SAUDI ARABIA. Mr. Masood Ahmed, Director of the Middle East and Central Asia Department, made the following statement at the conclusion of the 2012 Article IV Consultation mission that visited Riyadh during May 14–26(1):
Economic performance has been exceptionally strong and the outlook remains buoyant. Oil production has been raised to ease pressures on global oil prices, and increased government spending coupled with accommodative monetary policy has supported continued acceleration in non-oil activity.
Overall real GDP is estimated to have grown by 7.1 percent in 2011, with 8 percent growth recorded in the non-oil sector— the highest since 1981—and private sector growth at 8.5 percent.
Saudi Arabia has provided important support to the global economy during a period of high global uncertainty, including through its actions in stabilizing the global oil market. Higher imports and increased workers’ remittances linked to the strong growth of the Saudi economy, together with expanded financial assistance have exerted a positive spillover and helped support other economies in the region and beyond.
Reflecting prudent economic management, the economy is likely to remain buoyant. On current trends, real GDP is projected to grow by 6 percent in 2012. The private sector is again expected to lead the way, reflecting the increased role of the private sector in the economy, a clear break from the past.
Inflation is likely to remain modest at about 5 percent in 2012, but should be monitored carefully for signs that the economy is overheating. Fiscal and external surpluses are expected to remain very strong at almost 17 and 27 percent of GDP, respectively. However, given the current external environment and possible spillovers to global oil markets, the outlook is subject to some uncertainty.
Taking advantage of the strong state of the economy to advance the reform agenda and further strengthen institutions will help sustain growth in the years ahead. While there has been progress on diversification, the Saudi economy remains dependent on oil exports, and growth has been driven mainly by factor accumulation.
Targeted government investment alongside product and labor market reforms can facilitate a more dynamic private sector and stimulate job creation for nationals. A strong and resilient financial sector also supports this process, with the 2011 Financial Sector Assessment Program (FSAP) Update providing a number of options that together with the ongoing implementation of Basel III will further strengthen risk management and promote capital market development.
(1) In accordance with Article IV of its Articles of Agreement, the IMF holds bilateral consultations with its members, generally once a year. An IMF staff mission visits the country, gathers economic and financial data, and meets those responsible for the country's economic development and policies. Once they have returned to headquarters, the members of the mission draw up a report to be submitted to the Executive Board for review.
Following this review, the Managing Director, as Chairman of the Executive Board summarizes the opinions of the Executive Directors, and this summary is forwarded to the country's authorities.