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Saudi growth up — IMF

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AFP) — The International Monetary Fund on Monday raised its growth projection for the deficit-hit Saudi economy on the back of higher oil prices but retained its estimates for the region.

In its World Economic Outlook update, the IMF said the Saudi economy – which shrank 0.7 per cent last year – is expected to grow by 1.6 per cent in 2018, up 0.5 per cent on its October estimates.

The Saudi economy is also projected to grow by 2.2 per cent next year, up 0.6 per cent on the previous estimate, it said.

The IMF, however, maintained its October projections for growth in the Middle East, North Africa, Afghanistan and Pakistan (MENAP) region at 3.6 per cent and 3.5 per cent for this year and 2019, respectively.

“While stronger oil prices are helping a recovery in domestic demand in oil exporters, including Saudi Arabia, the fiscal adjustment that is still needed is projected to weigh on growth prospects,” the IMF said.

It said oil prices rose 20 per cent between August and October of last year.

The Saudi economy, the largest in the region, contracted last year for the first time since 2009 when it dove into negative territory due to the global financial crisis.

The kingdom has posted budget deficits in the past four fiscal years since oil prices began to plunge. It is projected to remain in the red until 2023.

Riyadh has introduced a series of austerity measures to boost non-oil income, raising the prices of fuel and power, imposing fees and charges on expatriate labour and introducing a value-added tax (VAT) of five per cent.

Economic growth in the oil-dependent Gulf states has plummeted due to a sharp drop in oil revenues.

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