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Transcript of Press Briefing on the 2016 Economic Outlook for the Middle East and Central Asia

Washington, D.C.

October 7, 2016

Participants: Masood Ahmed, Director, Middle East and Central Asia Department, IMF Wafa Amr, Senior Communications Officer, IMF

MS. AMR: Good morning, and good afternoon to colleagues watching us live today. This is the press briefing for the 2016 Economic Outlook for the Middle East and Central Asia. I'd like to present Masood Ahmed, Director of the Middle East and Central Asia Department. He will make a few remarks and then we'll take your questions and online questions. Thank you.

MR. AHMED: Thank you very much, Wafa, and thank you all for taking the time to be here. As you know, the Macro Economic Forecast for the countries in our region was released as part of the World Economic Outlook on Tuesday. So, I'd like to just take a few minutes to walk you through, if you like, the story behind the numbers that you have already seen and just to remind you that we will have a more detailed document -- our own regional economic outlook, which will be released on October 19th in Dubai and on October 21st in Almaty so that will be another opportunity for you and your colleagues to -- to talk about these issues.

Let me start talking first about the Middle East North Africa. Then, I'll say a few words about the caucuses in Central Asia. And when I talk about the Middle East North Africa, let me say that this region is still confronting two of the world's most pressing economic and geopolitical concerns: the intensification of conflicts and coping with the sharp drop in oil prices. The combination of these two forces is understandably having a pronounced effect on not just the short-term, but also the medium term economic prospects for the region.

Let me say a word about conflict countries first. I think it's just worth remembering that conflicts in Libya, Iraq, Syria and Yemen are now directly affecting the lives of some 19 million people that live in these countries. And that's not to mention the spillover effects on neighboring countries who are hosting refugees; who are dealing with the spillovers in terms of the impact on trade, tourism, confidence as well. The region's also facing a refugee crises, the size of which we have not seen since the Second World War. So, obviously, the Fund is engaged with these countries and I'll come back to that in a minute, but the immediate and most devastating impact is the humanitarian, human costs and then dealing with that is going to be a prerequisite to really putting in place a different trajectory for the economic outlook for these countries.

Let me turn now to the other oil exporters in the region. My first point I want to make is that the recent increase in oil prices since the spring has certainly eased somewhat the financial pressures on these countries, but the fundamental outlook facing them for the next five years has not changed. Oil prices are still likely to remain in the medium term, in closer to the $50, $60 barrel, than they are to the numbers that we have seen prior to 2014. Consequently, oil exporters in the region will need to make some very difficult policy choices, both in terms of budget policies and in terms of the diversification of their economies.

Good news is that many of these countries have already started to make some difficult decisions on cutting back spending. They have done so, both in terms of cutting back capital spending in a number of countries. They've also raised the price of energy products: electricity, gas, as well as water in some cases. And, of course, there's still room to do more on that because these prices are still below international prices. And they're also beginning to look at the more difficult issue of how to contain the growth and the wage bill for the public sector. Saudi Arabia recently announced a number of measures to trim the government wage bill and a number of other countries are also looking at that issue. GCC is also moving towards adopting a value-added tax.

So, thanks to the measures they've taken. Thanks also to the higher -- slightly higher oil prices that I mentioned. We have revised down our estimate of the cumulative budget deficit for these countries over the period of 2016-2021 from over $1 trillion, which is the number I gave you in the spring to $760 million; $765 billion over that period. Now, that's an improvement of $765 billion of a cumulative budget deficit over the back five years is still a substantial number and it does still raise the challenge of bringing that number down through additional action to cut back on spending to raise revenues and in the meantime, of course, to finance that deficit in a way that minimizes the impact on the domestic banking sector, on liquidity and also, on growth.

So, just a word on growth -- also, governments have started to cut back on their spending and because of confidence affects also the private sector, you're seeing in every country that is an oil exporter, non-oil growth is lower than it was the year before. Non-oil growth, which is really the growth number that matters because the aggregate growth numbers include oil production, so it doesn't mean as much in terms of economic activity, but normal growth is falling. In the GCC, for example, non-oil growth is less than 2 percent this year; 1.8 percent. Hopefully, we believe it will rise a little bit next year as the fiscal consolidation headwinds ease. But even though looking out in the medium term, non-oil growth numbers are going to be substantially lower than they were in the five years leading up to 2015.

