| The IMF says Middle East economies are likely to grow fast over the next two years [AFP[
The International Monetary Fund has said that the Middle East economies are likely to grow roughly twice as fast over the next two years as they did in 2009.
However, the organisation said on Sunday that more needs to be done by the region to diversify its economies and create jobs.
In its latest regional economic outlook, IMF said the Middle East is enjoying "a generally robust recovery" thanks to higher oil prices and government policies designed to mitigate the effects of the worldwide downturn.
The IMF forecast the economy will grow by 4.2 per cent this year and 4.8 per cent next year in the 22-nation region stretching from North Africa through Pakistan.
That compares with growth of 2.3 per cent last year as the region struggled with lower oil revenues and other effects stemming from the global economic crisis.
But IMF said more must be done to boost private-sector job creation, particularly in countries such as Egypt, Jordan and Syria with large youth populations and chronic unemployment.
"There is now a recovery happening in the emerging markets in the region," Masood Ahmed, the IMF's Middle East and Central Asia director, said at a forum in Dubai.
"But they are not growing fast enough to create the jobs they need."
The region's generally poorer oil-importing countries, many of which depend on tourism, trade and worker remittances from their richer neighbours, are expected to see their economies grow five per cent this year, up from 4.6 per cent in 2009, the IMF said.
On a per capita basis, though, their growth significantly lags behind that of other parts of the developing world.
That presents major challenges in creating jobs for their young and fast-growing societies, where unemployment averages about 11 per cent.
Providing enough jobs for the region's oil-importing countries' unemployed and up-and-coming workers over the next decade would require growth of at least 6.5 per cent, the IMF estimated.
That means creating more than 18 million jobs just in the oil-poor parts of the Arab world alone.