The Washington-based World Bank forecasts in its 2009 Economic Development & Prospects report released on 3 October that real gross domestic product (GDP) growth in the Middle East & North Africa (MENA) region will slow to 2.2 per cent in 2009, down from 6.1 per cent in 2008.

The sharpest slow down will be recorded in oil-exporting Middle East countries. Kuwait is forecast to record negative real growth of 1.2 per cent in 2009. Saudi Arabia’s real growth is forecast to be minus 0.9 per cent.

The institution predicts that a recovery in the global economy will lift growth across the MENA region to 4 per cent in 2010. It says the fastest-growing parts of the region will be the GCC and countries with strong links to the GCC.

The report, which was released at the annual IMF/World Bank meetings in Istanbul, warns that the consequences of the global downturn could include higher unemployment and increasing levels of poverty in low-income Middle East countries.

“I have been struck by the resilience of the MENA region to the food, fuel and financial crises,” World Bank MENA region vice president Shamshad Akhtar said at a press conference on 3 October. “The MENA region has weathered the triple crisis well so far, but the crisis presents an immediate danger of rising unemployment and resurgence of poverty.”

World Bank MENA region acting chief economist Auguste Kouame said the bank’s forecast is based on the assumption that the West Texas Intermediate (WTI) blend of crude oil will average $60 a barrel in 2010. He said it was more likely for it to be above rather than below that level in the year.

Middle East & North Africa (MENA) region real GDP growth, 2008-10 (%)

  2008e 2009f 2010f
MENA region 6.1 2.2 4
GCC 6.3 1.1 4.2
Bahrain 6.1 2.4 4
Kuwait 5.2 -1.2 2.4
Oman 6.2 3 3.8
Qatar 16.4 18.2 16.2
Saudi Arabia 4.6 -0.9 3
UAE 7.4 0.3 3.3
Oil exporters with large populations 5.6 2.7 3.5
Algeria 3 2.2 3.5
Iran 6.9 2.5 3
Iraq 9.8 6.9 6.7
Libya 6.3 2.9 4.8
Syria 5.2 3 3.5
Yemen 4 7.7 5
Diversified exporters with strong GCC links 6.1 2.5 4.2
Djibouti 5.8 5 5.5
Jordan 5.5 2.5 3.5
Lebanon 6.5 2.5 4.5
Diversified exporters integrated with Europe 6.5 4 3.9
Egypt 7.2 3.8 4.2
Morocco 5.6 5 3
Tunisia 4.5 3 4

Source: Economic Developments & Prospects 2009, The World Bank, 3 October 2009