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Iraq May Maintain Growth of 7% This Year, Central Bank Says

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By Alaa Shahine and Massoud A. Derhally

May 21 (Bloomberg) -- Iraq may maintain an economic growth rate of about 7 percent this year, led by oil, Central Bank Governor Sinan Al-Shabibi said. Growth was about 7 percent as well in 2009, al-Shabibi said in an interview yesterday at an economic conference in Beirut. “Of course oil output is still the main driver,” he said. Iraq holds the world’s third-largest oil reserves, with 115 billion barrels, behind Saudi Arabia and Iran. The International Monetary Fund said it expects the economy of Iraq to expand 7.3 percent this year and 7.9 percent in 2011. IMF and Iraqi authorities are projecting average production of 2.6 million barrels of oil per day with exports of 2.1 million barrels a day this year. Next year, the projections are for output of 2.9 million barrels a day and exports of 2.3 million a day. The central bank cut its key interest rate by 1 percentage point to 6 percent in April to fuel growth. Al-Shabibi said the bank has received requests from “six or seven” lenders seeking to set up units in Iraq or a partnership with existing banks in the country. “We look favorably on any application,” he said without elaborating.

To contact the reporters on this story: Alaa Shahine in Beirut at asalha@bloomberg.net;
Massoud A. Derhally in Beirut at mderhally@bloomberg.net.

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