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MENA oil exporters to grow stronger in 2012 while importers struggle: IMF

(Xinhua)

08:25, May 03, 2012

DUBAI, May 2 (Xinhua) -- The International Monetary Fund (IMF) said Wednesday that oil exporting countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) will grow 5 percent in 2012, up from 4 percent last year amid robust oil prices and increased government spending, while MENA oil importers' GDP growth will only add slightly to 2.7 percent amid tricky fiscal and unemployment issues.

Presenting the regional outlook for the MENA region, Masoud Ahmed, director of the IMF's Middle East and Central Asia Department, said the IMF expects GDP growth in the region to strengthen and become more broad-based this year.

He explained further that high oil prices shielded and continue to shield MENA oil exporting countries from the negative impact of the euro zone crisis. Combined external current account surplus almost doubled in 2011 among the MENA oil exporters to 400 billion U.S. dollars.

"The Gulf Arab nations in the GCC saw an 11 percent growth last year as they increased oil production to compensate for supply decreases, but they will return to normal oil production in 2012 and their GDP growth will settle around 5.3 percent this year," Ahmed said.

In Tuesday's trading, oil prices (U.S. crude) climbed above around five-week high at about 106 dollars per barrel.

Ahmed added that, after the difficult year 2011 due to the turmoil in the Arab world, MENA oil importing countries like Egypt, Lebanon or Jordan will have a financing need of 90-100 billion dollars in 2012 and 2013.

MENA oil importers' GDP will grow 2.7 percent in 2012, up from 2.2 percent in the crisis-ridden previous year, he said.

"Rising unemployment, along with diminished policy space, will remain the largest challenges for MENA oil importing countries in the ongoing year," Ahmed noted.

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