Morocco sees GDP growth rebounding to 4.8 pct this year

RABAT Thu Feb 7, 2013 4:23am EST

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RABAT Feb 7 (Reuters) - Morocco expects its real gross domestic product growth to rebound to 4.8 percent this year from 2.7 percent in 2012 as the farm sector recovers from drought, the planning agency said.

Cereal production tumbled because of the drought, to 5.1 million tonnes last year from 8.4 million in 2011. As a result, GDP growth slowed sharply from the 2011 rate of 5.0 percent.

This year's GDP forecast assumes cereal production of 7.0 million tonnes, economic growth in the euro zone of around 2.0 percent, and a fall in the average global price of oil from $105 a barrel in 2012 to $99.70 this year, the agency said in a report late on Wednesday.

"We expect GDP growth to exceed 5 percent if the weather remains favourable, which could push the local harvest to 8 million tonnes," High Commissioner for Planning Ahmed Lahlimi told Reuters.

However, he added: "The problem of financing the economy persists."

Morocco will face an external financing need of about 9 percent of GDP this year, up from 8.4 percent in 2012 and 8.1 percent in 2011, the agency calculated.

Assuming a 3 percent increase in foreign direct investment and that Morocco limited its public debt to 60 percent of GDP, the country would have to meet the rest of the financing need by running down its foreign reserves.

These would decline to the equivalent of 2.5 months of imports of goods and services from four months in 2012 and 5.1 months in 2011, the agency estimated.

However, it added that if Morocco benefitted this year from a $2.5 billion aid programme from wealthy Gulf Arab states, the economy's financing requirement would be only 6.8 percent of GDP and foreign reserves cover would end the year at three months.

A Moroccan official said earlier this month that Gulf states had delivered the first slice of the promised $2.5 billion aid package; he would not say how much money had been transferred.

Last August, the International Monetary Fund approved a $6.2 billion precautionary line of credit for Morocco, to be treated as "insurance" in case economic conditions worsened further. In a report this week, the IMF said Morocco had met all performance criteria for the loan, but urged the government to move forward with reform of expensive subsidy and pension systems.

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