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IMF Says Mideast Turmoil Could Hinder Regional Economies

Egyptian street vendors display fruits for sale in the Bola'a (also Boulaq) neighborhood in Cairo, April 5, 2011

The International Monetary Fund says the widespread uprisings in the Mideast and North Africa may eventually boost regional economic fortunes, but that in the short term high unemployment, soaring prices and corruption will continue to hinder the area.

The IMF predicted Wednesday that the overall economy in the Middle East, North Africa, Afghanistan and Pakistan would grow by 3.9 percent this year, the same as in 2010. But that is nearly a percentage point less than a forecast for 2011 issued before the anti-government protests started throughout the region and less than the 4.4 percent global increase the IMF is projecting.

The IMF attempts to foster international monetary stability. But it said the unfolding political turmoil shows that economic expansion in the Middle East and North Africa cannot be sustained unless governments in the region create more jobs and also adopt social policies to assist their "most vulnerable" people.

The agency said the Mideast's oil-importing economies - including Egypt, Tunisia and Syria -- are also facing declining tourism and investment because of the political uprisings. The IMF said that surging world oil prices make the economic outlook far better for major oil exporters, including Saudi Arabia.

It predicted the oil exporters would gain $380 billion in new revenue this year and that their economies would grow by nearly 5 percent.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and AFP.