- The Congolese government says that one of its principal economic aims for 2003 is to "improve governance and transparency in the oil sector." Brazzaville is thus trying to restore the country's economic credibility, hoping to normalise relations with creditors.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) published today a so-called letter of intent from Rigobert Roger Andely, Congolese Minister of Economy, Finance, and Budget. Here, the Brazzaville government outlines its current economy policies, future plans and a request to receive more IMF financial support under its post-conflict emergency assistance policy.
Minister Andely emphasised that the Congo still was a post-conflict country, with subsequent implications for its economy and economic planning. In light of the weak social indicators, the government was to "make every effort to reduce poverty," and expected to solicit IMF funding for this later this year.
Economic and fiscal performance, "while still short of expectation, improved markedly and a more favourable trend emerged" during the last half of 2002, the Congolese Finance Ministry maintained.
It was however important to emphasise that the Congo had received practically no foreign financial assistance since 2001, the Ministry said in its letter to the IMF. "As a result, pressure on domestic resources has been correspondingly stronger." Regarding structural reforms, only two of the fourteen indicators agreed with the IMF had so far been observed.
Since the end of last year, the Brazzaville government however had seen the "need to restore macroeconomic stability." Mr Andely said that, "fully aware of the need to normalise its relations with external creditors, the Congo has resumed current external debt service and has made partial payments on debt arrears to some multilateral donors, despite its still fragile financial situation."
In order to restore the country's credibility, particularly from the financial standpoint, the government's 2003 economic program was aiming aims at "improving the health of public finances, strengthening transparency in petroleum sector transactions, freeing up the resources needed to reduce poverty, and normalising relations with creditors and reducing government indebtedness to the banking system."
Other outlined objectives for 2003 were a real economic growth of 2.0 percent - despite a marked decline in petroleum production - a rate of inflation of 2 percent, and a primary budget surplus of 9.3 percent of GDP, Minister Andely told the IMF.
Because of the downward trend in petroleum output, which would only be turned around in 2005, "the mobilisation of non-oil tax revenue assumes particular urgency," Mr Andely said. "In this regard, the government intends to apply rigorously the new measures regarding forestry taxation, the customs computer processing fee, the renegotiation of special tax and customs agreements in order to reduce exemptions, and the computerisation of revenue-collecting agencies."
Further, treasury collection services were to be revitalised and "special emphasis will be placed on combating fraud through a reorganisation of the profession of customs agents and the effective enforcement of disciplinary sanctions against those committing fraud," the Finance Ministry said.
The government had recognised that sustained progress in good governance in the oil sector was needed to ensure public support for the reforms. "The transfer in full to the Treasury of oil revenues and their allocation to financing budgetary priorities established by the government and voted by Parliament contributes to the establishment of transparency in the management of government resources," Mr Andely said.
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