The 1995 trade deficit increased by 172.5 per cent to $14,073 million compared with 1994, the State Institute of Statistics (SIS) said. Surging imports on the back of rapid economic recovery from 1994 caused the increase, analysts say.

Import growth of 53.5 per cent to $35,709 million over the period far outstripped a 19.5 per cent increase in exports to $21,636 million, according to the SIS. The percentage of imports covered by exports fell to 60.6 per cent from 77.8 per cent.

Imports from EU countries increased by 54.5 per cent to $16,860 million, while exports rose by 28.3 per cent to $11,077 million. Other Middle East countries supplied $2,529 million of mainly oil imports, up 6.3 per cent on 1994, and purchased $2,050 million of exports, the same as in the previous year.

The 1996 budget and economic programme submitted to parliament recently envisages exports totalling $25,000 million and imports totalling $41,000 million (see above).