WASHINGTON, November 6, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — Since the first cases of Ebola were reported in West Africa in March 2014, the United States has mounted a whole-of-government response to contain and eliminate the epidemic at its sour…
WASHINGTON, November 6, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — The President on Wednesday morning spoke by phone with the U.S. Public Health Service (PHS) Commissioned Corps who are staffing the Monrovia Medical Unit (MMU), the 25-bed hospital constructed by the U.S. Military that will open its doors later this week. The President underscored the indispensability of the MMU’s mission—to treat national and international healthcare workers who fall ill with Ebola in their brave service to others. He noted that these PHS officers will offer hope to their patients while also reassuring other healthcare workers in the region and those around the globe whose services are needed to end this epidemic. The President thanked the members of the Corps as well as their families for taking on this challenge, commenting that, of the 71 officers selected, all of them accepted the assignment, a testament to their selfless service to the nation. The President specifically commended Rear Admiral Scott Giberson, who is heading the contingent, on his leadership, and reminded the full team that, through their service, we will bring this epidemic under control at the source, the only way to prevent additional cases of Ebola domestically.
CAPE-TOWN, South-Africa, November 6, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — The organisers of the annual Investing in African Mining Indaba (http://www.miningindaba.com) announced today that Tony Blair, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (1997 – 2007) will participate in a keynote presentation at the 2015 annual conference. Euromoney Institutional Investor Managing Director, Mr. Christopher Fordham, will host an “Interview with Tony Blair” during a special keynote presentation.
The 2015 edition of the annual Mining Indaba, the world’s largest mining investment event will take place on 9 – 12 February 2015 in Cape Town, South Africa.
“Mr. Blair has vast experience as a global leader and through the charity he founded in 2008, the Africa Governance Initiative, he has worked with African governments to improve regulation and investment oversight. As a result, Mr. Blair will provide unique and charismatic insights to our global delegation who are vested in capitalising African mining,” says Jonathan Moore, Managing Director, Mining Indaba.
Tony Blair was Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland from 1997 – 2007, having secured an historic third term in office. As leader of the Labour party, he led extensive public service reform, introduced a national minimum wage, oversaw constitutional reform, led the London 2012 Games bid and was instrumental in the Northern Ireland peace process. He also oversaw devolution in Scotland and Wales.
Continuing his role in public life, Tony Blair now works to secure peace and prosperity in the Middle East, improve governance in Africa, encourage understanding of world faiths and boost access to sport for children in the North East of England. He also remains committed to finding solutions to climate change.
The 2015 Mining Indaba is expected to draw more than 7,000 investors, mining corporates, government leaders, global press, and other industry stakeholders from 110 countries.
In addition to Mr. Blair’s keynote presentation, the Mining Indaba will feature a blockbuster line up of global speakers including: industry’s most pervasive deal-maker, Robert Friedland of Ivanhoe Mines, global economist, Dr. Dambisa Moyo; creator of the acronym BRIC, Jim O’Neill; the World Bank’s Group emerging regions expert, Anita Marangoly George; and a host of other government leaders, world’s largest mining company CEOs, and international commodities analysts.
Mining Indaba also includes the Investment Discovery Forum on 8-9 February in Cape Town, which offers private educational and networking setting exclusively open to accredited investors (complimentary registration available) and mining corporates to engage in deal discussions. The ability to schedule unlimited number of one-on-one meetings in this forum enables investors and mining executives to maximize their ROI for their travel and time. For more information visit http://www.miningindaba.com/DiscoveryInvest.
The Mining Indaba will include a total of five and half days of deal-making and discovery showcasing ALL of Africa’s most attractive investment opportunities unlike any other mining investment in the world. For more information on registration and programme, visit http://www.miningindaba.com.
Distributed by APO (African Press Organization) on behalf of Mining Indaba™.
[Note to Editors:] Investing in African Mining Indaba is open to qualified members of the press. All members interested in obtaining accreditation for press access must do so before 24 January 2015. Please refer to http://bit.ly/M15PR2 for required credentials and application.
