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GDP growth in Middle East jumps

Brussels, April 20, IRNA -- Despite severe disruption in the Middle East due to the Iraq conflict GDP growth jumped from 3.3 percent in 2002 to 5.1 percent in 2003, the strongest economic performance since 1991, according to a World Bank report.

Underpinning the advance was a sharp upturn in growth for the region's oil-exporting economies, to 5.7 percent from 3.6 percent during 2002.

The report on "Global Development Finance 2004" was presented to the press in Brussels Tuesday by Uri Dadush, Director, development economic prospects group, and Jeffrey Lewis, manager, international finance department, of the World Bank.

As crude-oil production is scaled back once again (with OPEC quota reductions expected in 2004), growth among key oil exporters is expected to ease to 3.7 percent in 2004 and to maintain a similar pace of expansion through 2005.

Robust advances were made in Algeria, Iran, and Saudi Arabia, supported by rising petroleum revenues.

Soaring oil receipts maintained the region's aggregate current account surplus near $25 billion, or 4.2 percent of regional GDP.

The annual report predicts continued strong growth among the resource-rich, labor-abundant countries of the region, notably Algeria and Iran.

Investment reforms and gradual opening of economies to trade have been pursued to varying degrees in Jordan and Tunisia, and in Egypt and Morocco, as well as in the resource-based economies of Algeria and Iran.

The report noted that from 1992 to 2003, total international investment in developing countries' infrastructure is estimated to have been $622 billion - an average of $52 billion a year or 3.8 percent of total gross domestic investment in the developing world.

Infrastructure needs in developing countries remain largely unmet - 1.1 billion people lack access to safe drinking water, 2.4 billion are affected by inadequate sanitation, 1.4 billion have no power.

... Payvand News - 4/20/04 ... --

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