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Niger—Letter of Intent, Memorandum of Economic Policies, Technical Memorandum of Understanding

Niamey, January 16, 2002

The following item is a Letter of Intent of the government of Niger, which describes the policies that Niger intends to implement in the context of its request for financial support from the IMF. The document, which is the property of Niger, is being made available on the IMF website by agreement with the member as a service to users of the IMF website.

Mr. Horst Köhler
Managing Director
International Monetary Fund
700 19th Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C.  20431

Dear Mr. Köhler,

1. On behalf of the government of Niger, I am pleased to send you the memorandum of economic and financial policies for 2001-02. This memorandum was prepared in the context of the second review of the government of Niger's three-year program covering 2000-03, which is supported by the International Monetary Fund under the Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility (PRGF). It describes progress made in implementing the 2000-01 program through September 30, 2001, the targets of the 2001-02 program, and the policies to be carried out to achieve these targets.

2. As a result of the measures taken in the context of the first review of the program and the government's determination (see my letter of intent of July 19, 2001), program implementation through September 30, 2001 was satisfactory despite cash-flow difficulties affecting Niger in the third quarter, owing mainly to delays in the disbursement of external financial assistance. All the performance criteria and benchmarks for end-September 2001 were met, with the exception of the continuous quantitative criterion regarding the nonaccumulation of new external payments arrears. The completion of the negotiation of the bilateral agreements from the last Paris Club meeting in January 2001 led to delays in external payments on post-cutoff-date debt to two Paris Club creditors, while problems with the reconciliation of maturity schedules led to payments arrears to the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). All these external payments arrears were subsequently cleared, and the government has decided to strengthen its external debt service unit. Accordingly, in light of the corrective measures taken, the government requests a waiver for the nonobservance of the continuous performance criterion on the nonaccumulation of new external payments arrears.

3. The economic and financial outlook through the end of 2001 is good. The economic growth rate is estimated to have exceeded the target of 4.1 percent to reach 5.1 percent, and inflation slowed to under 4 percent on average for the year owing to the good agricultural harvest resulting from favorable rainfall conditions. The external current account deficit (excluding official transfers) did not deteriorate as much as anticipated and should stand at around 8.5 percent of GDP. In addition, the government took a series of fiscal measures to ensure that the program targets were met. Nonetheless, the above-mentioned delays in the disbursement of external assistance could affect the reduction of domestic payments arrears.

4. For 2002, the government's efforts are aimed at consolidating progress made during the first year of the program, particularly in improving public finances, boosting the economy, and ensuring implementation of the poverty reduction strategy defined in the full poverty reduction strategy paper (PRSP). The economic and financial program for 2002 supports the following macroeconomic targets: (i) achieving a real GDP growth rate of 4.1 percent in 2002; (ii) keeping the inflation rate below 3 percent in 2002; and (iii) holding the external current account deficit (excluding official transfers) steady at 9.5 percent in 2002. To boost the economy, the government will continue to implement structural reforms, including the restructuring of the financial system.

5. The 2002 budget law is in line with the program objectives and reflects the determination of the authorities to pursue their fiscal adjustment policy and implement their poverty reduction strategy. The basic fiscal deficit (on a payment order basis and excluding grants) is thus limited to CFAF 32 billion, or 2.1 percent of GDP. The reduction of domestic payments arrears continues to be one of the government's priorities for 2002 and the strategy defined in 2001 will continue to be applied.

6. The government, with the involvement of all segments of the population and the active participation of civil society, has just finalized the full PRSP, and its policy directions are reflected in the 2002 budget law, particularly in the special poverty reduction program launched in early 2001 at the initiative of the President of the Republic. The PRSP has been transmitted to you on January 15, 2002 for consideration by the Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund.

7. The government is counting on the continued support of the International Monetary Fund to meet its program objectives, and seeks completion of the second review under the PRGF arrangement and endorsement of its program for the second year. The government is also seeking the extension to 2002 of the International Monetary Fund's interim assistance under the enhanced Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative (HIPC Initiative). The Fund, together with the government of Niger, is expected to complete two program reviews, one at midterm scheduled to be completed by August 15, 2001 and the other one scheduled to be completed by February 15, 2003 at the end of the second year of the program, so as to monitor progress made in the program's implementation. As was the case in the past, the government consents to the Fund's publication of this letter, the memorandum of economic and financial policies for 2002, the technical memorandum of understanding, and the staff report.

8. The government considers that the reforms and measures described in the attached memorandum are such as to permit achievement of the 2002 program objectives. It is prepared to take any additional measures required for this purpose. The government of Niger will, on its own initiative or at the Managing Director's request, consult with the International Monetary Fund on the adoption of any measure deemed necessary.

Sincerely yours,

/s/


Ali Badjo Gamatié
Minister of Finance and Economy
Ministry of Finance and Economy
Niamey, Niger


Memorandum of Economic and Financial Policies for 2001–02

Niamey, January 16, 2002

I. Introduction

1. Discussions in the context of the second review of Niger's economic and financial program took place in Niamey during November 12-26, 2001. International Monetary Fund (IMF) support for this three-year program in the amount of SDR 59.2 million was approved on December 14, 2000 under the poverty reduction and growth facility (PRGF). The simultaneous approval of the decision point under the enhanced Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative (HIPC Initiative) has enabled Niger to benefit from additional assistance totaling some 0.6 percent of GDP or US$11.5 million in 2001; this assistance has been allocated in its entirety to implementation of a special poverty reduction program.

2. The first review of the three-year program was completed by the IMF Executive Board in August 2001, and Niger received the second disbursement equivalent of SDR 8.46 million under the PRGF arrangement, bringing to about SDR 17 million the total amount disbursed thus far. This first review led to revisions in the 2001 program to take account of the interim assistance expected in the form of HIPC resources, the proceeds from the sale of two mobile telephony licenses, and economic developments in the first quarter of 2001. The revised program for 2001 fits into the authorities' medium-term strategy, which is described in the interim Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (I-PRSP) prepared in December 2000. It called for an economic growth rate of approximately 4.1 percent in 2001, an average annual inflation rate of 4.2 percent, and an external current account deficit (excluding official transfers) of 10.4 percent of GDP.

