Press Release: Statement by the IMF Managing Director Rodrigo de Rato at the Conclusion of his Visit to Niger May 19, 2005

May 19, 2005

Mr. Rodrigo de Rato, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), issued the following statement today in Niamey:

"During my visit to Niger, I have had the privilege of meeting with President Mamadou Tandja. I also participated in a roundtable discussion with Prime Minister Hama Amadou and other cabinet members, and I enjoyed a stimulating luncheon discussion with the Secretary-General of the Muslim Association, the Secretary-General of the Traditional Chiefs' Association and the former Governor of the Central Bank of West African States. I have also had the opportunity to visit the Wafakaye Women's Dairy Cattle Project, where I was impressed by the efforts of the local community to seek a brighter future.

"I would like to commend President Tandja and his Cabinet for their ongoing reforms to strengthen economic growth and reduce poverty. In our meeting, the President spoke of the enormous challenges facing Niger-a landlocked country in the Sahel-in achieving the higher rates of growth needed to reduce poverty. He also spoke of the large capacity constraints that Niger and neighboring countries face in implementing needed economic reforms. In this context, he expressed appreciation for the Fund's steady technical and financial support to Niger and called for enhanced IMF involvement in international initiatives to help Africa accelerate progress toward the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

"In my discussions with the President I noted that, over the last five years, Niger has made significant progress in restoring macroeconomic stability and liberalizing the economy. The country reached the completion point and received topping up under the enhanced Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative in April 2004, reducing its external debt to a sustainable level. This was an important commitment of the international community and the IMF to relieve Niger of its heavy external debt burden. Nevertheless, important as these achievements are, they are only a first step in addressing the important challenges of strengthening growth and making progress toward the MDGs. In this regard, the President and I agreed that a strengthening of the public finances was key to the maintenance of macroeconomic stability and that a robust structural agenda was essential to lay the foundation for private sector-led growth.

"I assured the President that the IMF will continue to be a strong partner of Niger as the country undertakes the daunting challenge of reducing poverty.

"Today, I have also participated in a roundtable discussion with Prime Minister Amadou and other members of the Cabinet on policies for stronger growth and more effective poverty alleviation in the post-HIPC Initiative era. In the discussion, there was a general agreement on the need to expedite the development and implementation of sectoral strategies, especially those for the rural sector and for health and education. The implementation of these strategies, and completion of the privatization and financial sector reform programs, are key to strengthening economic growth and reducing poverty in Niger."


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