* Consumer demand and export will foster growth this year
* Central bank sees full-year inflation at 4.4 pct
By Alexandra Valencia
QUITO, May 8 (Reuters) - Ecuador’s economic growth will slow to above 4 percent this year, central bank Chief Diego Martinez said on Wednesday, as weak overseas demand and trouble at the nation’s biggest oil refinery bite into the Andean country’s economy.
Economic growth will be bolstered by robust consumer demand this year, Martinez told reporters in Quito. Expansion slowed to 5 percent in 2012, from 7.43 percent the previous year, as it took a hit from weaker growth in the oil and construction sectors.
Growth is expected to slow again this year due to global economic woes and the idling of Ecuador’s largest refinery, which will be partially shut down for several months for an overhaul, the government has said.
“The good news is that in 2013 economic growth in Ecuador will be more than 4 percent,” Martinez said.
The central bank lowered the economic growth rate for 2011 to 7.43 percent, from 8 percent previously, Martinez said.
High oil revenues and increased tax collection have allowed leftist President Rafael Correa to boost state spending on infrastructure and welfare projects in recent years, which has created jobs and bolstered the economy.
Healthy economic growth helped Correa win a sweeping re-election victory in February, and he has vowed to continue spending heavily on roads, hospitals and schools in a bid to raise living standards in his next four years in office.
But the OPEC-member country is highly dependent on oil revenues and the economy would suffer if crude prices were to fall this year.
In a bid to diversify the economy, Correa, a U.S.-trained economist, has vowed to attract mining investment and the country is building hydroelectric dams and aspires to export energy in the future.
Martinez also said that consumer prices in Ecuador will likely increase 4.4 percent in 2013.
The inflation rate was 4.16 percent in 2012, less than the 5.41 percent recorded in 2011, but above the 3.33 percent seen in 2010.