3. This memorandum of economic and financial policies (MEFP), prepared in the context of the second review of the three-year program, presents the satisfactory results obtained in implementing the program through September 30, 2001, and reviews developments during the last quarter of 2001 and the macroeconomic outlook for 2002, as well as related economic and financial policies. This memorandum is accompanied by the full poverty reduction strategy paper (PRSP), which was approved in a national validation workshop held in Niamey in late-November 2001, and which has just been finalized.

II. Recent Developments

A. Performance at End-September 2001

4. The difficulties encountered in implementing and monitoring the program during the first half of 2001 were described in the MEFP prepared for the first review. While the performance criterion for net bank credit to the government and the benchmarks for budgetary revenues and the wage bill were met at end-March 2001, the quantitative benchmark for the basic deficit was not observed owing to the more rapid commitment of budgetary expenditures than anticipated, as a result of sizable external disbursements early in the year (see Table 1). Likewise, the failure to observe the end-March 2001 performance criteria on the reduction in domestic payments arrears, the nonaccumulation of external payments arrears, and the nonrecourse to external borrowing with a grant element of less than 50 percent resulted from some weaknesses in the initial implementation and monitoring of the program. These program implementation problems persisted in the second quarter of 2001, and similarly affected program performance through end-June 2001. Furthermore, compliance with the structural benchmarks on establishing an opening balance for the treasury accounts as at January 1, 2001 and the development of a new budget nomenclature, scheduled for end-March and end-June 2001, respectively, were delayed. The amount of work involved and the assignment of staff to the task of closing the budgetary accounts for 1998 and 1999 were responsible for those delays.

5. In view of the difficulties in the first half of 2001, the government reaffirmed the objectives of its adjustment program and took the necessary measures to achieve them. The strategy for the reduction of arrears was revised and clearly defined; the accumulation of external payments arrears to the two Paris Club creditors was eliminated; and the West African Development Bank's (BOAD) Executive Board granted in December 2001 additional concessionality to four old loans, thus bringing the totality of projects financed by the BOAD in 2001 to the required level of concessionality of at least 50 percent. The number of staff assigned to program monitoring was also increased. Moreover, the revision of the program for 2001 led to the implementation of a number of measures in the context of a supplementary budget law approved by the National Assembly in early July. The supplementary budget law thus included a special poverty reduction program that was launched by the President of the Republic as part of the interim poverty reduction strategy, and financed by HIPC Initiative assistance granted for 2001. In addition, the government took additional measures to offset the impact of a food crisis caused by a poor harvest, which led to a cereals deficit of 163,000 metric tons in 2000, as well as a deterioration of domestic security, particularly in border areas. Finally, on August 1, 2001, the government introduced a pricing system for petroleum products that is automatic, flexible and transparent, and which contributed to achieving the budgetary revenue targets for 2001.

6. The strict implementation of corrective measures made it possible to achieve satisfactory results at September 30, 2001. All the quantitative performance criteria and benchmarks for end-September 2001 were met, with the exception of the continuous performance criterion on the nonaccumulation of external payments arrears. The completion of negotiations on bilateral agreements following the last Paris Club meeting in January 2001 led to delays in the external payments on the post-cutoff-date debt to two Paris Club creditors, while problems with the reconciliation of maturity schedules led to arrears to the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). All these external payments arrears were subsequently cleared. The two structural benchmarks for end-September 2001 on the establishment of a provisional opening balance for the treasury accounts as at January 1, 2001 and the development of a new budget nomenclature were also met.

7. The basic fiscal deficit as at end-September 2001 (i.e., the overall deficit on a commitment basis and excluding grants, minus externally financed capital expenditure) was limited to CFAF 35.3 billion, compared with a ceiling of CFAF 43 billion. This outcome reflected both the higher-than-expected budgetary revenue (CFAF 97 billion as against a target of CFAF 93.7 billion) and better control of budgetary spending, which stood at CFAF 132.3 billion, compared with a ceiling of CFAF 136.8 billion. The target of CFAF 10.9 billion for the reduction of domestic payments arrears was exceeded by more than CFAF 2 billion. Nevertheless, owing to the shortfall in net external financing, use of bank financing exceeded the ceiling of CFAF 6 billion, to reach CFAF 18.6 billion. This overrun remains within the limits of the adjustment planned in the event of a shortfall in external assistance, and the performance criterion for end-September 2001 concerning net bank credit to the government was met.

8. This satisfactory performance at end-September 2001 took place in a difficult context as less external assistance was disbursed than anticipated in the second and third quarters of 2001. The European Commission suspended budgetary support to Niger in June 2001 owing to an audit of budget expenditure it had financed during 1996-2001. The government received the conclusions of the audit report in October 2001 and discussions between the two sides will be held, with a view to having the suspension of budgetary support from the commission lifted in 2002. In addition, World Bank budgetary support linked to the privatization of the national telecommunications company (SONITEL) could not be disbursed until December 5, 2001, following the late selection of SONITEL's strategic partner, in early November 2001.

9. Monetary developments at end-September 2001 essentially reflect delays in disbursements of external budgetary assistance and the increased government reliance on bank financing. Credit to the economy remained high owing to the continued heavy indebtedness of the petroleum sector. The decline in net foreign assets did not offset the increase in net domestic assets of CFAF 21.1 billion as at end-September 2001, including CFAF 18.6 billion in net claims on the government. In addition, the money supply rose by almost 14 percent between December 31, 2000 and September 30, 2001 to reach CFAF 117.5 billion at the end of the period.

B. Developments Through End-2001

10. For 2001, it is estimated that, with a good agricultural harvest following a season of satisfactory rainfall, the growth rate has exceeded its target of 4.1 percent to reach 5.1 percent. The provisional cereals production balance in 2001 indicates that the rural sector grew by more than 8 percent, compared with an anticipated 4 percent, and that a cereals surplus of approximately 200,000 metric tons over anticipated 2002 requirements has been achieved. This surplus has already led to a significant drop in food prices and a decline in inflation to around 3 percent on a end-of-period basis as at end-December 2001 and to an average of less than 4 percent for the year as a whole.

