IMF Executive Board Concludes 2014 Article IV Consultation with the Union of Comoros

MORONI, Comoros, February 9, 2015/African Press Organization (APO)/ — On February 4, 2015, the Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) concluded the 2014 Article IV consultation1 with the Union of Comoros.

Comoros is a small, low-income and fragile-three island state with limited natural resources and connectivity to the rest of the world. Political instability and fractious inter-island relations marked the country during the first decades after independence from France in the mid-1970s. Political stability and economic turnaround have been in place following the adoption of a new constitution in 2009. Under the 2009–13 Extended Credit Facility (ECF) arrangement the secular decline in per capita GDP slowed. Additionally, authorities made progress in consolidating macroeconomic stability and advancing structural reforms that enabled Comoros to complete the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative in December 2012.

Economic growth was 3.5 percent in 2013 but is estimated to have eased to 3.3 percent in 2014, adversely affected by electricity disruptions and slower-than-expected implementation of the public investment program. Inflation has remained subdued in the low single digits. The current account deficit is projected to narrow to 7.4 percent of GDP in 2014 from 11.3 percent in 2013, reflecting a contraction in imports that resulted from lower imports of investment goods and lower fuel import prices, as well as higher remittances.

Economic growth is expected to firm to 3.5 percent in 2015, despite continuing headwinds from the electricity sector and a tight fiscal situation, supported by an acceleration in the pace of implementation of foreign-financed public investment and lower fuel prices. For the medium term, staff’s baseline assumption is that economic growth will average around 4 percent per annum, provided that reforms are implemented.

Implementation of the 2014 budget was challenging, particularly after mid-year. While revenues were broadly on target, resources were inadequate to meet the higher-than-budgeted wage bill resulting from an increase in teacher salaries and previously un-budgeted expenditures. Domestically-financed investment spending was severely constrained and temporary arrears were incurred on salaries and external debt.

The key short-term challenge is to find a better balance between available resources and expenditures so that arrears can be avoided. Spending plans need to be based on realistic expectations of the resources likely to be available. The 2015 budget is premised on this principle, but the scope for domestically-financed investment is inadequate, as obligatory spending on wages and salaries and debt service absorb most of domestic revenue.

For the medium term, the key challenges are to create fiscal space for infrastructure investment and social spending, accelerate inclusive growth and employment generation, and reduce poverty. The authorities need to focus their efforts on strengthening revenue administration and public financial management to expand fiscal space and improve transparency. Weaknesses in the business environment, including inadequate infrastructure, especially in the energy sector, and difficulties in contract enforcement represent important challenges.

Based on the external low income country debt sustainability analysis, IMF and World Bank staff have re-assessed Comoros’ risk of debt distress as moderate rather than high, which was the case in the previous DSA update completed in December 2013. The full inclusion of remittances in the analysis is the main reason for the improved debt sustainability outlook.

Executive Board Assessment2

Executive Directors welcomed Comoros’s improved policy implementation and economic performance in recent years. However, Directors noted that significant challenges remain—including high poverty, inadequate infrastructure, and vulnerabilities characteristic of small island economies. Prudent macroeconomic policies and stepped-up reform efforts are needed to bolster resilience, enhance competitiveness, and foster inclusive growth.

Directors saw achieving fiscal stability as a key near-term objective. Regretting the incurrence of domestic arrears in 2014, they encouraged the authorities to strike a better balance between available resources and expenditures. In this regard, Directors welcomed the government’s decision to base the 2015 budget on more realistic assumptions, and advised both enhanced prioritization and restraint, including containment of the wage bill.

Directors called for efforts to strengthen revenue mobilization and public financial management, and encouraged the authorities to implement quick-win reforms in both areas. They noted that revenue collection trails that of peer economies, and recommended strengthening administration through more effective management of the large tax payer list, better enforcement of compliance, and streamlining exemptions. Strengthening public financial management would help to limit the incurrence of arrears, enhance fiscal transparency and credibility of the budget, and create space for infrastructure investment and priority social spending. Directors noted the improvement in Comoros’s debt distress rating, and encouraged the authorities to continue to rely on grants and concessional financing.

