- The small island nation of São Tomé and Príncipe has been promised funds totalling over US$ 52 million during a donor round table meeting. The development aid funds are set to finance anti-poverty policies while the country waits for oil revenues to roll in.
The government of São Tomé and Príncipe in an official statement has announced that international donors pledged to provide it with at least US$ 52 million during a meeting in the capital, São Tomé. The funds were mainly to be directed at developing infrastructure (US$ 25 million), while 20 million went into education and training and 7 million into a good governance programme, according to the statement.
The funds are to be invested into highly needing sectors of the impoverished islands. In São Tomé and Príncipe, infrastructures have been strongly neglected, causing poverty among its relatively well-educated population to remain pervasive. Especially, water and electricity supply - both privatised following demands from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) - have reached a smaller part of the population during the last decade.
As part of the US$ 52 million sponsored by donors, projects totalling an estimated cost of US$ 121 million are to be financed, with the São Tomé government paying the major part itself. Of this, some 31 million will go to improve the electricity supply and 4 million to improve tapping and distribution of water, with an aim of reaching a greater part of the poor population. Additionally, within the infrastructure sector, some 14 million go to an improvement of the run-down road network, which is seen as a necessity prior to private oil infrastructure investments on the islands.
While São Tomé has one of Africa's most including school sectors, the government nevertheless plans to improve education by increasing the length of compulsory schooling, reform its primary school system and boost higher education facilities in the capital. Education programmes co-sponsored by the donors are set at approximately US$ 27 million, with a focus on longer school days for São Toméan children.
The final sector that attracted donor attention was governance, which is seen as critical at a moment when São Tomé and Príncipe is entering the world of oil producing nations. The government has already been widely criticised for many of the oil deals made in the early days, including involving companies not seen as serious and possible corruption affairs.
The donors and the São Tomé government plan to spend US$ 11 million on yet another good governance programmes that aim at strengthening the private sector and reforming both the public administration and the justice system. Several IMF-inspired good governance programmes have already been carried out in the country, but given the government's very limited capacity, they have yet to yield all the desired results.
São Tomé and Príncipe nevertheless has achieved the goodwill of donors, as the island government has demonstrated a keen interest in entering the oil age in the right way and by responding positively to critics when errors have been made. A relatively well functioning democracy has also yielded goodwill.
But most importantly, the large-scale and near-future oil production will give the 150,000 islanders large revenues, making aid and investments worthwhile and a possible good example of how good governance can effectively fight poverty. It is a possibility for development aid providers not to be passed. Therefore, the São Tomé roundtable gathered support from the World Bank, the African Development Bank (ADF), the European Union (EU), ex-colonial power Portugal, the UN, Taiwan and France.
São Tomé and Príncipe shows the biggest perspective on the African continent of rapid growth combined with rapid development and poverty eradication. The democratic archipelago currently sees more than half of its small population living in utmost poverty, while still being relatively socially balanced. Close to 80 percent can read and write and life expectancy is at 65 years. With oil revenues ticking in - and being socially spent - there is no reason for any São Toméan to live in poverty in ten years.
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