afrol News, 13 June - The Mauritanian government blames the European Union for its failure to meet economic goals in 2001. The sizable late payment of € 86 million, (US$ 77 million) for EU fishing rights, which contributes about 8 percent of Mauritania's GDP, resulted in a 2001 fiscal deficit of 5.6 percent of GDP.
In its 'Memorandum of Economic and Financial Policies of the Government of Mauritania for 2002' - recently made public by the International Monetary Fund - Mauritania laments a number of deviations from its original economic targets, which had been elaborated together with the IMF and may be conditions for further IMF support.
However, "the delayed receipt of the financial compensation for 2001 under the fishing agreement with the EU explains almost all deviations," says the Memorandum, written by Sid El Moctar Ould Nagi, Governor of the Central Bank of Mauritania.
The EU's 2001 fisheries payment did not arrive until early 2002, messing up Mauritania's 2001 budget. The delay "resulted in a fiscal deficit of 5.6 percent of GDP as well as a current account deficit (including official transfers) of 4.6 percent of GDP, as compared, respectively, to the program targets of a surplus of 1.9 percent of GDP and a deficit of 1.2 percent of GDP."
Economic growth in 2001 had still been respectable although "less robust than initially projected." The growth rate was revised downward from 5.2 percent in the program to 4.6 percent. The 2002 prognosis was more optimistic, as "a growth rate of 5.1 percent would be achievable," Ould Nagi assessed. Also the number households affected by "income poverty" had been reduced from 50.5 percent in 1996 to 46.3 percent in 2000.
The prospects for 2002 will again depend on the EU's payment for its substantial fisheries in Mauritanian waters. "Given that the two annual payments (for 2001 and 2002) under the fishing agreement are being received in 2002, the current account balance will turn into a surplus of 3.8 percent of GDP, and official reserves are expected to rise to the equivalent of eight months of imports."
The EU-Mauritanian fisheries agreement is heavily disputed, seen by environmentalists as leading to significant overfishing in north-west African waters. It is also said to deprive Mauritanian fishing communities of their livelihood. Neighbouring Senegal so far has refused to renew a parallel agreement with the EU over payment and environmental differences.