11. The external current account deficit (excluding budgetary grants) will not have deteriorated as much as expected and should stand at around 8.5 percent of GDP in 2001. Import requirements have been contained for food imports, owing to the good harvest in late 2001, and for capital goods imports, owing to the slower execution of the externally financed public investment program. At the same time, the solid performance of livestock exports and reexport operations for the most part offset the decline in exports of agricultural products, with the result that total exports did not deteriorate as much as anticipated. Taking into account capital transactions, financial operations, and debt rescheduling received or under discussion, the net foreign assets of the BCEAO should have improved substantially in the last quarter of 2001, increasing by CFAF 3.8 billion, or close to US$5 million for the year as a whole.

12. On the fiscal side, the government took a set of measures to ensure that the program objectives would be met despite the above-mentioned delays in the disbursement of external assistance. To avoid any budgetary slippage, the government postponed the date for releasing the budget appropriations for the fourth quarter and, following confirmation of the disbursement from the World Bank, decided not to release CFAF 8 billion of the remaining CFAF 16 billion. Given the good results on the budget revenue side, the basic fiscal deficit should have remained below the program ceiling of CFAF 51.8 billion and stand at around 3 percent of GDP, as in 2000. The government has also taken measures to reduce domestic payments arrears, equivalent to more than 2 percent of GDP, and to comply with the ceiling on bank financing of 1 percent of GDP at end-December 2001.

13. In line with the year-end fiscal policy, net domestic assets of the monetary system should have declined in the last quarter of 2001 to CFAF 115.9 billion at end-December 2001. This projection results from the respect of the targets for net credit to the government and the anticipated decline in credit to the economy owing to disengagement from the petroleum sector and reduction in domestic payments arrears. The substantial anticipated rise in net foreign assets during the same period should have resulted in an increase in the money supply to CFAF 122 billion at year's end, or 18 percent for the year as a whole. This increase would correspond to an annual rate of growth for the money supply of 6.8 percent between end-1998 and end-2001, in line with nominal annual GDP growth during the period.

14. In the area of structural reform, progress was achieved during the fourth quarter of 2001 with the privatization of the public telecommunications company, SONITEL. This was accomplished through the acquisition by a private investor of a 51 percent equity interest in the company, and is accompanied by a social plan for the reduction of staff under appropriate conditions and an ambitious investment program that could exceed CFAF 160 billion over a ten-year period. This program is expected to bring down the cost of telecommunications and increase the number of telephone lines from 20,000 to more than 45,000 by 2004. Acquisition of the equity interest by the strategic partner became effective on December 20, 2001, following the signing of legal documents, including the transaction protocol and the direct transfer of the state's 51 percent of shares. The cost of the social plan, estimated at CFAF 3 billion, will be covered by the cash bonus paid by the investor and any surplus will be used by the treasury to cover the costs related to the reform program of other public enterprises in 2002.

15. An important reform aimed at making the pricing of petroleum products automatic, flexible, and transparent, while increasing government revenues, was achieved with the adoption of a new pricing system in August 2001. The authorities nonetheless deferred implementation of the system in October 2001 in the light of the exceptional nature of the rise in international oil prices. The system was reintroduced in November 2001 and led to decreases in the prices of petroleum products ranging from 5 percent for diesel fuel to 7 percent for premium gasoline. Following this decrease and a public information campaign, the government made a commitment to automatically apply this transparent and flexible pricing system for petroleum products in the future; a review of the system is planned for March 2002. By then, the government will develop a strategy with stakeholders to resolve the issue of subsidies received by the sector prior to the implementation of the new system, particularly at the time of the international price increases in 1999 and 2000. In that connection, the government had already paid CFAF 2 billion by end-November 2001 to the petroleum product import company (SONIDEP), which enabled it to reduce its debt to the banking system by the same amount.

16. Structural reforms were supplemented at end-2001 by work on the closing of budgetary accounts for 2000. The submission of these budgetary accounts to the audit office (cour des comptes) and the preparation of a budget review law for 2000 (loi de règlement), which will also validate the provisional opening balances of the treasury accounts at January 1, 2001 and discharge the accounts for the preceding fiscal years, will take place in January 2002. Moreover, a program for the implementation of the new budget nomenclature and the new chart of accounts has been established so that they can be introduced in the budget law for 2003. Finally, the merger of the Ministries of Planning and Finance into a single Ministry of Finance and Economy following the cabinet reshuffle on September 17, 2001 has allowed a reorganization that will be followed by the integration of the government's general and capital budgets into a single budget, improved government finance management, and better tracking of the government's financial program.

III. Policies and Measures for Implementation in 2002

17. The program prepared by the Nigerien authorities for 2002 includes the objectives of the three-year program for 2000-03 and of the regional convergence pact of the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU). It also reflects the priorities of the poverty reduction strategy established in the full PRSP that was validated during a national workshop held in Niamey during November 26-27, 2001 and finalized in December 2001. In this context, the efforts of the government are aimed at consolidating the progress made during the first year of the program, particularly in improving the management of government finances. To boost the economy and support implementation of the poverty reduction strategy defined in the full PRSP, the government will continue improving the macroeconomic framework and implementing structural reforms, including the restructuring of the financial system.

A. Macroeconomic Framework

18. The following macroeconomic objectives were established for the second year of the three-year program: (i) achieve a real GDP growth rate of 4.1 percent in 2002; (ii) keep the inflation rate below 3 percent in 2002; and (iii) hold the external current account deficit (excluding official transfers) steady at 9.5 percent in 2002. The achievement of these macroeconomic objectives will depend not only on consolidating sociopolitical stability, but also on implementating economic and financial policies aimed at promoting economic recovery and poverty reduction in a context of stable prices.

