Oil exporters to lead Middle East economic growth in 2012, IMF says
Despite political and economic changes in the Middle East and North Africa following the Arab Spring, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said Tuesday it expects the region's growth to reach 5.3 per cent this year, led by oil exporting states, DPA reported.
The estimate, published in Tokyo, comes after uncertainties and internal conflicts in some of the region's countries resulted in a weakening in activity and a 3.3-per-cent growth rate in 2011.
Uprisings and conflicts since early 2011 have lead to the ouster of long-standing rulers in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen.
"A general policy priority in the MENA region is to secure economic and social stability through more inclusive medium-term growth," said the report, recommending institutional and regulatory reform and measures to address chronically high unemployment, particularly among the youth.
Growth in oil-exporting nations is expected to accelerate, from about 4 per cent in 2011 to 6.5 per cent in 2012, largely as a result of a sharp rebound in activity in Libya.
The country's interim government said in September that Libya is now producing 1.6 million barrels of oil per day, after production dropped dramatically during the 2011 conflict that overthrew long-time leader Moamer Gaddafi.
The Libyan boost will end in 2013, bringing down the growth estimates among oil exporters to 3.8 per cent, according to the report, which was released ahead of the IMF's annual meeting with the World Bank on October 9-14 in Tokyo.
A decline in oil prices remains a major risk in the near-term outlook for exporting countries, as it might affect infrastructure investment and growth. However, Iran-related and other geopolitical issued could lead to higher oil prices.
In contrast, growth in oil-importing countries is estimated at 1.2 per cent in 2012, with unrest and political uncertainty leading to a drop in tourism and foreign direct investment.
The report, which refers to MENA as a "two-speed region," also notes that the ongoing crisis in Europe, a major trading partner for many states in the region, has also left its mark.
Despite social and security unrest in Tunisia and Egypt, both now ruled by Islamist administrations, IMF projections are higher than in 2011. The report puts estimated growth for Egypt and Tunisia in 2012 at 2 and 2.7 per cent respectively.
"Looking forward, uncertainty is expected to decrease as political transitions stabilize, while external demand picks up, and growth in oil importers is projected to recover to 3.3 per cent in 2013," said the report.
Growth rate for the region is estimated at 3.6 per cent in 2013. Syria was excluded from the report's projections because of the ongoing conflict there.