The IMF has forecast real gross domestic product (GDP) growth for 2000 for the Middle East at 4.8 per cent in its World Economic Outlook report published in advance of the annual meetings to be held in Prague on 19-28 September.

The IMF presents a conservative estimation of real GDP growth for Saudi Arabia in 2000, pitching it at 3.5 per cent. Regional economists by contrast have predicted a higher growth rate.

Brad Bourland, chief economist at Saudi American Bank (Samba), for example, anticipates a real GDP growth rate of 5.3 per cent for the kingdom this year. In its last World Economic Outlook published in April, the IMF had forecast a growth rate of 1-2 per cent in Saudi Arabia.

The IMF foresees Egypt as the fastest-growing country in the region, forecasting a real GDP growth rate of 5 per cent in 2000. This is regarded as optimistic by local economists, given the evidence of a sharp contraction in business activity in Egypt this year.

The IMF report says the rebound in world oil prices and the rise in OPEC production quotas in 1999/2000 have boosted economic activity for most oil producing countries in the region. However, it says that non-oil producing countries ‘have faced substantial terms-of-trade losses as export prices of nonfuel commodities and other primary goods remain generally depressed’.

IMF gowth, inflation and current account forecasts (selected countries) (annual percentage change unless otherwise stated)

Real GDP Consumer prices* Current account balance**

1998 1999 2000 2001 1998 1999 2000 2001 1998 1999 2000 20001

Algeria 5.1 3.3 4.3 4.2 4.9 2.6 1.0 2.0 -1.9 0.0 12.6 10.3

Egypt 5.6 6.0 5.0 4.5 4.7 3.8 2.9 3.0 -3.1 -2.0 -1.8 -1.8

Iran 2.2 2.5 3.4 4.0 20.0 20.4 16.0 13.0 -2.2 5.0 7.7 3.4

Jordan 1.7 1.6 3.0 3.5 3.1 0.6 2.5 3.1 0.3 5.2 3.4 1.5

Kuwa it 2.0 -2.4 3.6 2.0 0.5 1.9 1.5 2.5 10.0 16.5 28.7 24.4

Morocco 6.8 -0.7 2.4 5.0 2.7 0.7 2.3 2.0 -0.4 -0.8 -2.3 -1.6

Saudi Arabia 1.6 -1.0 3.5 2.9 -0.2 -1.2 1.0 1.9 -10.2 -1.2 6.6 1.6

Tun i s i a 5.0 6.2 5.0 6.0 3.1 2.7 3.5 3.0 -3.4 -2.0 -3.4 -3.5

Turkey 3.1 -5.0 4.5 4.8 84.6 64.9 46.5 17.0 1.0 -0.7 -3.1 -2.4 *

In accordance with standard practice in the World Economic Outlook, movements in consumer prices are indicated as annual averages rather than as December/December changes during the year as is the practice in some countries ** % of GDP

Source: IMF