19. The program has taken account of a deteriorating world economic context in 2002, but Niger's vulnerability to external shocks is limited by the particular structure of its economy and the fact that it is not highly integrated into the global economy. Its uranium exports, which represent almost one-third of its total exports, are subject to long-term contracts at prices negotiated annually in CFA francs. These conditions will barely change in 2002. Moreover, Niger will benefit from the projected decrease in the prices for petroleum products and the good export potential for agricultural products in 2002, especially on the nearby regional markets, which will stimulate trade and transport. These positive factors will be reinforced by the economic recovery measures contained in the government program, including the start-up of large public investment projects in 2002 (in particular, the construction of road infrastructure and rural irrigation projects), the privatization of public enterprises, such as the water and telecommunications companies in 2001, and the reduction of government domestic payments arrears. Nevertheless, the uncertainties regarding economic growth in Nigeria, which has been affected by the decline in oil prices, and regarding the prices for agricultural exports (onions, cowpeas, and livestock), have led to prudent growth and balance of payments projections.

20. The economic growth target of 4.1 percent in 2002, compared with 5.1 percent in 2001 and an annual population growth rate of more than 3 percent, is based on assumptions that weather conditions will be mild and that the government will implement economic recovery efforts. The growth of the rural sector will begin to benefit from the projects to harness water resources and land suitable for irrigation and their results. The program for 2002 has thus been based on a 2 percent growth in agricultural production, a recovery of trade and transport owing to the marketing of the good harvest in 2001, continued implementation of the special poverty reduction program, and the start-up of large public investment projects, particularly in the roads sector. The decline in the consumer price index for food products following the 2001 harvest will bring the average annual inflation rate down to close to 2.5 percent at end-December 2002.

21. The external current account deficit (excluding official transfers) will stand at CFAF 143 billion in 2002, or 9.5 percent of GDP. The projected deterioration of around 1 percentage point of GDP compared with 2001 primarily reflects an increase in the trade deficit (0.6 percent of GDP) and a decline in current transfers (0.4 percent of GDP, excluding budgetary transfers). Owing to the stagnation of the nominal value of uranium exports and a very modest increase in exports of agricultural products in the subregion, the level of exports will decline by 0.6 percentage point of GDP to 13.7 percent of GDP in 2002. This decrease will be partially offset by a decline in imports from 17.5 percent of GDP to 17.3 percent of GDP, owing to the smaller oil bill and a reduced need for food imports, despite an increase in imports of capital goods and intermediate goods. With a projected surplus in the capital and financial account of almost CFAF 55 billion, including CFAF 10 billion in assistance under the HIPC Initiative, the overall balance of payments deficit is projected at CFAF 88 billion (6 percent of GDP).

22. Given the traditional rescheduling of the external debt and a projected accumulation of net foreign assets by the Central Bank of West African States (BCEAO), the financing gap for 2002 is projected at CFAF 74 billion (excluding IMF financing). This gap should be covered without difficulty given the commitments already made by Niger's development partners, such as the World Bank, the European Union, the African Development Bank, and important bilateral donors. The meeting of a Consultative Group or a forum of donors in mid-2002 under the auspices of the World Bank should confirm the financing of the 2002 gap and review the country's future needs, especially in the context of the poverty reduction strategy. If the gap grows or its financing is reduced as a result of international developments, the authorities will take the necessary measures to bring the gap into line with identified financing. These measures will consist essentially in reducing the accumulation of net foreign assets by the central bank and tightening fiscal policy.

B. Fiscal Policy for 2002

23. The fiscal policy for 2002 aims to achieve further fiscal consolidation, particularly by reducing the stock of domestic arrears, and to ensure the implementation of the poverty reduction strategy outlined in the full PRSP. Improving budget balances while increasing the level and quality of government expenditure will (i) strengthen the progress made toward complying with the criteria of the regional convergence pact and the conditions to reach the completion point under the HIPC Initiative; and (ii) contribute to increased debt sustainability. Attainment of these goals will be accompanied by major structural reform measures that will contribute to ensuring better governance and management of government affairs. The reforms undertaken in 2001 and those planned for 2002 focus not only on strengthening the revenue collection agencies (taxes, customs, and treasury), but also on improving fiscal management, including budget preparation, programming, and execution.

24. The 2002 budget law, adopted by the National Assembly on November 20, 2001, and additional measures taken in the context of the supplementary budget law presented to the National Assembly for approval in January 2002, reflect the government's determination to continue its fiscal adjustment policy and to implement its poverty reduction strategy. The basic budget deficit (on a commitment basis and excluding grants), has thus been held to less than CFAF 32 billion, or 2.1 percent of GDP. This improvement, amounting to almost 1 percent of GDP relative to 2001, is attributable to the government's efforts to increase the tax ratio and maintain strict expenditure control. This gradual recovery of public finances is also reflected in the fact that the current budget deficit is projected to decline from 2.1 percent of GDP in 2001 to 1.3 percent of GDP in 2002. Taking account of the upturn in capital expenditure (owing, in part, to the revitalization of economic and financial cooperation with major development partners and to the resources mobilized under the HIPC Initiative), the overall budget deficit would amount to 7.7 percent of GDP, a level slightly higher to that of 2001.

25. The reduction in domestic payments arrears continues to be one of the top government priorities for 2002, and the strategy identified in 2001 will continue to be implemented. For 2002, the government is planning to settle CFAF 28 billion (1.9 percent of GDP), an amount that will reduce the stock of domestic arrears to nearly 5 percent of GDP at end-2002, or almost half its level at end-2000. On the basis of the stock identified at end-2000, this strategy adopted by the government will consist in clearing wage arrears, settling amounts due to public and private enterprises and diplomatic offices, and regularizing payments due under the investment budget. In this context, the methods envisaged include, inter alia, a settlement based on the settlement of eligible cross debts. The fiscal program also makes provision for improving the government's cash flow as well as for partial repayment of the statutory advances from the BCEAO. Elimination of these statutory advances by resorting to national borrowing on the WAEMU regional market is currently under consideration, and a decision will be adopted in this regard at the time of the third program review. In view of debt repayments, external financing for projects, and external debt relief obtained, the financing gap amounts to CFAF 74 billion and should be covered without difficulty, as indicated previously.