In addition to the fiscal challenge, oil exporters also face a -- perhaps more complex challenge of weaning their economies off oil to make them more diversified and to create jobs for young people in the private sector, rather than the public sector where the nationals of these countries have mostly been employed in the past. A number of countries have started or have signaled impressive plans in this area. You've all, no doubt, followed the national transformation plans Saudi Arabia. There are also in preparation or announced in other countries. The challenge now for all of these countries will be to go from plans to implementation and to design the implementation in a careful and to sustain that effort over a number of years to make sure that it's prioritized to reflect also institutional capacity constraints. It's important to get on with this because otherwise, if you just look at the numbers of the next five years, some little over two million young people are likely to join -- nationals, are likely to join the labor force in these countries and almost half of them risk becoming unemployed unless we can accelerate the pace of job creation in the private sector.

Let me know say a word about the oil importers in the Middle East. And here, I want to start with a little bit of good news. The good news is that thanks to lower oil prices, thanks also to the policy efforts that these countries have undertaken. The macroeconomic stabilization is advancing in these countries and we see growth rates on an average for this group of countries of about 3.5 percent this year and a little over 4 percent next year, 4.2. I should say though, there's a lot of variation across countries in this average number. So, if you look at a country like Tunisia or a country like Lebanon, growth rates are below 2 percent and even in the countries where growth rates are higher, they're not high enough to deal with the 25 to 30 percent unemployment rate for young people today, to make a dent in that over the next five years. So big challenge facing these countries is how to accelerate their rates of growth to create more jobs in a sustainable way without adding pressure to the public sector where already in a number of countries, wage bills are so high that they're crowding out investment and much needed spending in social services.

Apart from dealing with this through reorienting their public spending, putting more money into investment, which many of these countries have started to do, but need to do more of; the other thing they need to accelerate are their business environment reforms. A number of countries in the Middle East have actually made some improvements in their business environment in a number of areas. The problem is many other countries in the world are making improvements at a faster pace. So, if you look at their relative rankings, they're actually falling behind their peers in a number of other regions and that requires them to accelerate reforms, particularly in the areas of business, trade, labor and financial markets. Some of the big constraints holding back private sector activity apart from poor infrastructure, but also shortages of electricity in a number of countries and the availability of finance, particularly, for SMEs.

Finally, let me turn to the caucuses in Central Asia. Let me say that this group of countries is grappling with the aftermath of a number of adverse external shocks. The recession in partner countries, particularly in Russia and the slowing of growth in Russia and in China; the slump in commodity prices is having an impact on them. And it's having an impact, not just through the earnings from commodities, but also through remittances, which have a big source of income for some of the smaller countries in this region which rely on remittance income from nationals who are working in Russia or in other large countries in the region.

So, as a result, if you look at the growth number for this year, it's about 1.3, which is 1.3 percent, which is about the lowest growth number in nearly two decades. So, you see a real slowdown in these economies and you can see the impact of that, not just in the oil exporters, which have been particularly affected, but because of the remittances and the links that I mentioned also in the oil importers from nearby. And if you look at the projections of growth, what we see is a recovery that is even slower and more gradual than the one that happened after the global financial crisis eight years ago, or after the Russian crisis in 1998.

So, they have responded to this challenge, six year countries by a combination of policies. They have drawn down previously accumulated assets where they have them. They've increased public spending where they had the space and they've adjusted their exchange rates as well to help mitigate the impact. All this is helping, but really to be able to go further in this region, we think there are four areas they should work on. First, fiscal space in countries that have it needs to be used to maximize growth. Second, management policy frameworks can be strengthened, particularly, as they move to exchange rate flexibility, which a number of them are doing. Third, the region can strengthen its surveillance and crisis management policies, particularly, with regard to the financial sector because financial sector, a number of these countries is under pressure through a combination of high dollarization as well as the fact that exchange rates have a balance sheet impact. And finally, the structural measures to improve their competitiveness will be key to raise living standards in the medium term.

Let me finish by saying a word about the Fund's where we are. As you know, we are closely engaged now with countries in both the Middle East and in Central Asia through policy advised through program support, through technical assistance and as some of you have been following recently, we have reached agreement on new programs since we last met in April on Afghanistan, on Jordan, on Morocco, and also, we have a staff level agreement in Egypt. And I'll be happy to say a bit more about them.

