World Bulletin/News Desk
North Korea's moribund economy posted rare growth last year on robust harvests and a flurry of building activity in the capital Pyongyang, but it still remains one of the world's poorest and least developed states, an official report by the South shows.
The reclusive state's economy expanded by a real 0.8 percent in 2011, estimates by South Korea's central bank showed on Sunday. It was only the second time in the past six years the closed economy has expanded.
North Korea's economy, which a few decades was the envy of its neighbours, went into freefall with the collapse of its main benefactor, the Soviet Union, in the early 1990s. The North now relies heavily on China for economic and political support.
The North has been further isolated and squeezed by international sanctions, imposed for its nuclear and missile programmes.
Despite the rare economic growth, per-capita income in the country with a 24.3 million population stood at just 1.334 million South Korean won, or less than $1,200 when converted into the latest value of the South Korean currency, the Bank of Korea in Seoul said.
In nominal terms, the size of economy was estimated at 32.4 trillion South Korean won ($28.54 billion), or less than 3 percent of South Korea's, it said.
The North does not release any official data and estimates by the South, one of the Group of 20 major economies, are widely used in the international community.
Growth in 2011 was led by the agriculture, fishing and forestry industries which expanded by 5.3 percent after a 2.1 percent decline in 2010, thanks to good weather conditions and increased use of fertiliser, the estimates showed.
Construction also grew a sharp 3.9 percent in 2011 after a 0.3 percent gain in 2010, owing to projects to modernise housing conditions in Pyongyang.
Pyongyang went on a building spree to mark the 100th anniversary this year of the birth of founder Kim Il-sung -- including building 100,000 new homes in the capital.
The Bank of Korea makes its estimates of North Korea's economy based on data collected from private specialist institutions and releases the figures after going through cross-checking sessions with experts outside of the bank.
The North has suffered chronic food shortages for about two decades due to mismanagement, isolation and natural disasters, making it dependent on foreign donors to fill the food gap.
Ecuador, Egypt, Pakistan, Venezuela, Belize, Cuba, Cyprus, Greece, Jamaica and Ukraine are all on the verge of a default, according to Moody's ratings.
A World Trade Organisation pact to ease worldwide customs rules collapsed late on Thursday over India's demands for concessions on agricultural stockpiling.
India's new nationalist government has insisted that a permanent agreement on its subsidised food stockpiling must be in place at the same time as the trade facilitation deal
Chemicals firm LyondellBasell has emerged as the mystery American buyer of Kurdish crude oil this year, but said it will not be buying any more
Some EU member states remain nervous about the impact on their own fragile economies. The sanctions deal was agreed only after initial proposals were narrowed.
Bankers in Singapore say Russians looking for a new Cyprus have come to the wrong place.
The default could get much messier and take longer to clear up if creditors force an "acceleration" for early payment on their bonds.
The ban came a day after the European Union and United States imposed their first sanctions aimed at hitting broad sectors of the Russian economy
Russia called new U.S. sanctions "destructive and short-sighted"
While the default will obviously hurt the economy, it will not be as severe as in 2001, economists say
The Czechs, who supported the action, have been against sweeping sanctions, worried about trade relations with Russia
The trade program has been criticized for disproportionately benefiting certain industries and a handful of countries, including Nigeria, South Africa and Angola.
The United Kalavrvta tanker, carrying some 1 million barrels of crude worth about $100 million, arrived off the coast of Texas on Saturday but has yet to unload its disputed cargo.
The uncertainty comes at a bad time for the 18 countries in the euro zone, whose economy is already in the doldrums.
"Kalashnikov regrets that consumers are faced with such a problem," said spokeswoman Yekaterina Boni.
Cairo and Khartoum had earlier accepted a proposal by Addis Ababa to hold the talks in Sudan in the third week of August.