26. Fiscal revenue for 2002 is projected at CFAF 160.9 billion, or 10.7 percent of GDP. This increase, amounting to over 1 percent of GDP relative to 2001, is attributable to CFAF 8 billion, or 0.5 percent of GDP, in nonrecurrent revenue resulting from the elimination of cross debts between the government and economic actors reflecting efforts to reduce domestic payments arrears. Excluding this nonrecurrent revenue, tax receipts will increase by 16 percent to CFAF 143.9 billion, or 9.6 percent of GDP. About one-third of this increase reflects the full-year impact of the oil tax reform introduced in August 2001, while the remainder stems from the strengthening of the tax and customs directorates as well as to a number of measures introduced in the 2002 budget law to improve tax collection and to broaden the tax base. These measures include (i) the strengthening of provisions with respect to pre-payments on account of the industrial and commercial profits tax; (ii) a review of the small business license taxes (patentes synthétiques) to take account of taxpayers' ability to pay and to better distribute the tax burden; (iii) a broadening of the tax base with respect to revenue stamps and a revision of the percentage rates, which have remained unchanged for over a decade; (iv) the reincorporation of press agencies into the ordinary tax law system; and (v) the enhancement of the collection of miscellaneous revenue items, particularly nonfiscal receipts collected by legal clerks and bailiffs, forestry offices, law enforcement agencies, state police, and the mining and geological service.

27. The pursuit of a cautious policy on budget expenditure has made it possible to limit the level of current expenditure allocations to CFAF 163 billion, or 10.8 percent of GDP. This level slightly exceeds the amount set at the time of the first program review, as it reflects the government's new responsibility to pay for the national education volunteers (previously funded by a World Bank project), the strengthening of the university system to accommodate the overenrollment of students caused by university system malfunctions during the 1990s, and a wage bill adjustment, in the context of the above-mentioned supplementary budget, resulting from the government's decision to take into account the financial impact of automatic promotions--frozen since 1998--on the wage bill. The budget also reflects the government's efforts to implement the poverty reduction strategy, strengthen the revenue collection agencies, and ensure a smooth running of the administration and better quality of public services. These increases have been partially offset by the elimination of the domestic fuel oil subsidy and the planned reduction in food aid following the good harvests in 2001. The increase in the wage bill has also been controlled by the implementation of civil service reform measures already in effect. Recruitment will thus be limited to replacing personnel leaving government, and the regulations governing separations will continue to be enforced. Other measures are planned to enhance the caliber of the civil service by increasing the efficiency of existing human resources, particularly through redeployment.

28. The estimated capital budget outturn for 2002 amounts to approximately CFAF 106 billion, or 7 percent of GDP. This substantial increase relative to 2001 takes account of the growth and poverty reduction targets and is expected to contribute to the revitalization of the national economy. The implementation of the special poverty reduction program will continue in 2002 and will amount to CFAF 10.2 billion, as a result of the resources to be obtained from interim assistance under the HIPC Initiative. Apart from this special poverty reduction program, 28 percent of the public investment program for 2002 will be devoted to the productive sectors of the economy--almost exclusively to rural development; 32 percent to the social sectors, including one-third for health, one-third for education, and one-fourth for hydraulics; and 22 percent for road infrastructure.

29. With respect to budget reform, measures to strengthen the treasury and the tax and customs directorates will be actively pursued in 2002, as will be the efforts to upgrade the entities responsible for monitoring the external debt and domestic payments arrears. Furthermore, a program for implementing the new chart of accounts and budget nomenclature has been prepared with a view to introducing the system at the time of the 2003 budget preparation process. The closure of the fiscal year (FY) 2001 accounts and the presentation of a budget review law for FY 2001 are expected to take place during the budget session convened to discuss the adoption of the initial budget law for 2003. A program to set up a new budget nomenclature and a new chart of accounts has been established for their implementation at the time of the preparation of the 2003 budget law. In addition, in cooperation with the World Bank, the government expects to continue the technical work on establishing the medium-term expenditure framework (MTEF) in 2002, and to lead to an improvement in the definition of sectoral budget envelopes for the medium-term. A public expenditure review will also be conducted to enable the government to improve quality in the area of expenditure. This ongoing work will facilitate the integration of the overall and investment budget in a unified budget, a key tool in the government's efforts to promote development and reduce poverty.

C. Poverty Reduction Strategy

30. The 2001 supplementary budget initiated the implementation of the poverty reduction strategy on the basis of the interim paper prepared by the government in December 2000. In terms of specific measures adopted since February 2001, this interim strategy has led to the implementation of the presidential special program, fully funded with interim assistance under the HIPC Initiative (for almost 0.6 percent of GDP). This program, which relies on the participatory approach at the local level to build 1,000 classrooms, 1,000 primary health care centers, and 1,000 rural water wells resulted in the construction of 244 schools, 241 health centers, 119 rural wells, and 34 mini-dams in 2001. A comprehensive report on the implementation of this program and on the use of the resources freed by the HIPC Initiative will be prepared before end-March 2002.

31. The 2002 budget reflects the priorities of the full PRSP and will include additional poverty-reducing measures compatible with the strategy and consistent with the available resources. These measures mainly focus on meeting the conditions for reaching the completion point under the enhanced HIPC Initiative by end-2002. These measures involve the following:

  • Recruiting the personnel required to fully staff the primary health care centers with a view to complying with accepted standards in this field, and thereby building upon the results already achieved.

  • Financing the measures involved in the program for strengthening basic education, specifically, payment for the education volunteers. Along with the special program, this program constitutes one of the main tools of education policy. Together, they have already raised the enrollment ratio by 3 points in one year.

  • Allocating the budgetary funds required to finance a national household consumption and budget survey, with the aim of generating more current data on poverty in Niger and thereby facilitating efforts to enhance the relevance of the poverty reduction strategy.

  • Accepting financial responsibility for preparing a strategy and a program for combating the HIV-AIDS pandemic.