Directors cautioned against excessive reliance on the potentially volatile proceeds from a new Economic Citizenship Program, and advised allocating these resources to investment projects, restructuring public enterprises, and strengthening external buffers. Strong safeguards are also needed to help prevent misuse of the program.

Directors stressed the need to develop the financial sector, and strengthen the central bank’s regulatory and supervisory oversight, including through risk-based supervision. They called for the development, with Fund technical assistance, of a resolution strategy to accelerate the recapitalization and restructuring of the Postal Bank.

Directors encouraged the authorities to expedite the pace of structural reforms in order to boost external competitiveness and growth prospects. Efforts are needed to strengthen the business climate through the removal of key supply-side constraints in the electricity, telecommunications, and financial sectors. Directors welcomed the progress in preparing a new Poverty Reduction Strategy, while calling for a strong private sector development component aimed at improving the attractiveness of the Comorian economy.

Directors encouraged the authorities to improve data quality and timeliness by prioritizing allocations to the new statistical agency and working with technical assistance providers.

Directors agreed that assistance from development partners is critical, given Comoros’s limited capacity to undertake complex reforms. They acknowledged the role that a new Fund arrangement could play in supporting the authorities’ reform efforts taking into account the small states’ challenges that Comoros is facing, and looked forward to early engagement on this issue.

Source:: IMF Executive Board Concludes 2014 Article IV Consultation with the Union of Comoros

Categories: African Press Organization | Leave a comment

Council of the European Union: conclusions on the Boko Haram threat

BRUSSELS, Kingdom of Belgium, February 9, 2015/African Press Organization (APO)/ — The Boko Haram terrorist actions in north-eastern Nigeria are becoming a growing threat not only for the peace and security of Nigeria but to the whole region including Cameroon, Chad and Niger. The Council stresses the importance of an urgent, comprehensive response to the insurgency, to prevent further terrorist and criminal acts perpetrated by Boko Haram, including stronger governance and economic development.

Recalling the European Union’s (EU) Statement of 19 January 2015 and its Conclusions of 12 May 2014, the Council condemns the continuing violence and appalling atrocities committed by Boko Haram on civilians, including women and children. It expresses its sincere condolences to the people and governments of countries affected. The perpetrators of these gross violations of international humanitarian law, human rights and dignity must be held to account. The international community cannot rest while such outrages are being committed and stands united against such acts of cruelty.

The Council is particularly concerned about the humanitarian consequences of the attacks and their impact on Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad and Niger and recalls the primary responsibility of States to protect civilians on their territory in accordance with the obligations under international law. Thousands have been killed. Over one and a half million people have been displaced within Nigeria and hundreds of thousands to neighbouring countries. Families have been separated, girls abducted, children orphaned and women and girls sexually abused. The EU pledges to continue providing immediate relief to those in need and to increase its efforts at regional level. It commends the work of humanitarian agencies in delivering such relief and encourages them to scale-up their presence. At the same time, the Council underlines the need of the Nigerian government to increase the response to the urgent humanitarian crisis caused by the Boko Haram insurgency and recalls the EU’s readiness to assist. International humanitarian efforts should be appropriately coordinated by the United Nations (UN) in order to enhance delivery capacity and prevent the refugee crisis from escalating out of control.

The scale of the Boko Haram extremist threat requires a Nigerian, as well as a collective and comprehensive response to defeat terrorism in full respect of human rights. The European Union notes that the responsibility to address the immediate security challenges lies primarily with the countries most affected, and calls upon them to urgently intensify their cooperation and coordination. In this respect, it commends the Chadian army’s recent assistance to the Cameroonian forces already engaged in the fight against Boko Haram. The Council welcomes and supports the decision of the States in the region, endorsed by the African Union (AU), to deploy a multinational force, to be endorsed by the UN Security Council, once the concept of operations is finalised. In this regard it salutes the AU preparatory meeting that was held in Yaoundé from 5 to 7 February. It also welcomes actions already undertaken under the aegis of the Lake Chad Basin Commission, following high-level security conferences held in Paris, London, Abuja and Niamey since May 2014.