About the Mining Indaba™
Investing in African Mining Indaba™ (http://www.miningindaba.com), often referred to as “the Mining Indaba™,” is an annual professional conference dedicated to the capitalisation and development of mining interests in Africa. It is currently the world’s largest mining investment conference and Africa’s largest mining event. For two decades, the annual Mining Indaba has served as the pathway for foreign investments into Africa’s mining value chain – opportunities ranging from small diamond deposits to mega coal projects. The Mining Indaba™ is now part of Euromoney Institutional Investor PLC. Visit http://www.miningindaba.com for more details.
KHARTOUM, Sudan, November 6, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — The United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Sudan a.i., Mr. Geert Cappelaere, has expressed deep concern that children in conflict affected areas of South Kordofan and Blue Nile may again be at high risk of contracting polio.
Sudan was recently declared polio free, but two new cases have emerged this week in South Sudan’s Unity state, near the border with South Kordofan, increasing the risk that the virus may return to Sudan.
South Kordofan and Blue Nile states are of particular concern, as no polio vaccination programmes have been undertaken in several localities since the military conflict between the Government of Sudan and the Sudan People Liberation Movement – Northern sector began in 2011.
Since April 2013, the United Nations have operational plans in place to deliver a polio vaccination campaign for 165’000 children under-five years of age in those conflict affected areas of South Kordofan and Blue Nile.
“It is vital that every effort is made to ensure that this vaccination campaign takes place immediately and all children, no matter where they live, are safe from contracting this terrible disease. Polio is preventable with simple vaccination – vaccines are available and free” said Mr Cappelaere.
“We therefore call upon the highest authorities in the Government of Sudan and in SPLM-N as well as the entire international community to ensure that the interests of the children concerned are of primary consideration in the next round of negotiations with all parties set to be held soon in Addis Ababa. All parties should agree to a minimum of 10 days of cessation of hostilities and unconditional support to the UN operational vaccination plan. There is no longer time to lose.”
NEW YORK, November 6, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — The following Security Council press statement was issued today by Council President Gary Quinlan (Australia):
The Security Council heard a briefing on 4 November 2014 by the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Mr. Jeffrey Feltman, on the political crisis in Burkina Faso.
The members of the Security Council expressed their deep concern over the political and security crisis in Burkina Faso and over reports of the loss of life resulting from recent events surrounding the resignation of Mr. Blaise Compaoré from his post of President of Burkina Faso. They called for calm and urged all parties to refrain from violence. They called on the Burkina Faso authorities to respect the right of peaceful assembly and right to life and to protect citizen’s safety and property.
The members of the Security Council called on all actors involved in Burkina Faso to respect the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) protocol on democracy and good governance and the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance, notably the rejection of unconstitutional changes of Government.
The members of the Security Council acknowledged the democratic aspiration of the people of Burkina Faso. They urged the security forces of Burkina Faso to hand over power to a civilian-led transition and to take immediate steps to restore constitutional order without delay.
The members of the Security Council called on all stakeholders in Burkina Faso to collaborate together to launch a peaceful, civilian-led and democratic transition process leading to the holding of free, fair, inclusive and credible elections as soon as possible, consistent with the Constitution of Burkina Faso.
The members of the Security Council took note of the Declaration of the Chairman of (ECOWAS) of 2 November 2014 and of the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council communiqué of 4 November 2014 on Burkina Faso.
The members of the Security Council expressed their full support to the Special Representative for West Africa, Mohamed Ibn Chambas, and for the mission conducted jointly with the African Union and ECOWAS, and called on all parties in Burkina Faso to extend full cooperation to the joint mission. They commended the efforts of regional and international actors, in particular ECOWAS and the African Union, towards the restoration of constitutional order in Burkina Faso.