32. The government does also make progress toward compliance with a number of ratios relating to priority sectors under the poverty reduction strategy. The resources allotted to education thus account for 4.1 percent of GDP, 38 percent of tax revenues, and 17 percent of total expenditure. The funding allocated for health represents 12 percent of total expenditure, compared to a target of 17 percent in the poverty reduction strategy. At 12 percent of total expenditure, allocations for agricultural development are in line with the objectives of the poverty reduction strategy. Appropriations for infrastructure correspond to 12 percent of total revenues, reflecting the commencement of major road and highway projects. The government intends to take advantage of the forthcoming public expenditure review and increased donor project coordination to enhance the quality of expenditure and undertake a far-reaching restructuring of government expenditure.

D. Monetary Policy and Financial System

33. Within the WAEMU, the BCEAO will continue to pursue a cautious monetary policy in keeping with the goals of economic growth, price stability, and the generating of balance of payments surpluses, as approved by the WAEMU Council of Ministers. The money and credit policy directives approved in September 2001 likewise reflect the outlook for achieving the basic objectives pursued through the Convergence, Stability, Growth, and Solidarity Pact adopted in 1999, as part of efforts to speed up the regional integration process. The monetary authorities have thus decided to maintain a restrictive monetary policy in support of the parity of the CFAF vis-à-vis the euro and to achieve an inflation target of 2 percent, in line with the euro zone target. For this purpose, the BCEAO will use the indirect monetary policy instruments available to it, as necessary--in particular, its key rates and reserve requirements. The completion of the introduction of the euro on January 1, 2002 does not affect the terms of the December 4, 1973 monetary cooperation agreement between France and the WAEMU, which guarantees convertibility of the CFA franc. The arrival of the euro will lead to slight changes in the exchange policy regulations stemming from an increase in the ceiling on some current transfers and the streamlining of some bureaucratic procedures.

34. In this context, monetary growth should be limited to 9.6 percent in 2002, compare with 18.3 percent in 2001. Consistent with the fiscal policy for 2002, net bank credit to the government will decline slightly, by CFAF 2.5 billion over the year. In particular, the statutory advances of the BCEAO will be reduced by CFAF 10 billion. In order to meet the treasury's domestic financing needs and to move toward the BCEAO's objective to eliminate the statutory advances, the government is considering issuing bonds on the WAEMU regional financial market. Credit to the economy should increase by 9 percent (CFAF 6 billion), consistent with a moderate expansion in economic activity in 2002. The banking commission's decisions will be rigorously implemented to avoid further weakening the banking system.

E. Financial Sector Reforms

35. Strengthening the financial sector is a key element in the poverty reduction and development strategy pursued by the Nigerien authorities. Major structural reforms have to be implemented to enable the financial sector to play its role fully and efficiently within the Nigerien economy. A specific program has been prepared on this subject, in coordination with the World Bank. In 2002, several measures will be pursued with the aim of (i) improving the environment for the financial sector in general; (ii) accelerating the pace of restructuring in the banking system and the insurance industry; and (iii) reorganizing and promoting decentralized financial intermediation. Furthermore, an actuarial audit of the National Social Security Fund will be conducted in 2002, with a view to restructuring that institution and identifying a strategy for reforming the social security sector.

36. A deepening of the financial sector is also planned, based on studies of current supply and demand conditions, of long-term financing, and of the specifics of small and medium-sized enterprises financing, and on a campaign to inform about, and raise awareness of, the opportunities offered by the WAEMU regional financial market.

37. With respect to the financial sector environment, the national regulatory framework will be harmonized with the Harmonization of Business Law in Africa (OHADA) Acts and a study will be carried out with a view to reforming the legislation governing the recovery of claims, the realization of collateral, and procedures with respect to contracts. Regulations will be adopted to disqualify from participation in calls for bids on government contracts any transaction listed in the central registry of past-due claims as approved by the Professional Association of Banks. A study will be conducted in early 2002 with a view to issuing securities to settle the government's arrears vis-à-vis banks and insurance companies.

38. With respect to the strengthening of the banking sector and especially the restructuring of the three institutions currently on temporary administration, the government will continue restructuring the Banque de Crédit du Niger (BCN), and will reach a decision on the future of the Crédit du Niger (CDN) and the Caisse des Prêts aux Collectivités Territoriales (CPCT) before April 30, 2002. In that extent, the government will undertake studies on the housing strategy and on its financing, on the financing strategy of local communities and on the financing of small and medium-sized enterprises. Based on these studies, the government will reach a decision on the future of CDN and CPCT and on the opportunity and viability of a project to merge the two institutions in a bank focusing on promoting housing and local development (Banque de l'Habitat et du Developpement Local, BHDL). If the outcome is positive, and after consultation with the World Bank, the creation of the BHDL, together with a realistic financial and business plan, will be submitted to the approval of the Banking Commission. A strengthening of the capacity of the money, credit and savings directorate is also planned in the context of the reform of the banking system.

39. The rehabilitation of the insurance industry will begin in 2002 with the restructuring of one of the three insurance companies, SNAR-Leyma, and capacity building at the Directorate of Insurance Supervision. The government will design a specific program for reforming the insurance companies, most of which are confronted with structural problems associated with excessive operating costs, inadequate supervision, product pricing, and human resource constraints.

40. Finally, decentralized financial intermediation will be strengthened by the restructuring of the National Postal and Savings Office (ONPE); the implementation of the microfinance development strategy, ratified in June 2001 with the support of the rural financial services development program financed by IFAD; and the execution of organizational and financial audits of the major microfinance institutions in the context of efforts to improve internal management practices. The restructuring of the ONPE makes provision for implementing a social plan in connection with staffing reductions, upgrading and modernizing the ONPE's postal operations, conducting an organizational and financial audit of postal checking accounts (CCP) and the National Savings Fund (CNE), and resolving the issues associated with the postal debt and subsidy. It will also lead to the restoration and merger of the CNE and CCP through the creation of an independent branch of the postal system. This branch will benefit from a new internal organization, its own accounting and information technology systems, and specific management and auditing procedures.

F. Structural Reforms

41. In addition to the above-mentioned strategy for rehabilitating and deepening the financial sector, the structural reform program will focus on pursuing privatization and promoting the development of the private sector, strengthening fiscal management and governance, and reforming the civil service.

