A return to full oil production in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, the successful development of 10 large infrastructure projects in Qatar ahead of the 2022 Football World Cup and the strong performance of the United Arab Emirate’s (UAE) tourism sector, means growth in the Middle East and north Africa (Mena) will be led by the region’s high-income economies, according to the World Bank.

Mena’s gross domestic product is expected to increase from 2.6% in 2013 to 3% by the end of this year. A report by the World Bank this month said that growth was primarily driven by the region’s high-income countries. Although the region’s GDP will accelerate to 5.2% next year, there is an increasing divergence in the economic performance of Mena’s high-income countries and its less developed economies, which the World Bank expects to register slower growth.


According to the World Bank’s latest Mena economic monitor, robust oil export performances, coupled with high government expenditure into non-oil sectors, means Mena’s wealthier countries, including Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, will grow at an average rate of 4.9% this year.

Macroeconomic imbalances and continued political instability will dampen the growth of the region’s lower income countries. Syria’s four-year civil war led it to witness three consecutive years of recession, and the spillover effects of this conflict on its neighbours, Jordan and Lebanon, also negatively affected their growth. In addition, the recent expansion of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), which now controls large swathes of Syria and Iraq, and insurgencies in Libya and Yemen, mean developing Mena countries will grow by an average of 0.7%.

High government expenditure on pubic subsidies has caused Morocco and Jordan to witness large macroeconomic imbalances. In addition, the inability of other governments in the region, including Yemen, Libya, Algeria and Iran, to promote private sector growth and improve their business climates for foreign investors. These factors have led the World Bank to conclude that the combined economic output this year of these countries will be well below potential.