NEW YORK, November 6, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — The following Security Council press statement was issued today by Council President Gary Quinlan (Australia):
On 4 November, the United Nations Security Council was briefed by United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) Special Representative of the Secretary-General Ellen Margrethe Løj and UNMISS Force Commander Lieutenant-General Yohannes Gebremeskel Tesfamariam (by videoconference from Juba) on the situation in South Sudan.
The members of the Security Council expressed their alarm and outrage at the resumption of hostilities between the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) and Opposition forces in Bentiu and Rubkhona, Unity State, South Sudan on 26-30 October, and along the Sobat River in Upper Nile State on 2 November. The members of the Security Council condemned in the strongest terms these acts that resulted in the death and injury of civilians, violated cessation of hostilities agreements, and demonstrated an absence of commitment by both sides to peace and the political process. The members of the Security Council also underscored their grave concern that the fighting took place next to the UNMISS camp in Bentiu sheltering more than 49,000 internally displaced persons. They further underlined that these new hostilities are magnifying an already serious humanitarian crisis which has displaced a total of more than 1.8 million South Sudanese.
The members of the Security Council strongly demanded an immediate end to all violence, and reiterated their demand to end human rights violations and abuses and violations of international humanitarian law. They confirmed their intention to commence negotiations, in consultation with relevant partners, including the Intergovernmental Authority for Development (IGAD) and African Union (AU), on all appropriate measures, including targeted sanctions against those impeding the peace process. They also renewed their call upon the Government of South Sudan to take steps to ensure the safety of all civilians, to swiftly investigate these incidents, and to bring the perpetrators of these heinous acts to justice.
The members of the Security Council confirmed their strong support of the IGAD mediation effort and looked forward to the results of the forthcoming investigation from the IGAD Monitoring and Verification Mechanism on the outbreak of violence. The members of the Security Council welcomed the next IGAD Summit currently scheduled for 6 November, to press President Salva Kiir and Dr. Riek Machar to urgently reach agreement on inclusive and comprehensive arrangements for a Transitional Government of National Unity. The members of the Security Council called upon the parties to engage fully in ongoing peace talks, ensure that those talks are inclusive, uphold their commitment to establish a Transitional Government of National Unity, and finalize appropriate arrangements without further delay.
The members of the Security Council reiterated their steadfast support for UNMISS and its vital mission on behalf of the international community to protect civilians in South Sudan, conduct human rights monitoring and investigations, facilitate humanitarian assistance to populations in need, and support monitoring of the cessation of hostilities agreement. They condemned the recent detentions of three UNMISS personnel and the kidnappings of two UN-affiliated personnel. The members of the Security Council demanded their immediate and safe release, and called upon the Government of South Sudan to swiftly investigate these incidents and to ensure that justice is served.
The members of the Council renewed their demand that all parties cooperate fully with UNMISS and respect the inviolability of UNMISS protection sites. They condemned violations of the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) and stressed that threats and attacks on United Nations personnel and facilities are unacceptable and may constitute a violation of international law. They also expressed their concern about the increased harassment and targeting of NGOs and humanitarian workers, as well as journalists, in South Sudan.
The members of the Security Council took note with interest of the UNMISS human rights division’s important investigations of human rights abuses and violations, including those during the recent violence, and the planned release of the next UNMISS human rights report before the end of this year. They also affirmed support for efforts to investigate and document violations of international humanitarian law and human rights violations and abuses committed during the armed conflict, and hold those responsible accountable. The members of the Security Council also looked forward to the final report of the AU Commission of Inquiry.
MAPUTO, Mozambique, November 6, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — A staff team from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), led by Doris Ross, visited Mozambique during October 22-November 6, 2014 to hold discussions towards the completion of the third review under the three-year Policy Support Instrument (PSI) 1 approved in June 2013 (see Press Release No. 13/231). The team met with President-elect Filipe Nyusi, Finance Minister Manuel Chang, Planning and Development Minister Aiuba Cuereneia, Bank of Mozambique Governor Ernesto Gove, other line ministers, senior government officials, the private sector, civil society, and development partners. It also met with the presidential candidates of the three main parties. The team traveled to Tete, where it met with Governor Paulo Auade and got acquainted with the main economic challenges facing a region that exemplifies the importance of developing extractive industries while creating jobs and economic opportunities for the population, including in agriculture.