42. Following the privatization of the national water company (SNE) and the national telecommunications company (SONITEL), the program for reforming the public enterprise sector will focus on privatizing the Groundwater Utilization Office (OFEDES), the proprietary corporation operating the Gaweye Hotel (SPEHG), the electricity company (NIGELEC), and SONIDEP. At the same time, it will aim to withdraw the government from the Niamey slaughterhouse, the Riz du Niger (RINI), and to restructure eight other public enterprises. The program includes the adoption of social plans for the employees of enterprises to be privatized and the settlement of cross debts between the government and these enterprises.

43. The government will combine the execution of the privatization program in 2002 with the establishment of the Multisectoral Regulation Authority (ARM), which will be entrusted with enforcing the regulatory framework in the sectors of water, telecommunications, and petroleum products. A provisional structure for the water and electricity sectors is already in place.

44. In the area of civil service reform, the government will pursue efforts to review civil service regulations, and will study the implementation of a system for the effective delegation or decentralization of human resources to the local level, particularly through local recruitment of contractual staff. Steps will be taken to strengthen personnel management capacity within the ministries in order to ensure more effective resource allocation. In the context of implementing the poverty reduction strategy, the government will by end-2002 establish a civil service development strategy to take account of the needs identified, while meeting regional convergence criteria with respect to the wage bill.

45. The strengthening of the statistical database is also a priority for the government, particularly in the context of the implementation of the poverty reduction strategy. To that effect, the finalization of the population census carried out in 2001 will be supplemented by a number of other measures in 2002, including a household consumption survey and the establishment of a panel for a horizontal study of poverty. Likewise, the reforms linked to the implementation of the new budget nomenclature and the new chart of accounts should lead to a substantial improvement in the quality, coherence, and availability of budgetary data. The introduction of new software in the tax, customs, and external debt units will also improve the management of those directorates. Finally, the government plans to improve its knowledge of economic developments by updating the national accounts and overhauling the statistical systems on which they are based. In that regard, the government is seeking technical assistance, and is also considering the possibility of creating an independent national institute of statistics.

IV. External Policies and Financing

46. The authorities will follow a highly cautious external borrowing policy and seek to avoid external payments arrears. In that context, the external debt unit will be strengthened in 2002 through an improvement in debt-management capacity and the use of appropriate information technology. With regard to the four BOAD loans that were insufficiently concessional, the BOAD's Board has considered favorably in December 2001 a new request by the authorities and brought those loans to the required level of concessionality. Pending the finalization of discussions with the BOAD, the authorities had continued to refrain from using those loans until external resources to achieve the required level of concessionality were obtained.

47. With regard to the external debt, following the Paris Club Agreed Minute on January 25, 2001 providing for the benefit of Cologne terms, bilateral rescheduling agreements have been signed with all Paris Club creditors (with the exception of France, owing to temporary technical reasons linked to the passage of the 2001 revised budget law in France). Concerning non-Paris Club bilateral creditors, the government has been actively pursuing its contacts and negotiations in order to obtain debt relief under the HIPC Initiative or on terms at least comparable to the last Paris Club. These efforts have led to the cancellation of the pre-cutoff-date debt and part of the post-cutoff-date debt to China, and consultations with Algeria are at an advanced stage. The conclusion of definitive agreements regarding the settlement of external payments arrears accumulated with some multilateral creditors prior to the approval of the PRGF arrangement is also making satisfactory progress. Only the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has not engaged in negotiations with the authorities. The government has also initiated discussions in order to obtain debt relief under the HIPC Initiative from multilateral creditors who have not yet contributed to the Initiative in the case of Niger.

48. Niger has received firm assurances regarding the provision of interim assistance under the HIPC Initiative from Paris Club creditors, on the bilateral side, and from the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the African Development Bank (AfDB), on the multilateral side. In light of the financing needs associated with the implementation of the poverty reduction strategy, the government will seek to obtain the support of as many donors as possible, and the continuation of their financial support on terms compatible with the requirements of Niger's economic and social development program.

V. Program Monitoring

49. The program at end-December 2001 will be monitored in light of the structural and quantitative performance criteria and benchmarks indicated in the July 19, 2001 memorandum on economic and financial policies and the related technical memorandum.

50. The monitoring of the 2002 program will be based on quarterly quantitative performance criteria and benchmarks, as well as structural benchmarks and a structural performance criterion established for the period January 1-December 31, 2002, in addition to two reviews. The quantitative performance criteria and benchmarks are specified in Table 3 and outlined in the attached technical memorandum of understanding. The structural performance criteria and benchmarks are specified in Table 4. The quantitative performance criteria comprise (i) a ceiling on net bank credit to the government (which can be adjusted); (ii) a ceiling on the basic budget deficit (on a commitment basis and excluding grants); (iii) a reduction in the level of existing domestic payments arrears and nonaccumulation of new domestic payments arrears; (iv) nonaccumulation of new external payments arrears; (v) a cap on nonconcessional external debt contracted or guaranteed by the government having a maturity of one year or more; and (vi) nonreliance on short-term external credit with the exception of normal import credits and loans associated with debt relief operations. The above-mentioned variables relating to end-June 2002 and end-December 2002 will constitute benchmarks for the monitoring of the program; those for end-March 2002 and end-September 2002 will be performance criteria. Furthermore, quarterly quantitative benchmarks are being set for tax revenue and the wage bill. The quarterly limits on net bank credit to the government will be adjusted on the basis of the recorded gap between the projected net amounts of special external assistance and the amounts actually received within the limits indicated in attached Table 3.

51. The program for 2002 will also include a structural performance criterion on the continuous implementation of the pricing system for petroleum products, adopted on August 1, 2001, and a number of structural benchmarks as indicated in Table 4. These comprise (i) the preparation of a budget review law for 2001 and the transmittal of the FY 2001 accounts to the audit office; (ii) the introduction of the new budget nomenclature and the new chart of accounts, and their use in preparing the 2003 budget law; (iii) the preparation of a report on the implementation of the special poverty reduction program and the use of resources freed by the HIPC Initiative in 2001; and (iv) the strengthening of the unit responsible for the external debt through the introduction of new debt-management software and the training of human resources in that regard.

