Middle East countries’ non-gold reserves rose 9.7 per cent during 1996 to SDR 54,400 million ($75,500 million), according to figures from the IMF. This figure is 20 per cent higher than the level of reserves at the end of 1994.

The rise appears to be largely due to the strength of oil prices last year, though it is less than the average for developing countries as a whole, and for industrialised countries. The non-gold reserves of developing countries rose by 16 per cent during 1996 to SDR 536,000 million ($742,300 million), while those of the industrialised countries rose by 12.5 per cent.

The IMF says it lent a total of SDR 197.8 million to the region in January through its regular and concessionary lending facilities. The main recipients were Algeria, which drew down a total of SDR 84.4 million ($117.0 million) from its standby facility, and Pakistan which used SDR 53.6 million ($74.0 million) from its standby facility. Algeria has been granted the biggest Middle East credit from the IMF, a SDR 1,169 million ($1,620 million) extended fund facility due to expire in May 1998. Egypt has yet to use any of the standby credit it agreed with the IMF in October last year. IMF officials are due to visit Turkey in April to discuss the government’s economic policy, but it is not clear yet if a standby agreement will be concluded.