Let me end by just saying to you, this is actually the last press briefing I'll be doing my current task as I will be stepping from this role at the end of this month and then before taking your questions, let me say, it's been a real privilege for me to be able to work with all of you and engage with you over the years and I've always appreciated not only the constructive engagement that you have brought and -- but also the role that you play in providing information and education to the public and across the region. I think it's an extraordinarily important role that you have and a contribution that you make and I wish you well in continuing to do that. But let me now take questions.

MS. AMR: Thank you Mr. Masood will take questions. Please identify yourself and the organization you work for. We will take a few questions here and then some questions online. Please.

QUESTIONER: I have two specific questions. The negotiations, when will they be over and executive board of the IMF, when it will meet to approve the loan to Egypt worth $12 billion. Could you tell us when that meeting will take place? And how much the first tranche of the loan will be and when will it arrive in Egypt? And is it associated to a more flexible exchange rate in Egypt? People are saying that this is tied to more liberalization of the pound.

The second question is, when can we have the first review of the reforms undertaken, the economic reform program that Egypt is undertaking, and how do you evaluate these reforms at the present time. Thank you very much.

MR. AHMED: Can I ask -- I suspect that there's at least one or two other people who have questions on agent, and it might be helpful if I just took them together, and then that way I'll be ask to answer them without going over the same ground again.

QUESTIONER: Congratulations on your transition, Masood. If you could also talk about the bilateral financing component of the Egypt program, I believe that you’ve been seeking about $5 to $6 billion in bilateral loans that Madam Lagarde has talked about progress with China and with Saudi Arabia. I'm wondering how much of that has been signed up, which countries have pledged, and how far do you have to go? Thanks.

MR. AHMED: That’s it on Egypt. Okay. Very good. Let me try to address that. I think there's kind of two different sorts of questions that I want to deal with. First of all, just in terms of the status of the discussions, timing, where are we on the bilateral financing flow? And then the second set of questions is more about: what's our assessment of the economic situation and what's our view on different policies including exchange rate.

So let me say, first, on the timing. As you know, we've reached the staff level agreement in August. We are moving forward now to wrap up the financing required to close the financing gap for the first year. What does that mean for us, for the IMF for us to be able to go to the Board, present a program? We need to show that it is fully financed for the first year, at least, and hopefully for more than the first year.

And in the case of Egypt to be able to say that, there's a gap of between $5 and $6 billion of bilateral financing which would come on top of the financing from the IMF, the financing from The World Bank and other regional development banks, and financing that had been already identified from bilaterals, so this was in addition to what was needed, we needed to close the gap.

In that context the Egyptian authorities and actually, the IMF itself, has been in contact with a number of potential bilateral financiers, and you mentioned, David, China, Saudi Arabia, in addition to that we've also been having some discussions with some of the G7 countries, themselves on financing, and I think what I can say today is that we are making very good progress on it, and I'm hopeful that we will be able to be in a position to firm up these financing pledges, in the coming weeks.

So, I will be hoping that by the end of this month, early next month, we should be in a position then, to go to the IMF Board with the program. Now, if that happens, just to follow through on the question of timing that you raise, that would mean that the first tranche of financing, and I don’t have the number in my head for the first tranche, but I will make sure that you get it; that the first tranche of financing is made available within a day or so, of going to the Board.

The way the IMF operates is that when we go to the Board, and the IMF Board approves a particular program, then the initial financing is made available right away. So there's no delay in the financing, it is made available right away. As I said, I'll let you know what is the exact amount of that first tranche.

Then there are going to be reviews every six months. It's a three-year program, and as you know it totals about $12 million, so every six months there will be review, and it's after each review, there will be a presentation to the Board, and on that basis, there will be the next tranche that will be released. So that’s like the process part that I have on it. We are not going to be announcing anything during the course of the annual meetings, just so you don’t feel anxious that you need to follow up on it.

It will still take a couple more weeks before we are in a position to be there. Now in terms of the substance of the program, I think the important point to realize here is that, now Egypt is a very strong economy with a long history of diversified production and exports. But it now faces some major challenges. Growth over the last few years has been on average about 2.5 percent, much too low, budget deficits are high, double digits, external position has been weakening, even though it's been supported by a lot of financing from friendly, neighboring countries, and inflation has been high as well.

