6%: 4.0%), Germany (4.6%: 3.8%), France (3.9%: 3.5%), and Japan (1.6%: 3.3%). In 2021, advanced economies grew 5.0% in 2021, and is expected to expand 3.9% this year and 2.6% in 2023. The IMF has “revised up our 2022 inflation forecasts for both advanced and emerging market and developing economies, with elevated price pressures expected to persist for longer.” It also noted that higher inflation should fade as supply chain disruptions ease, monetary policy tightens and demand rebalances away from goods-intensive consumption towards services. Not known for accurate forecasts, the world body anticipates that in 2023, the global economy growth will be 3.8%, conditional on the Covid impact dissipating and that vaccination rates become more global.
With surging inflation – now touching 30-year highs of 7.5% – increasing the cost of debt, Interest payments on UK government borrowing hit a record high last month – at US$ 11.2 billion, triple the balance of just a year earlier. Meanwhile, December’s official borrowing – the gap between spending and tax receipts – was a lower-than-forecast US$ 22.7billion, 31.1% down from the figure in December 2020; this was attributable to increased income from housing stamp duty and fuel taxes. With three months to go until the end of the fiscal year, borrowing stands at US$ 198.3 billion. With further rate hikes almost certain this year, it is interesting to note that every 1% rate increase will add US$ 27.0 billion to the cost of public debt repayments – another headache for the Chancellor who has to find ways to Pay It Back!