* Sudanese economy to grow 4-6 percent in 2009
* Animal resources exports to contribute to growth
* Inflation to fall to 8-9 percent in 2009
* U.S. sanctions shielded Sudan from global crisis
By Yara Bayoumy
KHARTOUM, May 11 (Reuters) - Sudan expects its economy to grow by up to 6 percent this year, helped by increasing revenues from the export of livestock and related products, the country’s finance minister said.
Sudan, a modest oil producer, had recorded GDP growth of 8-9 percent last year, Finance and National Economy Minister Awad Ahmed al-Jaz told Reuters in an interview on Sunday.
The central bank recently revised down its growth forecast to 5 percent because of the global financial crisis and falling oil prices.
“We are estimating that we will achieve 6 percent growth, even though others are reporting negative and zero growth, we are comfortable with 4-6 percent growth and that is versus 8-9 percent in 2008,” Jaz said in his office in Khartoum.
Sudan had also been protected from the worst ravages of the global economic slowdown due to the sanctions imposed by the United States and others which had insulated it from the crisis, the minister added.
The United States imposed economic sanctions on Sudan in 1997 and labelled it a “state sponsor of terrorism.” Ties were strained further by the conflict in Darfur in west Sudan.
The administration of U.S. President Barack Obama and former President George W. Bush have called the Darfur conflict genocide. Sudan denies this.
“We were cut off for no reason by some parties ... this boycott that happened for no reason, was also one of the protections against the crisis.”
U.S. companies are banned from doing business with Africa’s largest country, while Sudan is barred from using U.S. technology and equipment.
Jaz did acknowledge however that lifting the sanctions would create more opportunities for investors interested in Sudan.
“If you remove this political decision, there will be an additional number of people who have a big desire to work in Sudan,” he said.
The minister said the livestock sector would be a key driver of exports in the future.
“Sudan has the biggest animal resources in the region and we provide nutrition for most of the areas around us. Therefore we now have to increase our revenues from animal resources.”
“We used to export livestock, now the added value is to export slaughtered livestock and related services,” Jaz said, adding that Sudan also aimed to increase agricultural production.
The state minister at the agriculture ministry earlier said agricultural investment in Sudan by Arab countries will account for up to 50 percent of all investment in the country from 2010.
Jaz said inflation would fall to single digits by the end of 2009, saying it would reach 8-9 percent against 18-19 percent at the end of 2008 when high commodity prices fuelled inflation.
Jaz said this year’s budget, more than half of which relies on oil returns, was based on an estimate of $50 per barrel. After tumbling below that level, international crude is now trading around $57 a barrel.
High oil prices, which reached a record $147 last July, have fuelled Sudan’s growth in recent years, especially because of the several major oil finds.
“We based our 2009 budget on the estimate that oil would be about $50, but oil fell below that, even though it was a conservative budget, the crisis was worse than we thought,” Jaz said. “We have tried to allay the effect of the shortfall in oil by being more prudent on expenditure.” (Editing by Toby Chopra)