So, the combination of all of these things, has meant that unemployment is high amongst, and rising amongst young people. So, the challenge for the Egyptian economy is to provide, first of all, to stabilize the macro economy by containing the budget deficit by reducing the vulnerability that comes from debt levels which have been rising, so turn it around and try to bringing debt levels down by getting rid of the imbalance in the foreign exchange market, and moving to a foreign exchange system which is going to be more flexible where the price of foreign exchange is determined by supply and demand, and where, in fact, foreign exchange is available more easily to people rather than having to queue for a long, long time, as you have to do.

And by putting in place the improved conditions to have the private sector create more jobs in Egypt. At the same time, to do all this in a way that provides social protection, protects the spending on health, and particularly that encourages the participation of women in the labor force.

So that’s the objective that the Egypt authorities have set out in their program, that the IMF very much supports, and as you said, part of that objective is, indeed, to move to a foreign exchange system that is going to be more flexible, and where it's going to be market determined and we think that also is a helpful way to run the Egyptian economy.

So I think those are the objectives, the Egyptian authorities are already taking a number of measures on it. If you look at this year's budget, it reflects some of those measures, if you look at the recent decisions on VAT, which we in the IMF salute, because we think we congratulate the Ministry of Finance, Minister Garhy and his team. And I also actually want to recognize the contribution in this case of the Egyptian Parliament, which had a very discussion on these issues before approving it.

I think VAT is a good tax measure for each, so we do see progress on it, and I think it's a question now of continuing with that. In the meantime, WAFA has very kindly provided me with the number for the first tranche in the case of Egypt, which would be when it -- you know, when the Board approves it, that first trance would be $2.5 billion.

MR. AMR: Yes, please?

QUESTIONER: I would like to know about the growth prospects for Mauritania, some figures and the challenges that Mauretania will face in the next year?

MR. AHMED: Okay. Let me first of all give you just some numbers for Mauritania, and then I'll just say a word about what's behind these numbers. So, in terms of growth numbers for Mauretania, you know, last year was not a very good year, growth dropped from over 5 percent just above 1 percent. This year it's picking up. We hope it will be around 3, a little over 3 percent, 3.2 is the current projection.

And next year we see a further improvement to little over 4 percent, 4.3 to be precise. Let me say though, that in the case of Mauretania, I mean, here is an economy that is facing a sharp and persistent terms of great shock, which has increased its external and fiscal vulnerabilities, and also has increased the risks to financial stability.

This shock, as you know, is coming mainly from the price of iron ore, which has dropped dramatically, and for which Mauretania is a big part of their exports. Now I should also say that the Mauritanian authorities have responded to this shock, they started to adjust to it, and they are now dealing with it, both by making adjustments on their own spending, but also on mobilizing external finance on appropriate terms to be able to deal with it.

I do think that this challenge of dealing with the shocks in Mauretania will need to continue over the coming years in terms of set of policies that will make it easier for the private sector also in Mauretania to develop under these new circumstances.

MR. AMR: Yes. Please?

QUESTIONER: -- Tunisia, as part of cooperation agreement with the IMF, introduced a number of reforms including passing of laws, and a number of other issues. However, it is facing major difficulties achieving some of the other reforms such as balancing the budget, and controlling the wage bill. Will that impact the progress in the cooperation agreement with the IMF, and the payment of the additional tranches?

MR. AHMED: That the translation didn’t seem to work the first time around. So, Tunisia, as you say, is going through a very difficult period. Economic growth has been low. This year is going to be about 1.5 percent or so, and it also has the challenge of dealing with security issues, that continue to be a bottleneck or a disincentive for people to invest.

At that time, Tunisian authorities embarked on a program where they want to accelerate growth, and this has a number of components, one of which is to improve the functioning of the banking system, another is to reorient and make more effective public services including the role of the civil service to make sure the civil service is located in the places that need the help the most, and then is working in a way that has the best impact for people.

And part of this is then to reorient their spending away from wage bill, away from current spending, towards investment without which the growth will not happen, and towards protection of the vulnerable.

