June 23, 2009 / 11:26 AM / 10 years ago

Morocco sees economy growing 5.3 pct in 2009

RABAT (Reuters) - Morocco’s economy is likely to grow by 5.3 percent this year as a surge in farm yields offsets slowing tourism receipts and remittances by Moroccans living abroad, the state High Planning Commission said on Tuesday.

Non-farm growth is seen at 2.3 percent, the lowest rate in a decade, compared to a 5 percent annual average since 2000, the HCP said in a statement. Domestic demand is seen growing by 5.9 percent, down from 10 percent last year.

Growth in 2008 was 5.6 percent. The HCP saw 2010 growth at 2.4 percent, although much depends on volatile farm yields.

The HCP’s 2009 growth estimate is in line with figures from the central bank, which forecast 5-6 percent on June 16, when it decided to keep its benchmark interest rate at 3.25 percent.

Growing consumer spending and inward investment have boosted the north African country’s economy in recent years, underpinned by state-backed infrastructure projects and tourism.

The government is forecasting a record number of foreign tourists will visit Morocco this year but says they will spend less than in previous years.

Exports — a vital source of jobs in Morocco’s big northern cities — tumbled 31 percent in the first four months of 2009 as recessions in Europe hit demand for car parts, cables and other manufactured goods.

Remittances by Moroccans living abroad slipped 14 percent from the same period of 2008 and inward investment and loans dropped 28 percent, according to the kingdom’s Exchange Office.

The slowdown risks complicating efforts to absorb growing numbers of job seekers in a country blighted by widespread poverty.

The HCP forecast non-farm growth will rebound to 3.9 percent in 2010 but said unemployment could rise to 10.5 percent next year from 10.2 percent in 2009 and 9.6 percent in 2008.

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