Colombia central bank member sees 2015 growth at or above 3.5 pct

miércoles 13 de mayo de 2015 14:06 GYT

BOGOTA May 13 (Reuters) - Colombia's economy will expand by 3.5 percent or more in 2015, a board member of the Andean country's central bank said on Wednesday, a figure higher than the official 3.2 percent forecast tha was announced by the bank last week.

Board member Adolfo Meisel said economic growth will be lifted by a weaker peso, which will stimulate exports and lead to locally produced products being substituted for imports, and by the startup of the export-focused Cartagena oil refinery after a revamp.

"I think this year growth will be around 3.5 percent and it could even be a bit higher because in the second half we will have various factors contributing to this," Meisel told reporters at an event organized by the central bank and the International Monetary Fund.

Central bank director Jose Dario Uribe announced last week the institution had cut its 2015 growth forecast to a most probable 3.2 percent, down from 3.6 percent previously.

Last year's sharp drop in the price of oil, Colombia's top export and key source of government income, has hit economic growth, which has been 4 percent or higher every year since 2010.

Commenting on the central bank's lower estimate, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, whose government has a higher forecast of 3.5 percent to 4 percent, said the bank's new estimate was overly pessimistic.

Another central bank co-director at the event, Cesar Vallejo, said the Andean country's 4.5 percent benchmark interest rate provides some monetary stimulus for growth and therefore should not be cut. (Reporting by Carlos Vargas; Writing by Peter Murphy; Editing by Peter Galloway)