At the conclusion of the visit, Ms. Ross issued the following statement:
“Mozambique’s economic performance remains robust. Real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth is projected at 7.5 percent in both 2014 and 2015, reflecting strong activity in all sectors, especially extractive industries, construction, transport and communication, commerce and financial services. Risks to this outlook have increased somewhat recently with the decline in commodity prices in world markets, especially for coal, and uncertainty about the large Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) projects. While substantial natural resource revenues are 6-10 years away, efforts are needed to put in place adequate institutional arrangements and capacity to address the large new challenges associated with this sector and the promise it holds for the country.
“Inflation remains well-contained thanks to an increase in domestic food production and a decline in import prices. Average inflation stood at just 1.4 percent in September, well below the same period last year, and is expected to remain below 3 percent for 2014 as a whole. The external current account deficit is large due to imports for big investment projects financed by foreign direct investment (FDI). International reserve coverage seems broadly adequate.
“Recent program performance is mixed. The mission urged the authorities to step up implementation of key structural reforms, especially in the public financial management (PFM) area, financial system and market development. A focus on rural infrastructure development and further improvements in the business environment should help make growth more inclusive by enhancing agricultural productivity and job creation in the private sector.
“Regarding economic policies for the rest of 2014 and 2015, the staff team and the authorities agreed on the need to maintain revenue efforts and slow the growth of public spending, including the wage bill, goods and services and investment while enhancing the efficiency of spending, in order to preserve debt sustainability in the medium term. While the 2015 budget should begin to narrow the fiscal deficit, this should be achieved in a manner that protects social spending such as basic health and education, and social assistance programs.
“The authorities are appropriately committed to (i) further strengthening their management of public resources, including by adopting a fiscal rule to improve the management of windfall revenue; (ii) enhancing the transparency and efficiency of public investment; and (iii) strengthening the management of public enterprises and disclosing the audited annual reports of the largest ones, including the Mozambican Tuna Company (EMATUM). As economic challenges become more complex, the authorities should continue to sharpen their tools to monitor and guide macroeconomic developments.
“The Bank of Mozambique’s commitment to keep money growth in check is welcome and will help to moderate the recent rapid pace of credit expansion to more prudent levels. Real interest rates in Mozambique are still high by international standards, and reforms should address the underlying structural factors to make financial markets more flexible, and thus reduce borrowing cost.
“On return to Washington D.C., the team will prepare a staff report that, upon management approval, is scheduled for discussion by the Executive Board in early January 2015.
“We would like to thank the authorities for the constructive policy discussions during this period of political transition and for their warm hospitality.”
1 PSI is an instrument of the IMF designed for countries that do not need balance of payments financial support. The PSI helps countries design effective economic programs that, once approved by the IMF’s Executive Board, signal to donors, multilateral development banks, and markets the Fund’s endorsement of a member’s policies (see http://www.imf.org/external/np/exr/facts/psi.htm). Details on Mozambique’s PSI program are available at http://www.imf.org/mozambique.
GENEVA, Switzerland, November 5, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — The recent attacks on the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria (EYN) – a World Council of Churches member church – and the Kulp Bible College, among other churches in Nigeria, have prompted an expression of profound dismay from the general secretary of the WCC, Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit.
The attacks in the last week of October in Nigeria are linked to the militant group Boko Haram, according to media reports.
“We want to offer our support and solidarity to the whole people of Nigeria, and its government,” Tveit said in a statement issued on 5 November from the WCC headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.
“It is vital that the government take immediate and proactive steps to protect all the people of Nigeria and work strategically to defend them against such attacks, as well as supporting practically those who have recently experienced these atrocities,” said Tveit.