The EU stands ready with its partners – the UN, the AU, regional organisations, the individual States concerned as well as the Global Counter-Terrorism Forum (GCTF) – to provide support to the region with its full range of instruments, including the possibility of recourse to the African Peace Facility and EU crisis management tools. The EU will also look at ways to help the countries concerned strengthen their own capacities to handle the challenge, including the root causes of the radicalisation and violence, whilst encouraging intergovernmental cooperation amongst them. The Council emphasises that the crisis can only be overcome when all forces concerned abide by international humanitarian law, human rights and refugee law and practices in support of the communities they are tasked to protect.

At the same time, the Council reaffirms its determination to assist Nigeria at the national and local level as well as other countries affected in their efforts to promote the sustainable economic development of the Lake Chad region, fight corruption, provide the social and educational needs of its population and meet up with the aspirations of their young people.

The Council invites the HR and the Commission to take forward appropriate actions and propose necessary decisions, notably on the basis of a Political Framework for Crisis Approach (PFCA), including an assessment of the needs of the countries affected by the menace of Boko Haram. The PFCA should include a gender perspective. The Council will remain closely involved in this issue and will revert when necessary.

Source:: Council of the European Union: conclusions on the Boko Haram threat

Categories: African Press Organization | Leave a comment

Weather and Climate Services Underpin Sustainable Development in Africa

PRAIA, Cabo Verde, February 9, 2015/African Press Organization (APO)/ — Ministers responsible for meteorology in Africa are meeting to coordinate and accelerate regional efforts to strengthen resilience to extreme weather hazards and adapt to climate change.

Logo: http://www.photos.apo-opa.com/plog-content/images/apo/logos/amcomet-2.png

Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fe0xMhOeBD8&feature=youtu.be

Photo 1: http://www.photos.apo-opa.com/index.php?level=picture&id=1717

Photo 2: http://www.photos.apo-opa.com/index.php?level=picture&id=1716

Photo 3: http://www.photos.apo-opa.com/index.php?level=picture&id=1715

The Third Session of the African Ministerial Conference on Meteorology (AMCOMET) (http://www.wmo.int/amcomet) will be hosted by the government of Cabo Verde from 10th -14th February. It will focus on improving weather and climate services which are vital to food security, water management, disaster risk reduction and health, as well as key economic sectors like transport, energy and tourism, among others.

“Every African country should be involved in the collective effort towards the transformative socio-economic development of the continent to build The Africa We Want envisaged in the African Union Agenda 2063,” said African Union Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture, H.E Rhoda Peace Tumusiime.

“National Meteorological and Hydrological Services are critical actors in supporting sustainable development. There is today increased awareness of the socioeconomic benefits delivered by weather and climate services,” said World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Secretary-General Michel Jarraud.

Ministers will discuss the Integrated African Strategy on Meteorology (Weather and Climate Services), One of its aims is to increase recognition and funding for NMHSs. They will approve a new regional climate centre for Central Africa to consolidate research and forecasting capabilities. Ministers will also consider input from the meteorological community to a pan-African Space Policy and Strategy.

“Knowledge, research and innovation are all vital to the competitiveness of the African economy and to allow us to meet weather, water and energy challenges,” said Dr. Antero Veiga, Minister for Environment, Housing and Territorial Planning

“The recent devastating flooding in many parts of Africa, particularly Southern Africa, has highlighted once again how weather-related hazards undermine and disrupt social, political and economic development,” said Hon Saviour Kasukuwere, Minister of Environment, Water and Climate of Zimbabwe and the outgoing Chair of AMCOMET. “There is no doubt that the vagaries of weather and climate will play a critical role in shaping Africa’s development agenda. This requires a collective approach, unity of purpose based upon the shared vision on climate proofing of our beloved continent, genuine partnerships and commitment”

Distributed by APO (African Press Organization) on behalf of the African Ministerial Conference on Meteorology (AMCOMET).

Notes to Editors

For more information, visit: http://www.wmo.int/amcomet/

For all media enquiries (radio, TV interviews and photos) please email:

Ms Josianne Uwantege: josiane@duniamedia.ch +238 58 62 467

Mr. Michael Williams: mwilliams(at)wmo.int or phone +41 22 730 8315

Ms. Carol Jilombo: Jilomboc(at)africa-union.org

Source:: Weather and Climate Services Underpin Sustainable Development in Africa

Categories: African Press Organization | Leave a comment

Mali: ICRC treats people injured in Tabankort and Gao

GENEVA, Switzerland, February 9, 2015/African Press Organization (APO)/ — The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is deeply concerned about the situation in northern Mali. The ICRC medical team at Gao regional hospital has treated 21 people wounded in the recent fighting in Tabankort (some 200 km north of Gao) and 18 others injured during demonstrations in Gao itself.

