ME oil exporters to grow faster

Economic growth for most Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) oil exporters is likely to accelerate this year, although some may see a sharp slowdown due to social unrest, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said on Wednesday.

Regional real gross domestic product (GDP) should expand by 4.9 per cent this year, less than the 5 per cent projected by the IMF in October but well above 3.5 per cent in 2010, the multilateral lender said in its regional economic report.

“Growth is likely to be uneven in 2011, but the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) as a group is racing ahead. Bahrain, Iran, Libya, Sudan, and Yemen are likely to be negatively affected but the rest are expected to grow well above trend,” the IMF said.

The forecast for the region, home to six of the world’s top 10 oil exporters, is not fully comparable with previous figures as the IMF chose to exclude Libya, torn by fighting between rebels and forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi.

The fund said robust crude prices – near their highest since September 2008 at around $112 per barrel – and raised government spending aimed at easing social tensions were among key factors supporting economic expansion in the region.

Growth in impoverished Yemen, shaken by three months of protests against President Ali Abdullah Saleh, was forecast to plunge to 3.4 per cent this year from 8 per cent in 2010.

Bahrain’s economic output should expand by 3.1 per cent, the IMF said, down from 4.5 per cent last year. Some indicator forecasts had already been updated in the IMF’s World Economic Outlook, released earlier this month.

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