Ecuador sees GDP growth of 4.5 pct to 5.1 pct next year

Reuters

By Alexandra Valencia

QUITO, Oct 26 (Reuters) - Ecuador's economic growth willaccelerate to as high as 5.1 percent next year, despite lessrevenue from the oil industry, and inflation is expected to slowto 3.2 percent, President Rafael Correa said on Saturday.

Correa's government expects to end this year with growth ofbetween 3.7 percent and 4.0 percent, and on his weekly TV showthe president said the 2014 forecast was for between 4.5 percentand 5.1 percent.

"Hopefully we'll manage to reach the higher end, 5.0 percentGDP growth," said the South American country's socialist leader,who is also a U.S.-trained economist.

Ecuador's annual inflation rate eased to 1.71 percent inSeptember, and the government says it is confident of beatingits overall target of 3.93 percent for this year.

Correa said the forecasts for economic performance in 2014would have been stronger, were it not for ongoing maintenancework that has stopped the OPEC nation's biggest oil refinery.

A $750 million overhaul of the 110,000 barrel per day (bpd)Esmeraldas refinery began in September and is expected to takeseveral months.

"Oil income fell again because of the stoppage of therefinery which we're modernizing," Correa said. "They had tostop it for several months, and that cut domestic fuel sales."

The president said next year's budget deficit was expectedto be around $5.275 billion, higher than the $5.050 billiondeficit forecast for this year, and that it was fully funded.

Those finances, he added, were destined for infrastructure,education and health projects. He did not elaborate on nextyear's spending plans, nor did he say how the deficit would befunded.

The government has said it plans to issue sovereign debt -perhaps this year or in the first quarter of 2014 - marking areturn to international debt markets five years after defaultingon $3.2 billion of sovereign bonds despite being able to pay.

Correa said on Saturday that Ecuador's current level ofindebtedness as a proportion of gross domestic product - 24percent - was one of the lowest rates in the country's history.

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