In his statement, the WCC general secretary appreciated efforts by the Christian Council of Nigeria in working with other organizations to provide aid to people fleeing the violence. A large number of the local population fled to the Cameroon border in order to escape the violence.
Tveit also drew attention to the plight of more than 200 school girls who were abducted six months ago and are still held captive. “We believe this to be totally unacceptable. We call upon the government to continue to work for their well-being and speedy release,” he said.
Tveit affirmed a statement from the EYN president Dr Samuel Dante Dali, who said, “We need urgent help from the international community if the global community can have compassion on us… The future of Nigeria is getting darker and darker day by day, but Nigerian political leadership do not seem to take the suffering of the people very seriously. The government of Nigeria with all its security seems very weak and helpless in handling the crisis.”
Tveit invited Christians and people of good will to hold Nigerian people in prayers.
EL FASHER (DARFUR), Sudan, November 5, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — The African Union-United Nations Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) is deeply concerned about the media reports of an alleged mass rape of 200 women and girls in Tabit, located 4…
NAIROBI, Kenya, November 5, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — Leading African Activist to be Announced as Winner of Top Global Environmental Prize
What: Announcing African Winner of Champions of the Earth 2014
When: Friday 7 November, 2014 10.30am – 11.30am
Where: The Hilton Hotel, City Centre, Nairobi
Who: Fatima Jibrell, Founder of ADESO and Champions of the Earth Winner
Ibrahim Thiaw, UNEP Deputy Executive Director
Paolo Toselli, European Union
Fatima Jibrell, one of Africa’s leading environmental activists and founder of Adeso (formerly known as Horn Relief), is to become the first Somali to win a Champions of the Earth award.
The Inspiration and Action award, which has been won in previous years by Brian McClendon of Google Earth, and Carlo Petrini, Founder of Slow Food, will be awarded to Fatima Jibrell for her outstanding contribution and service to the planet through her efforts to build peace, advocate for better environmental practices, and protect the livelihoods of Somalia’s pastoralists.
We invite you to attend the historic announcement of the award and to hear from Fatima Jibrell in her own words, what this award signifies to her, to Somalia, and to Kenya, where her organization undertakes work of critical importance to the environment and to the livelihoods of tens of thousands of people.
Champions of the Earth is the United Nations’ flagship environmental award launched in 2005 that recognizes outstanding visionaries and leaders in the fields of policy, science, entrepreneurship, and civil society action.
Whether by helping to improve the management of natural resources, demonstrating new ways to tackle climate change or raising awareness of emerging environmental challenges, Champions of the Earth should serve as an inspiration for transformative action across the world.
Past laureates have included Mikhail Gorbachev, Al Gore, Felipe Calderon, Mohamed Nasheed, Marina Silva, Vinod Khosla, and many other such exemplary leaders on the environment and development front.
The full Awards Ceremony will take place at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington D.C. on November 19th, hosted by the United Nations Environment Programme.
GENEVA, Switzerland, November 5, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — Thousands of people displaced by conflict in north-eastern Nigeria have taken refuge in Maiduguri.
On 3 November, the ICRC and the Nigerian Red Cross Society completed the distribution of food and household essentials to over 50,000 people living in extremely difficult conditions. “Not only did people have to flee their homes in Kodunga, Kaga, Gwoza and Damboa, they also lost all their belongings and their means of earning a living. They didn’t have enough food and they lacked important basic items,” said Karl Mattli, head of the ICRC delegation in Nigeria. “The additional strain placed on communities by hosting the displaced reached the point where it was more than they could bear.”
After carrying out an assessment of the situation, the ICRC and the Nigerian Red Cross launched an emergency operation to meet urgent needs. ICRC staff and more than a hundred Nigerian Red Cross volunteers distributed 960 metric tonnes of food and other relief items to 51,000 people.
Food and other items for needy people in the north-east
Most displaced people who arrived in Maiduguri in the past few months were settled in government buildings, schools or official camps. Some stayed with relatives or host families, with whom they shared scant resources, while others found refuge in informal settlements. Whatever their living arrangements, the displaced cannot afford to buy their own food and therefore have had to depend on aid provided by the State or on the generosity of others to survive.
