- The government of São Tomé and Príncipe has presented its economic programme for the present legislature, responding to a "degrading economic and financial situation". The programme of the region's most recent oil nation focuses on the executive's intention to "transform the archipelago into a centre of service supply" within the foreseen reforms that are to make the national private sector more dynamic.
Tomé Vera Cruz, Prime Minister of São Tomé and Príncipe, yesterday presented a government programme to parliamentarians, which aims at re-focusing state management during the current legislature. The programme's principal objective is to reduce poverty on the two islands and comply with the requirements put to government by its deals with the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Among these benchmarks is a plan to finish off the foreign debts of the small archipelago, totalling an estimated US$ 300 million.
In the opinion of Prime Minister Vera Cruz, the ongoing vitalisation of the private sector is one of "the triumphs" that the current government is seeking as a key to speed up the development of the island state. To achieve this, according to Mr Vera Cruz, "it is necessary to introduce some reforms in the functioning of the country, or better, transform the archipelago into a centre of service supply."
On the other hand, the São Toméan Prime Minister presented his aim that the island nation take necessary steps to launch further integration into the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS). This could open up door for São Tomé and Príncipe by acceding to this regional market, but also represent "the opening that is being noted in sub-regional trade and further possibilities in the new trade connection between ECCAS and the European Union."
As in other African states, this national economic and trade policy is lumped together into São Tomé and Príncipe's "Strategy to reduce poverty", which aims at reducing the national level of poverty by two thirds within 2015. The rather ambitious aim is also guided by a significant foreseen increase in oil revenues for the government in the coming years.
This year's economic programme however focuses less on the oil industry and rather aims at improving the general business climate in São Tomé and Príncipe. Within the programme it is also foreseen to improve governance in general; start recovering the nation's deteriorating infrastructure; create a solid platform for investments in the private sector; and stimulate economic growth in general. The government aims at growth rates of at least 5 percent annually.
A government study realised in 2003 concluded that some 54 percent of all São Tomé and Príncipe citizens live in poverty. If the government's anti-poverty strategy reaches its aims, at least 50,000 persons of the small nation have to be lifted out of misery. Also, social and political pressures would be relieved by the policy, countering the currently growing tensions due to the very high youth unemployment rates.
Presenting his programme in parliament, Prime Minister Vera Cruz however also had to admit that developments so far this year had been rather negative. He detailed that "the situation has grown worse in the first trimester of 2006," indicating that São Tomé would find it difficult to reach IMF benchmarks at current growth rates. The programme was launched to meet current challenges of a "degrading economic and financial situation" of the archipelago and to make sure that relations with the IMF and World Bank maintained good.
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