General region overview
The India, Middle East and Africa region (IMEA) is a significant export market for New Zealand. It is also a region of vast diversity and varying levels of economic development.
There has been a strong response across IMEA to the COVID-19 outbreak, with most countries pausing commercial flights and closing borders. Existing geopolitical tensions in the region have taken a back seat as countries react to the immediate COVID-19 threat.
There are considerable social impacts across the region – with most events, gatherings, schools, entertainment, restaurants and sports venues closed across multiple markets. Governments are increasingly moving to stricter enforcement, including police patrols and curfews, broadly similar to New Zealand's COVID-19 Alert Level.
The Middle East has seen a strong stimulus response from both the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Saudi Arabia has pledged a 50 billion riyal (NZ$22 billion) package aimed at SMEs to preserve jobs. Similarly, the UAE's central bank has announced a 100 billion dirham (NZ$45 billion) package offered as capital buffers and zero-interest loans to local banks.
Given the significance of the airline, oil, financial and tourism sectors to the entire region, COVID-19 will have a substantial impact in coming weeks, and more stimulus and support packages will be announced by governments in the region to offset this.