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IMF Raises Saudi Arabia's 2018 Growth Forecast as Oil Climbs

Updated on
  • Growth forecast revised upwards from 1.1% earlier estimate
  • Higher oil prices, government handouts could boost economy
FIM Partners CEO and CIO Hedi Ben Mlouka discusses the Saudi Arabia economy.

The International Monetary Fund has raised its economic growth forecasts for Saudi Arabia as oil prices rise, though the pace of expansion remains below government estimates.

Gross domestic product will likely grow 1.6 percent this year, the IMF said on Monday, compared with an earlier forecast of 1.1 percent. The Washington-based lender also revised its 2019 economic growth forecast to 2.2 percent from 1.6 percent. The government expects GDP to grow 2.7 percent this year.

“While stronger oil prices are helping a recovery in domestic demand in oil exporters, including Saudi Arabia, the fiscal adjustment that is still needed is projected to weigh on growth prospects,” the IMF said in an update to its World Economic Outlook report.

Saudi Arabia’s economy contracted 0.5 percent last year as the kingdom struggled to cope with crude oil prices and spending cuts aimed to lowering its budget deficit. A surge in oil prices to almost $70 a barrel has given a tailwind to the government’s efforts to revive growth.

Read also: Saudi Outlook Is Too Rosy for Economists Even With New Handouts

The government plans to raise public spending to a record in 2018, and King Salman ordered extra pay for government workers this month to help offset the impact of measures such as subsidy cuts and the introduction of value-added taxation.

Saudi Arabia’s benchmark stock index rose 0.4 percent at 11:53 a.m. in Riyadh.

(Updates with stocks in sixth paragraph.)
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