“In the short term, the aid we have just distributed will improve significantly the well-being of the displaced,” said Janet Angelei, an ICRC economic-security specialist working in Nigeria. “The kitchen sets, blankets, soap, mats, hygiene items and tarpaulins we have provided will meet some of their immediate needs and reduce the burden on the hosting families.”
The ICRC also distributed about a month’s supply of rice, beans, oil and salt. “Since fleeing our homes, we had not received any significant help,” said Abdullahi Abuya from Konduga. “Some of us had barely had anything to eat for weeks, but now things are better.”
In cooperation with the health ministry, the ICRC has undertaken to upgrade the Mala Kachalla primary health-care centre in Maiduguri and to train the centre’s staff. It has built a water tower with a 4,000-litre tank and installed a solar-powered water-supply system. In addition, it has completely renovated the facility’s floors, ceilings, doors and windows. “The centre, which is now fully operational, offers general outpatient services with a special focus on children under five years of age, ante-natal, delivery and post-natal services, and patient stabilization prior to referral for secondary care,” said Bernadette Gleeson, head of ICRC surgical and first-aid programmes in Nigeria. Because of the displaced people arriving in Maiduguri, the centre’s catchment population is now estimated to be in excess of 100,000.
Emergency aid for Nigerians who fled to Niger
Civilians fleeing fighting between the Nigerian army and armed groups have recently arrived in the Diffa area, in easternmost Niger. The displaced, mainly women and children, arrived from the Abadam area and Nigerian villages near Lake Chad. They have lost everything and are entirely dependent on host communities and on aid provided by humanitarian organizations. At the beginning of October, the ICRC and the Red Cross Society of Niger distributed food to more than 2,000 people in Diffa and to over 3,500 people who have taken refuge on islands in Lake Chad.
In 2014, the ICRC has also:
• visited detainees in over 20 detention facilities to assess the conditions in which they were being held. The findings were shared in full confidentiality with the authorities. In addition, ICRC staff provided detainees with blankets, mosquito nets and cleaning and hygiene items, improved hygiene conditions and helped make safe drinking water more easily available;
• restored access to clean water for more than 80,000 people in Kaduna and Plateau states;
• provided monthly food aid for 880 women in Maiduguri who lost their husbands in the ongoing conflict;
• provided food and other aid for over 37,000 people displaced as a result of intercommunal violence in Kaduna and Plateau states;
• taken part in a campaign launched at the end of October to vaccinate 150,000 head of cattle and 50,000 head of sheep and goats in partnership with the Plateau Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development
• supplied fertilizer and maize seed to close to 2,000 families in Plateau to enable them to restart their farming activities;
• sent a mobile surgical team to help treat over 70 people injured in bomb blasts in Jos (in May) and in Kaduna (in July);
• provided first-aid training for 1,850 people in cooperation with the Nigerian Red Cross;
• taught more than a thousand people, mostly from the Nigerian military and the Nigerian Red Cross, how to handle mortal remains properly.
LIBREVILLE, Gabon, November 5, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — A mission from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) led by Mr. Montfort Mlachila visited Libreville from October 22 to November 5, 2014 to conduct the 2014 Article IV consultation discussions1.
The mission had constructive meetings with Mr. Daniel Ona Ondo, Prime Minister; Mr. Régis Immongault, Minister of Economy, Investment Promotion and Prospective; Mr. Christian Magnagna, Minister of Budget and Public Accounts; Mr. Etienne Ngoubou, Minister of Oil and Hydrocarbons; Mr. Christophe Akagha-Mba, Minister of Mining, Industry and Tourism; Mme. Rose Rogombé, President of the Senate; Mr. Denis Meporewa, National Director of the BEAC; Members of the Finance Committees of the National Assembly and the Senate; and other senior government officials. The mission also exchanged views with representatives of the private sector, civil society, and development partners.
