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IMF predicts ME countries' economies to pick up speed

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Economies in the Middle East and North Africa are likely to grow roughly twice as fast over the next two years as they did in 2009, but the region must do more to diversify its economies and create jobs, the International Monetary Fund said Sunday.
The Washington-based body forecasts the economy will grow by 4.2 percent this year and 4.8 percent next year in the 22-nation region stretching from North Africa to Pakistan.
That compares with growth of 2.3 percent last year as the region struggled with lower oil revenues and other effects stemming from the global economic crisis.
Overall, the IMF said in its latest regional economic outlook that the MENA region is enjoying "a generally robust recovery" thanks to higher oil prices and government policies designed to mitigate the effects of the worldwide downturn.
Because of increased oil prices, the IMF estimates the Gulf states and other oil-exporting countries in the region will see their combined current-account surplus rise to $150 billion next year, up from just $70 billion last year, giving them more leeway to spend.
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