Colombia sees strong growth despite world woes

Colombian Finance Minister Juan Carlos Echeverry said on Thursday he expected economic growth of between 5% and 5.5% in the fourth quarter versus 6.7% in the third quarter.

Resource-rich emerging market countries like Colombia have seen their economies expand briskly in recent years, although deteriorating U.S. conditions and financial troubles in Europe are weighing on expectations for their future growth.

“It’s very solid growth. The idea is to stay stable at these levels,” Echeverry told a conference in the Colombian coastal city of Cartagena.

Echeverry said that full-year 2011 economic growth should be around 5.5% versus a previous projection by the ministry of at least 5%, while the worst-case scenario for 2012 would be a growth of 4.5%.

“Next year, we see it between 4.5 and 6%, it’s impossible to say right now if it’ll be better. I don’t know what’s going to come out the door, how ugly or manageable the situation in Europe is going to be,” he said.

“But with the (U.S.) free trade deal, Latin America and more or less stable commodity prices, we can survive.”

Colombia, Latin America’s No. 5 economy, has been on a recovery path from the 2007-09 global financial crisis, like other emerging market countries, while industrialized nations have struggled to recoup.

Once seen as a failing state racked by guerrilla and drug violence, Colombia has begun to turn its image around, becoming a magnet for foreign direct investment and recouping three investment grade credit ratings this year.

Last week, Colombia’s central bank revised its economic growth forecasts for this year and next and warned it could cut the key lending rate to protect the Andean nation if there were another global economic shock.

The monetary authority has kept interest rates steady since August due to worries over the global economy’s health after raising rates in the previous six meetings to help keep a lid on prices and prevent the economy from overheating.

“Every day there’s some good news and some bad. We’ve been at this for a year more or less, and probably we’re going to continue like this for another year or year and a half. We have to prepare ourselves for an uncertain world,” Echeverry said.

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