File - Foreign labourers work at the construction site of a building in Riyadh November 27, 2013. (REUTERS/Faisal Al Nasser)
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Saudi Arabia's economy chugged along at modest annual growth rates of around 2.5 percent in the first three quarters of 2013 .That is the picture delivered by data from the government's statistics office.So many economists have concluded that the official data is faulty in some way, and that actual Saudi GDP in the fourth quarter may be billions of dollars lower than the statistics office suggests. In many cases, the data is less reliable than numbers provided by emerging economies in Asia and Africa.The costs of having such poor data may increase as the Gulf states develop their financial markets and diversify their economies in an effort to become less vulnerable to the next big drop in oil prices.The government's statistics office announced that the country's GDP grew 3.8 percent in 2013, but did not give a number for the fourth quarter.Over the past year, Saudi Arabia's official figure for its 2012 GDP growth was put at 6.8 percent, then revised down to 5.1 percent, then raised again to 5.8 percent. While the shortage of reliable data in the Gulf may matter little when economies are booming, it can become dangerous when there is a major downturn.Poor data hinders these efforts.
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