Now, the IMF supports these objectives, they are part of the program which we are supporting. We have been working with Tunisia through a program relationship now, from pretty much the day after the Tunisian Revolution. And as you will see, if you look back on the IMF support, we have tried to always find a way to help recognizing that the objectives that they are moving towards need to be maintained. So,

We are in very good discussion with the Tunisian authorities and try to -- and I'm hopeful that based on these discussions we will find a way together to move forward that maintains the objectives of the program because these are not objectives for the IMF, these are objectives that Tunisians have set for themselves, because they are essential to move to the kind of investment brace -- growth, without which the young people of Tunisia will not see a better future in two years or five years.

So I think it's essential to be able to contain the wage bill, and reorient the financing towards investment, it's also essential that this be embedded in a broader program of public expenditure that not just focuses on investment but on protecting the vulnerable, and also on supporting growth, not just in the coast, but in the interior regions which have traditionally not benefited from growth.

QUESTIONER: And let's move a little bit to Central Asia. So, due to current situation, how should Central Asian countries, especially oil exporters, can increase its international competitiveness? And second question, as we know in November, it was announced that in November Kashagan Field will be opened in Kazakhstan. It's huge oil production, and how it impact on the whole situation in the region?

MR. AHMED: So, Kazakhstan, of course, is one of the countries in Central Asia that has been quite affected by the lower price of oil. Kazakhstan is also well placed, because it had built up reserves, financial reserves that it could use to undertake countercyclical policy. That helped it to temper the effect of lower oil prices. Also using exchange rate policy, they were able to mitigate some of the impact, now the challenge for Kazakhstan is going to be, to see how we can move from just containing the impact to diversifying the economy.

As you know there are many, well-thought-through programs in Kazakhstan that are designed precisely to achieve a more diversified industrial and services-based growth. In the near term, this will take some time, so they will have to manage that, that’s why you'll see this year's growth is virtually zero, and maybe a little bit negative, a little bit positive. Our own view is it will be a little bit negative this year.

But next you'll see an improvement in part, because of the increase in oil production, so the oil production coming from that new field will have a big in the near term. It's not a substitute, for the diversification of the economy on they are embarked.

MS. AMR: So we will stay in Central Asia and take an online question from Tajikistan. "Please give an update on talks on an IMF program for Tajikistan. Do you expect a deal this year?"

MR. AHMED: Tajikistan, Jack, is facing a growing set of vulnerabilities particularly in the financial sector because it, too, has been impacted by the recent shock. Tajikistan is one of the countries where remittances account for almost 14 percent of GDP, probably the largest number in the world. And so for a country that’s so dependent on remittances, where remittances have fallen by a third, you can see that this is a country that has to cope with a big shock.

We are in good discussions with them, and I hope to have some more discussions with them during the course of this week. We are working to come to closure on an IMF-supported program in Tajikistan, as soon as the policy framework can be defined that would help to address the challenges that Tajikistan faces. And I'm hopeful that we'll be able to do that during the course of this year.

QUESTIONER: Thank you. I was wondering if we could talk a little bit about the situation in Yemen, particularly with, you know, the government's move of moving the central bank to, you know, to the south, what you think this means. I understand that, you know, the IMF did have some reservations about that, but that there is supposedly a delegation that they will -- who will meet with the IMF to try and give assurances that this isn't going to be a major disruption in a country that is already, you know, face -- and many parts of it facing famine. I mean, so what are your main concerns about this and what do you think about that whole situation right now?

MR. AHMED: Central bank plays an important role in any country. But in the case of Yemen, central bank plays a very important role because it is also a conduit for insuring that there are the financial flows happen to provide wages to employees and also that it flow of funds for humanitarian relief continues to happen. It's very important now that the government has decided to move the central bank to (inaudible) that you very quickly establish that capacity that can -- don't lose the functionality that has enabled these important things to happen. We have had good discussions with the authorities on it. We will continue to meet this week, the managing director of the IMF met with President Hadi and we are following up on that meeting. We have offered technical support to the Yemeni authorities to make sure that the central bank, drawing on the skills and capacities that were already existed also in Sana'a is able to continue to maintain the necessary flow of financing and the other functions that will ensure that things don't worsen in an already very difficult situation.

QUESTIONER: I have a question. You know, Madame Lagarde said yesterday that for every country there is a fiscal instrument to use it for increasing growth. But do you believe that the countries in the region, especially now that oil income, for oil exporting country, that oil income is very low? Do you think that they have a fiscal space to use it deliberately or they should just care about budget balance to not making more problems? And I mean, in the sense that it means that fiscal instrument is not part of solution. Maybe it is part of problem.

