RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) - The head of the International Monetary Fund said Saturday that the economies of the oil-rich countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council will continue to enjoy high growth rates, although at reduced rates.
Christine Lagarde, the managing director of the IMF, also praised the GCC countries' management of oil prices and reserves, and lauded their financial contribution to the transition of Arab countries following the uprisings that have rattled local economies.
"I would like to stress the important, positive role the GCC countries play in the broader Middle East and North Africa region, and the world at large," Lagarde said after a meeting of the six-nation GCC, which counts Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman as members.
"The generous financial aid the GCC has provided to some of the Arab countries undergoing transition is helping those countries through a very difficult period," she said. "And, at the global level, GCC countries' oil policy has helped stabilize oil markets and counter price pressures that could have inflicted serious damage on the world economy."
She said that while other Arab economies are challenged, the GCC countries are enjoying growth that reached its highest level in eight years in 2011 at 7.5 percent.
"Nevertheless, given the uncertain global outlook, continued emphasis on strengthening resilience, including in fiscal and financial sectors, will be important alongside greater focus on the foundations for longer-term growth," she said.
An IMF official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with the organization's policy, said following the GCC's strong performance in 2011, growth in the nations' non-oil sectors is expected to slow as fiscal stimulus eases, but remain high by historical standards at around 6.5 and 5.6 percent in 2012 and 2013, respectively.
Saudi Arabia is one of the largest donors to countries of the region and contributors to the IMF.
Riyadh pledged an additional $15 billion earlier this year to the IMF following the fund's call for new resources, the official said.