afrol News, 2 March - According to the newest report by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Niger, the country had a generally positive development throughout last year. Economic growth was estimated to have reached 5 percent as a result of "good climatic conditions" and inflation slowed to under 4 percent.
The IMF yesterday presented its annual "Article IV Consultation" with Niger, the result of an IMF staff team visiting the country, collectings economic and financial information, and discussing with Nigerien officials about economic developments and policies. The general conclusions on "of the poorest countries in Africa ... ranked very low on all social indicators" were generally positive for 2001.
- From negative 1.4 percent in 2000, the real GDP growth is estimated to reach 5.1 percent in 2001 as a result of good climatic conditions, the IMF reports. "Inflation slowed to under 4 percent on average, and the external current account deficit is estimated to have widened slightly to around 8.5 percent of GDP due to deterioration in the terms of trade." The basic fiscal deficit had also narrowed.
Niger had also made progress in implementing the controversial structural reforms, the UN agency reported. "Progress in the reform of the budgetary expenditure process, including the strengthening of budget execution and monitoring, was supported by a new public expenditure credit of the World Bank."
The IMF Directors stated that they "welcomed the satisfactory macroeconomic outcome for 2001." Program slippages identified in early 2001 had been rectified and the program had been brought back on track at end-September 2001, the IMF release said. "Directors were encouraged by the additional measures taken to ensure the achievement of the program objectives at end-2001, despite delays in budgetary assistance disbursements."
The IMF also "endorsed the authorities's economic and financial program for 2002," which aims to consolidate further the fiscal stance through higher revenue, while stepping up implementation of the poverty reduction strategy. They however "urged the authorities to maintain their structural reform agenda, particularly the privatization program, and to implement without delay the reforms to strengthen the financial system, in collaboration with the World Bank."
Positive wheather conditions in 2000 had helped the Nigerien economy back on track. Niger is highly vulnerable to external and weather-related shocks. Its main economic activities, agriculture and livestock, account approximately for 40 percent of output, while the export base is limited to uranium, cattle and a few agricultural products.
Furthermore, Niger has suffered a series of social and political upheavals over the last decade that hindered the implementation of reforms and economic recovery measures. Since their election at end-1999, the authorities have been able to reestablish economic, social, and political stability in the country.
Niger is eligible for assistance under the enhanced Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative. Given an accepted poverty reduction programme and the goodwill of the IMF and World Bank, Niger could get its debts reduced markedly. The Nigerien government thus has embarked on a line of total cooperation with these agencies.