In late January and last week, opposition and pro-government groups clashed around Tabankort. “We’ve received reports that entire families have been trapped by the fighting,” said Christophe Luedi, head of the ICRC’s delegation in Mali. “We are quite concerned about them and doing everything we can to come to their aid.” The ICRC’s priority is to quickly assess the needs of the people affected and then meet those needs as rapidly as possible.

Aly Ouattara heads the ICRC’s medical work at Gao hospital. He explained that most of the patients admitted had suffered gunshot wounds and required surgery. “Many have multiple fractures and other severe wounds.”

Despite considerable difficulty, the ICRC is pursuing its dialogue with all the parties concerned to help people affected by the fighting. ICRC staff present in all parts of northern Mali continue to closely monitor the situation. “We’re planning to bolster the ability of our staff in Kidal to take rapid action,” the head of delegation said.

The ICRC reminds those involved in the fighting that they are obliged to comply with the rules applicable to them under international humanitarian law. In particular, they must protect the civilian population and all those no longer taking part in the fighting.

Source:: Mali: ICRC treats people injured in Tabankort and Gao

Categories: African Press Organization | Leave a comment

Norway to provide USD 20 million in emergency aid to South Sudan

OSLO, Norway, February 9, 2015/African Press Organization (APO)/ — Norway is providing USD 20 million (NOK 150 million) in emergency aid to the civilian population in South Sudan. ‘Nearly 6.5 million South Sudanese have been affected by the humanitarian crisis that has resulted from the violent political power struggle in South Sudan. Norway wants to support the civilians who are now suffering. At the same time, we will continue to urge the country’s leaders to put the needs of the people first, to bring an end to the conflict and find political solutions that will benefit the country in the future,’ said Minister of Foreign Affairs Børge Brende.

The UN and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) are holding a humanitarian donor conference for South Sudan in Nairobi today, at which State Secretary Hans Brattskar is participating. Norway’s contribution will be channelled through NGOs, the Red Cross system and UN humanitarian organisations. Norway is also providing support through the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF).

‘This is one of the most severe humanitarian crises we have seen in our time. This conflict is compounding an already difficult situation for the population. The UN estimates that the need for humanitarian protection and assistance will continue to rise in the time ahead,’ Mr Brende said.

Since the conflict in South Sudan broke out in December 2013, approximately two million people have been forced to flee their homes, including 750 000 children.

‘Peace between the parties and an end to the hostilities are essential for ensuring that emergency relief reaches those in urgent need of protection, food, drinking water, medical help and shelter. It is very disappointing that the parties have shown no willingness to agree on key issues that could bring the peace process to a successful conclusion. We would like to point out once again that the country’s authorities are responsible for ensuring the security of their own population and for dealing with the humanitarian consequences of this man-made crisis,’ Mr Brende said.

Mr Brende recently had a meeting with the parties to the conflict in Addis Ababa, where he emphasised that an agreement is long overdue. At the signing of the preliminary peace agreement last week, the parties once again appeared to show no genuine willingness to find a political solution to the conflict by resolving issues relating to the division of power and a transitional government.

Source:: Norway to provide USD 20 million in emergency aid to South Sudan

Categories: African Press Organization | Leave a comment

Canada Concerned by Postponement of Nigerian Elections

OTTAWA, Canada, February 9, 2015/African Press Organization (APO)/ — The Honourable Deepak Obhrai, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and for International Human Rights, today issued the following statement:

“Canada is concerned that Nigeria’s presidential, legislative and state elections have been postponed. The people of Nigeria must be allowed to exercise their democratic right to choose their representatives through free, fair, peaceful and credible elections.

“All institutions of state, as well as political parties and candidates, must uphold democratic values. It is particularly important that security agencies provide security for elections in an impartial manner and that journalists are allowed unfettered access in reporting on the election process.”

Source:: Canada Concerned by Postponement of Nigerian Elections

Categories: African Press Organization | Leave a comment