At the conclusion of the mission, Mr. Mlachila made the following statement:
“Against the backdrop of weak economic performance, especially low growth (less than 1 percent on average between 2000 and 2009) and relatively high unemployment of about 20 percent in 2010, the government appropriately launched an ambitious reform plan, the Emerging Gabon Strategic Plan (PSGE), to transform Gabon into an emerging and diversified economy by 2025. The plan is underpinned by a rapid scaling up of the public investment program in order to address infrastructure bottlenecks.
“Gabon’s growth performance has been strong over the last four years. Real GDP growth has averaged about 6 percent during the period 2010-13 on the back of substantial scaling-up of public investment. However, there has been a slowdown in growth in 2014, from an estimated 5.6 percent in 2013 to a projected 5.1 percent in 2014, in part reflecting a substantial reduction in public spending. The adjustment in government expenditure in 2014 responded to a considerable weakening of the fiscal position caused by rapid increases in public investment spending in the past few years. By 2013 overall budget surplus (commitment basis) had virtually disappeared from a high of about 6 percent of GDP in 2009, and significant payment arrears had accumulated. In line with developments in the sub-region, inflation pressures have risen.
“The growth outlook remains robust in the medium term, averaging about 6 percent for the next five years, notwithstanding a projected decline in oil production. Growth is projected to be driven by public investment, non-oil natural resources, and services. A number of projects underway in agro-industry, mining, and wood processing should help sustain the projected non-oil growth.
“The foremost downside risk to the economic outlook in the short to medium term is loose fiscal policy and weak investment execution capacity, leading to further depletion of fiscal buffers and insufficient fiscal space to address binding constraints to growth. This is particularly the case in the context of the weak commodity price outlook, especially for oil.
“Given the economic challenges facing Gabon, the Article IV consultation was centered on how to make the PSGE a reality while ensuring fiscal sustainability. Specifically, the discussion focused on the following issues: (i) creating the fiscal space necessary to finance the PSGE on a fiscally sustainable basis, notably by keeping rapid public debt accumulation in check; (ii) policies to strengthen competitiveness and promote economic diversification; and (iii) deepening the financial sector and enhancing financial stability.
“The mission commends the authorities for starting to address the emerging fiscal strains, including the accumulated arrears, in the context of the revised 2014 budget and the draft 2015 budget. Further efforts will be needed to ensure that the PSGE is well-financed on a fiscally-sustainable basis. This can be done by greater control of the wage bill and progressive reductions in costly and inequitable fuel subsidies, as well as enhanced prioritization within the investment budget to focus on infrastructure with the highest economic benefits. Nonetheless, well-targeted spending on key social areas should be protected. Given generous tax benefits already provided to some industries under the PSGE, it is necessary to expand the non-oil revenue tax base, notably by reducing tax exemptions.
“The mission supports the government’s efforts to improve the business environment and the quality of human capital. These are necessary ingredients for the success of the PSGE as they are needed to boost productivity. The success of the government’s program depends on the speed and intensity of structural reforms. Efforts such as strengthening the enforcement of creditor rights should foster financial deepening and access to credit. At the same time, the authorities need to address the financial situation of weak public banks to enhance financial stability.
“The mission underscored that the IMF is committed to strengthening relations with the Gabonese authorities to address these challenges. The Executive Board of the IMF is expected to consider the staff report on the Article IV consultation in January 2015.
“The mission wishes to thank the authorities for their warm hospitality as well as for their very close and constructive collaboration.”
1 Under Article IV of the IMF’s Articles of Agreement, the IMF holds bilateral discussions with members, usually every year. A staff team visits the country, collects economic and financial information, and discusses with officials the country’s economic developments and policies. On return to headquarters, the staff prepares a report, which forms the basis for discussion by the Executive Board. At the conclusion of the discussion, the Managing Director, as Chairman of the Board, summarizes the views of Executive Directors, and this summary is transmitted to the country authorities.