AFP – Saudi Finance Minister Ibrahim al-Assaf disagreed on Wednesday with the IMF’s forecast that the oil-rich kingdom’s GDP will grow by only 4.4% this year, insisting that the economy is expanding at a higher rate.
“The (International Monetary) Fund has forecast growth in the kingdom this year to be at 4.4%. We disagree, and expect growth to be higher,” he told an economic forum.
“The Fund has its independent standards, and we disagreed with its estimates last year,” he said, without giving a prediction for 2013.
The IMF said this month that it expected growth in the largest Arab economy to drop to 4.4% in 2013 from 6.8% last year, blaming an anticipated drop in oil production and government spending.
Meanwhile, Assaf said Saudi Arabia’s credit rating have been “excellent,” but said they should be higher.
Ratings agencies “categorise countries depending on whether they are advanced or developing, and do not look closely at the fundamentals of each economy,” he said.
“We think that the rating of the Saudi economy should be higher. However, we do appreciate their efforts, and this year, they have raised their ratings to positive.”
On Wednesday, Standard & Poor’s said it revised is long-term sovereign credit rating on Saudi Arabia to positive from stable.
“The positive outlook reflects our opinion that we could upgrade Saudi Arabia over the next 24 months if economic growth remains strong, helping to reduce the country’s social challenges, including unemployment, and enhancing productivity and competitiveness,” it said.