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MENA Region Economy – December 2012

Source: OPEC 1/17/2013, Location: Africa

Faced with difficult external and internal environments, growth in the roughly defined MENA region’s (Middle East/North Africa) oil-importers — Djibouti, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Mauritania, Morocco, Sudan and Tunisia — will be just above two per cent in 2012. However, most of these countries will witness higher public spending next year to stimulate growth, but at the cost of rising deficits. Tunisia’s 2013 draft budget sees Government expenditure rising to 26.6 bn dinars (US$16.7 bn) in 2013, up from TND 25.4 bn in the supplementary 2012 budget.

This represents an increase of 4.7% in state spending. According to the finance ministry, the budget plan is based on economic growth of 3.5% next year, with a projected budget deficit of 5.9% of GDP, down from a gap of 6.6% in the 2012 budget.

Despite the tight monetary policies in the region, inflation has been edging up recently. Morocco’s CPI inflation rose 0.6 percentage points to an annual rate of 1.8% in October, led higher by a 2.8% month-on-month (m-o-m) increase in education prices, according to the High Planning Commission. Lebanon’s consumer price inflation climbed to 11.2% y-o-y in October, up from 10.3% in September, according to data published in November by the Lebanese Central Administration of Statistics. CPI inflation in Oman, an oil-exporter, rose moderately in September to an annual rate of 2.7%, from 2.4% a month earlier, according to data from the Ministry of National Economy.

On the other hand, Governments in the region are attempting to implement different measures to reduce fiscal deficits, especially in the oil importing countries, such as by cutting energy subsidies, despite widespread public protests. Starting on 14 November, the Jordanian Government has decided to cut subsidies for various staple fuel products. The cost of cooking gas will rise from 6.5 Jordanian dinars (US$ 9.2) to JOD 10.0 per canister, an increase of more than 50%. Gasoline (petrol) prices will rise from JOD 0.71 to JOD 0.80 per litre, and kerosene and diesel prices are also set to rise. In undertaking these actions, the kingdom is attempting to prevent the fiscal deficit from widening further.

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