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Iraq sees at least 9.4 percent GDP growth to 2016: central bank

BAGHDAD | Sun Feb 19, 2012 7:14am EST

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraq's gross domestic product is expected to grow by an average rate of at least 9.4 percent annually between 2012 and 2016 as the oil-producing country benefits from larger windfalls in oil revenues, a senior central bank official said on Sunday.

Iraq, which has the fourth-biggest oil reserves in the world, is currently producing around 2.9 million barrels per day (bpd). Iraq's oil minister said last year he expected production to reach between 8-8.5 million bpd by 2017.

With prices elevated due to fears of supply disruptions in Iran, the euro zone debt crisis and heightened tensions over political unrest in the Middle East, Iraq reaped a higher than projected $83 billion in oil revenues last year.

Oil prices were at an all-time record for a full year in 2011.

"We expect Iraq's GDP in 2015 to jump to $360 billion from $170 billion currently," deputy central bank governor Mudher Kasim told Reuters on Sunday.

"The reason (for the increase) will come from oil... If the oil sector is developed it will drive the country's development engine."

Kasim said that meant, excluding the oil sector, the economy was expected to grow by at least 9.4 percent.

When asked for the economic growth forecast factoring in the oil sector, Kasim would not give a specific figure but said it would be more than 12 percent.

Kasim told Reuters in October he expected Iraq's GDP growth to jump to 9 percent in 2012 from around 5-6 percent in 2011.

Iraq has struggled to rebuild its dilapidated infrastructure nine years after the U.S.-led invasion, but investment is still needed in nearly every sector from electricity to banking.

The oil sector -- from which Iraq garners 95 percent of government revenue -- still suffers from aging infrastructure.

Iraq signed mega-deals with oil majors in 2009 to boost production capacity to an ambitious target of 12 million bpd by 2017, but many analysts believe it is unrealistic given the infrastructure constraints.

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