Press Release: Statement by IMF Deputy Managing Director Agustín Carstens at the Conclusion of a Visit to Mali

February 6, 2004

International Monetary Fund (IMF) Deputy Managing Director Agustín Carstens made the following statement in Bamako today:

"It has been a pleasure to visit Mali—my first as Deputy Managing Director of the IMF—and see at first hand the economic opportunities and challenges facing the country. I had the privilege of meeting his Excellency President Amadou Toumani Touré, President of the National Assembly Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, Prime Minister Ahmed Mohamed Ag Hamani, and Economy and Finance Minister Bassari Touré. I also had fruitful discussions with representatives of the business community, labor unions, civil society organizations, and donors on strategies for promoting sustainable growth and reducing poverty. During my visit, I also had the opportunity to participate in the steering committee meeting of the West Africa Regional Technical Assistance Center (AFRITAC).

"I come away from this visit particularly impressed by the commitment of the President and his government to continuing to implement their program of sound macroeconomic policies and structural reforms, which the IMF has supported by providing financing and policy advice. The strong support for these policies conveyed to me by the President of the National Assembly was a further impressive sign of the strength of consensus and ownership in Mali. These policies have strengthened economic performance and have led to sustained growth and to poverty reduction, in spite of the country's vulnerability to exogenous shocks and the impact of the crisis in Côte d'Ivoire. Looking ahead, the economic prospects for 2004 are favorable, especially if the regional security situation stabilizes, with an anticipated increase in income in the agricultural sector. However, I agree with the President that, as the reform agenda is unfinished, a new program supported by the IMF under the Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility (PRGF) would be of value to Mali's efforts to move the reform process forward, and boost growth and reduce poverty further.

"To these ends, I am pleased that a key element of the government's strategy is to pursue the privatization program, promote economic diversification and create an enabling environment for private sector development. In our discussions, we agreed on the need to give high priority to investment in economic and social infrastructure and improved public services; to improve governance; and to enhance productivity. While recognizing the challenges of attracting investment, I stressed that they should be met in ways that lead to sustainable growth and poverty reduction, and maintain fiscal consolidation.

"The IMF is committed to supporting the authorities' efforts toward achieving the Millennium Development Goals by providing financial and technical assistance. In that context, the Fund will also continue to urge industrial countries to open their markets to exports from the low-income countries and eliminate agricultural subsidies, including those on cotton, which have hurt the cotton producers in Mali.

"Yesterday's meeting of the Steering Committee of the West AFRITAC, which serves 10 countries in West Africa, including Mali, reviewed the work carried out since September 2003 and endorsed its 2004 work program. The West AFRITAC, based in Bamako, is an important part of the IMF's Africa Capacity Building initiative and—with its counterpart in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania—is one of two pilot Centers in Africa.

"I reiterated to the Steering Committee, which was chaired by Minister Touré, that the Management of the IMF strongly supports this important initiative, which aims to build capacity in member countries so that they can better manage their economic affairs and implement their poverty reduction strategies. I was pleased to hear from representatives of the countries that are recipients of technical assistance from the Center and of the donor governments whose generous support makes this initiative possible the high regard they already have for the work of the West AFRITAC. The Committee agreed that, going forward, it would be important to ensure that technical assistance was fully integrated into the recipient country's own poverty reduction strategy, and that both providers and recipients of capacity building assistance need to actively coordinate their activities to make best use of this valuable resource."


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