IMF Mission Concludes the 2013 Article IV Mission to the Republic of Congo
BRAZZAVILLE, Republic of the Congo, May 14, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- An International Monetary Fund (IMF) mission led by Mr. Mbuyamu Matungulu visited Brazzaville during April 29–May 13, 2013, to conduct discussions for the 2013 Article IV consultations. The mission met with the Honorable Obami Itou, President of the Senate; the Honorable Koumba, Speaker of Parliament; State and Finance Minister Ondongo, Special Presidential Advisor Gokana, National Director of the BEAC Ondaye Ebauh, and other senior officials. It held discussions with development partners and representatives of the private sector, including members of the banking profession.
At the end of the mission, Mr. Matungulu issued the following statement:
“In 2012, real GDP growth rebounded to about 4 percent despite a marked decline in oil production. Activity in the non-oil sectors was robust, driven by a surge in public spending in response to the ammunitions depot explosion of March 2012. The brisk increase in spending put pressures on prices, bringing end-year inflation to 7.5 percent as domestic supply response was limited. Reflecting the high import content of increased government outlays, the external current account turned negative in 2012. Credit growth remained robust. The basic non-oil primary budget deficit increased considerably, stemming from the expansion of government spending. However, the deficit was smaller than projected, with domestically-funded investment outlays somewhat lower than anticipated.
“Real GDP growth is expected to strengthen to 5.8 percent in 2013 despite a further decline of oil production, underpinned by continuing strong activity in construction and public works, telecommunications, as well as a timid start of iron ore production. Inflation eased to a monthly average of -0.1 percent in January-February 2013, and is projected to remain subdued during the remainder of the year as pressures from the 2012 ammunitions explosions fallout gradually recede. While the current account is expected to improve, the country remains vulnerable to adverse changes in external conditions, particularly on terms of trade. Compared to the initial budget, the mission's current fiscal projections for 2013 reflect a shortfall in oil revenue equivalent to 4.8 percent of non-oil GDP, a reduction in government spending, as well as much higher-than-anticipated payments on arrears to social sectors. While the basic non-oil primary budget deficit should be contained below the projected level, the build-up of government deposits with the central bank would likely be much lower than targeted under the 2013 budget. The mission urged stronger treasury management and discussed quarterly fiscal targets for the remainder of the year to minimize slippages.
“The authorities' medium-term development agenda seeks to foster private sector development, facilitate economic diversification, and secure growth inclusiveness. It appropriately emphasizes preservation of macroeconomic stability, improvements in governance and transparency and in business conditions, as well as a scaling up of investment to begin closing large infrastructure and skills gaps, while seeking further gains in budget consolidation. The mission encouraged the authorities to expedite reforms to improve the quality of spending; and welcomed World Bank involvement in the efforts to improve the management of the public investment program and enhance the productivity of the development budget. It underscored accelerated implementation of World Bank-supported reforms to improve the business environment, including in financial sector; and to roll out envisaged social protection systems. Regarding the management of oil resources, the mission reiterated calls for early adoption by Parliament of the draft law on budget transparency and accountability, following the achievement last February of compliant status under the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI). As Congo moves ahead with the establishment of Special Economic Zones, the staff team urged caution. In particular, the mission encouraged the authorities to refrain from extending special fiscal incentives, and to focus instead on revamping infrastructure, including the inadequate electricity network, and advancing administrative facilitation. The staff team favored implementation of economy-wide reforms that improve the business environment for all so as to prevent abuses. It confirmed Congo's low risk of debt distress but noted the need for continuing prudent borrowing policies to maintain long-term debt sustainability in the post-HIPC era.
“The mission discussed a medium- and long-term fiscal framework aimed at protecting spending from oil revenue volatility and ensuring budget and debt sustainability while supporting growth and guarding against the risks in the face of declining oil reserves. The framework makes provisions for scaled up investment and a buildup of net wealth that would sustain expenditures when oil resources are depleted. Under the agreed framework, nearly 65 percent of projected total oil revenue for 2013–2019 would be spent (two thirds of which on capital goods), and 35 percent saved; and the basic non-oil primary budget deficit would be limited to 36.1 percent of non-oil GDP by 2015.
“The authorities concurred with the need to improve coordination of economic policy management through development of appropriate reform-monitoring mechanisms. In this context, staff welcomed the government's support to the ongoing review of the Economic and Monetary Community of Central African States (CEMAC)'s reserves pooling framework. Finally, the mission reminded the authorities of Congo's legal obligations under Article VIII, Section 5, including the obligation to provide data to Fund staff on official holdings of foreign exchange.
“The mission wishes to express gratitude to the authorities for their hospitality. Upon its return to Washington D.C., the team will prepare a staff report to be discussed by the IMF's Executive Board.”