MR. AHMED: So, I think you raise two important points. One is that every country starts from a different place. So if you're a country like we just talked about, you see countries. If your country, like Saudi Arabia, you have a large budget deficit, and you need to bring it down, you have more limited room to maneuver than if you were working in a country where the budget deficit gave you an opportunity to expand. But even in those cases, and this is the point I want to make, even in those cases, as in cases like Tunisia, which we were just talking about, how you spend the money is as important as how much you spend. So reallocating away from, as we were talking earlier on, on say generalized energy subsidies, and using that money in a targeted way to protect the vulnerable, or for investment, to accelerate growth or to -- or for education, which is needed in certain countries, additional expenditure is as much an effective use of physical space as simply looking at the aggregate number. So that's the first point I wanted to make. The second point I want to make is that, each country has something to do to accelerate growth. Part of it is fiscal. Part of it is monetary policy. Part of it is structural reforms. And if you look at the countries in our region, almost without exception, you can identify things that could be done to improve the business environment and to make the private sector function more competitively that does not require an expenditure of government financing.

So, today in countries that are challenged on the fiscal space in our region, they have instruments to use on the structural side where they have been falling behind their peers and here in particular I'm referring to make access or to finance for small and medium enterprises, as well as looking at issues around the licensing and bureaucratic regimes to create small businesses and flexibility in the labor market.

MS. AMR: Thank you. We're going to take one question online. The question is on Jordan. Jordan is implementing an extended facility fund, and at the same time starting to deal with their accommodations why the Economic Policy Council to meet the economic priorities. Do you think these recommendations are compatible with the IMF program with the government?

MR. AHMED: Absolutely for the following reasons. If you look at the objective of the program that we now have supporting Jordan, this is a phase during which Jordan has already entered the last three years, taking major efforts to bring its macroeconomic imbalances into better control. Now the task facing Jordan is to move towards accelerating growth and increasing the functioning and competitiveness of the private sector. Many of the recommendations that are likely to come out of the Council, the Council is basically focusing on exactly the private sector's competitiveness and issues around it will go in the direction of accelerating that outcome. So I see this as a very welcome instrument that has been created by the Jordanian authority, precisely to bring together all of the different ministries and different government and other departments whose inputs are required to take action on the business environment issues that have stopped the, so far, the pace of growth in -- held back the pace of growth in Jordan.

MS. AMR: Okay. So we will take one last question. Please.

QUESTIONER: I'd like to ask one more question about Egypt. What has been implemented by the government so far to revive the national economy, but we still have a lot of problems regarding, you know, directing or attracting the foreign investments, and we still have a lot of critical problems regarding the social prediction. What I would like to ask is, do you think a lot of people -- first I would like to say that a lot people think that the international financial institutions put a lot of conditions on the government to implement difficult majors and that would affect them regarding the social security and social protection. So do you think that the social protection program that the government provide to people is enough for them to help them, you know, bear the actions that the government is taking against them?

MR. AHMED: If you look at the content of the Egyptian government’s program, that the IMF will be supporting, once our board approves it, you will find it precisely measures to strengthen social protection for the groups that are vulnerable. There are a number of specific things, not just about education, health spending, but also more targeted efforts to look at ways in which people can come into the labor market more easily, protect support for women who want to work in the labor market, but because of child care facilities they can't do it. So there are a number of very specific things. Why do we think it's important? In part because it is necessary to ensure that everybody can participate in the growth process and benefit from it, also to ensure that those who can participate are protected when the economic situation is difficult, and to build a consensus for the kind of difficult measures that you need to go through.

These other measures that are in the program are the measures that the Egyptian authorities have defined for themselves. It's the homegrown program that comes from Egypt. And that's the only way programs work is if they are defined by the countries themselves. The IMF's conditionality is conditionality to say, please deliver and implement the things that you want to do and deliver. So it is a timetable of measures and benchmarks that are drawn from the program of the government itself. Externally imposed conditionality does not work in most countries because you have to have ownership of program, and in the Egypt case, I'm very happy to say that this is actually a program that the Egyptians have themselves designed, in which the IMF is now looking to support.

MS. AMR: Thank you, Masood. Thank you all for joining us today. This is the end of this press briefing on the Middle East and Central Asia Economic Outlook.

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