- In a step sealing the total normalisation between Togolese-European Union (EU) ties, the Lomé government was given a euro 15 million grant defined as a direct budget support. This comes as Togo is preparing for general elections early next year.
It has been a long road with many setbacks to normalise EU-Togolese relations after Europeans froze all economic aid to the country due to gross human rights violations and lack of any democratic institutions. As Togo now prepares what could become the country's first-ever totally free elections, the EU is encouraging the government by a strong sign of trust.
Patrick Spirlet, the new head of the EU Mission in Lomé on Monday signed a grant agreement with Togolese Minister of Cooperation Gilbert Bawara. The EU grant was amounting to euro 15 million.
While the EU earlier has given loans and grants to Togo after the normalisation process started, this is the first time direct budget support is given. A budget support grant goes directly into the Togolese national budget and government will have to do little to document how the funds are spent.
It therefore indicates that Europeans now are placing enough trust on Togolese authorities and national spending to feel ensured that the grant will be directed towards the wellbeing of the population at large. Donors have become increasingly sceptical on handing out direct budget support, only using this kind of aid when good governance is assured.
Mr Spirlet also emphasised on the renewed trust between the two parties during the signing ceremony. "It is a recognition of the EU efforts that the Togolese government has undertaken to ensure economic reforms. It is also a sign of healthy cooperation between the EU and Togo," Mr Spirlet added.
Togolese government sources say this budgetary support would enable authorities to strengthen its investment in priority sectors identified in the country's poverty reduction programme.
The grant and its symbolic importance was appreciated by the Togolese leadership. "This grant is historic because for over 10 years, it is the first time government is given a significant amount of direct budgetary support from a partner," stated Cooperation Minister Bawara.
Togo is preparing for presidential polls in early 2010, which are expected to finalise the democratic transition of the former totalitarian dictatorship. Long-time opposition leader Gilchrist Olympio is challenging President Faure Gnassingbé in a poll where the opposition is believed to have a real chance to achieve power.
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