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Ukraine war to hit MENA's poor nations, boost oil producers — IMF

By AFP - Apr 28,2022 - Last updated at Apr 28,2022

DUBAI — The war in Ukraine has "significantly" impacted the Middle East and North Africa, with the crisis dealing a heavy blow to low-income countries while benefitting oil-producing states, the IMF said Wednesday.

The International Monetary Fund's 2022 growth forecast for the region, which includes Arab countries and Iran, was forecast at 5 per cent, up from the 4.1 per cent prediction for this year made in October.

But the predicted growth masks the disparities between the region's 22 countries, which range from major oil exporters to nations wracked by war and others that depend heavily on wheat imports as well as hydrocarbon imports.

Russia's invasion of Ukraine and economic sanctions on Moscow have affected the region "through a multitude of direct and indirect channels", according to the IMF report.

"Prior to the war in Ukraine, the economy in the region was showing strong recovery... the only caveat to that is inflation started to increase in 2021 and remained high," Jihad Azour, IMF director for the Middle East and Central Asia, told AFP.

The report said inflation in MENA surged to 14.8 per cent in 2021 and is projected to remain elevated at 13.9 per cent this year, largely due to higher food and energy prices.

Azour said low-income countries face increased pressure due to lower levels of food security and heavy reliance on imports from Russia and Ukraine, both major wheat producers.

Sudan and war-torn Yemen are among those particularly hard hit.

Emerging markets and middle-income countries, including Egypt, Jordan and Morocco, are forecast to register GDP growth of 4.4 per cent, on average.

The IMF warned that emerging markets and middle-income countries face worsening prospects, given their governments’ limited capacity to cope with inflation as geopolitical uncertainties persist.

However, Azour said that the surge in crude prices has supported economic recovery in oil-exporting countries.

“It has compounded the recovery that they have witnessed last year thanks to a high level of vaccination [against COVID-19] and the various measures they took in order to accelerate the recovery,” he told AFP.

This is particularly true of Saudi Arabia, the Arab world’s largest economy and a leading oil exporter, whose GDP expected to grow by 7.6 per cent in 2022.

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