52. The authorities will continue to subscribe to the statistical information requirements indicated in the technical memorandum of understanding.

Table 1. Niger: Quantitative Performance Criteria and Benchmarks for
the Period December 31, 2000–December 31, 2001.

(In billions of CFA francs)


    Balance
at
December 31, 2000
  End -March 2001 Performance Criteria1
End -June 2001 Benchmarks
End-September 2001 Performance Criteria1
End-Dec. 2001
Bench-
marks
Program
Pro-     Pro-    
gram Adjusted Real. gram Adjusted Prel. Revised Adjusted Est.

        (In stock)
A. Quantitative performance
  criteria and benchmarks
                             
Net bank credit to the
   government2,3
43.0   69.8 50.6 38.5   71.3 76.3 51.6   49.0 63.4 61.6     56.9
                                 
        (Change from January 1, 2001 to the point in time considered)
Reduction in government
   domestic payments arrears4
      3.7   3.7   1.0   10.0 10.0   6.9   10.9 10.9 13.4     34.0
Changes in government external
   payments arrears5
      0.0   0.0   0.9     0.0   0.0   0.0     0.0   0.0 0.9       0.0
New nonconcessional external
   debt contracted or guaranteed
   by the government with
   maturities of:
                             
  0-1 year6     0.0     0.0   0.0   0.0     0.0   0.0   0.0     0.0   0.0   0.0       0.0
  Over 1 year7     0.0     0.0   0.0 15.4     0.0   0.0   0.0     0.0   0.0   0.0       0.0
                                 
B. Quantitative benchmarks                              
Budgetary revenue4,8 110.1   26.3 26.3 31.4   55.6 55.6 63.4   93.7 93.7 97.0   127.7
Wage bill3   51.8   13.0 13.0 12.9   25.7 25.7 25.1   38.6 38.6 37.7     50.1
Basic budget deficit
   (commitments basis,
   excl.grants)3,9
  38.6     5.1   5.1 17.8   19.8 19.8 26.5   43.0 43.0 35.3     51.8
                                 
Memorandum item:                              
Exceptional external
   assistance (cumulative)10
  42.3   -1.0 18.2 18.2   17.3 12.3 12.3   25.6 11.2 11.2     43.6

1Performance criteria for program indicators under A; benchmarks otherwise.
2This ceiling on net bank credit to government will be adjusted if the amount of disbursements of external budgetary assistance, defined in footnote 10, exceeds or falls short of program forecasts. If disbursements are less than the programmed amounts, the ceilings will be raised pro tanto in line with the observed shortfalls up to a maximum of CFAF 7.5 billion at end-December 2000 and end March 2001, and CFAF 15.0 billion at end-June, end-September and end-December 2001. If disbursements of assistance exceed programmed amounts, the ceilings will be lowered pro tanto unless the excess assistance is used for a reduction of domestic payments arrears in excess of the programmed reduction.
3Maximum.
4Minimum.
5Figures for December 2000 correspond to the settlement of all external payments arrears at the time of Executive Board consideration of Niger's request for a PRGF arrangement. New payments arrears are monitored on a continuous basis.
6Except for ordinary credit for imports or debt relief.
7Excluding debt relief obtained in the form of rescheduling or refinancing.
8Excluding revenue from privatization, which is included in financing.
9Total revenue, excluding grants, minus total expenses excluding foreign-financed investment expenditures.
10External aid, including traditional debt relief, but excluding IMF financing, HIPC Initiative interim assistance, and net of external debt service and payments of external arrears. N.B.: The term "debt" has the meaning set forth in point number 9 of the Guidelines on Performance Criteria with Regard to Foreign Debt, adopted on August 24, 2000 and also to commitments contracted or guaranteed for which value has not been received.

Table 2. Niger: Prior Action, Structural Performance Criterion, and Structural Benchmarks for the the First Year of the Poverty Reduction and
Growth Facility-Supported Program
March 31, 2001-December 31, 2001
  Revised program Status December 17, 2001

Prior action for completion of first review    
Clearing of external payments arrears accumulated at end-June 2001 vis-à-vis Paris Club creditors Cleared on July 12, 2001  
Structural performance criterion    
Implementation of an automatic, transparent, and flexible pricing system for petroleum products August 1, 2001 DoneFreeze of the pricing system for one month (October 2001)
Structural benchmarks    
Establishment of the opening balances for
the 2001 accounts on the treasury books
End-September 2001 Done
Preparation of a new budget and public accounting nomenclature that would
improve the recording of government operations and ensure consistency between the budget law and public accounting
End-September 2001 Done
Computerization of the budgetary
expenditure processes of the government
at the central level
End-December 2001 Pending
Preparation of a final budget law (Loi de règlement) for 2000 to be submitted to the National Assembly and transmittal of the
2000 budgetary accounts to the Audit Court
End-December 2001 Pending

Table 3. Niger: Quantitative Performance Criteria and Benchmarks for
the Period December 31, 2001-December 31, 2002

(In billions of CFA francs)
    Stock at-end September 2001 End-March 2002
Perf. Criteria1
End-June
2002
Benchmarks
End-Sep.
2002
Perf. Criteria1
End-Dec.
2002

Benchmarks

A. Quantitative performance    criteria and benchmarks    
Based on changes from
   September 30, 2001
   
Variation of net bank credit to
   the government2,3
61.6   0.1 -17.5  -11.1 -7.2
Basic budget deficit (commitments
   basis, excl.grants)3,4
    9.2 18.6   24.9 36.5
Reduction in government
   domestic payments arrears5
  24.4 34.4   41.4 48.4
           
Memorandum item:          
Exceptional external assistance
   (cumulative)6
  19.6 50.4   51.0 59.6
           
B. Continuous quantitative
    performance criteria
         
Accumulation of external
   payments arrears
    0.0   0.0     0.0   0.0
External debt contracted or
    guaranteed by the government
    with maturities of 0-1 year7
    0.0   0.0     0.0   0.0
Nonconcessional external debt
   contracted or guaranteed by the
   government with maturities
   over 1 year8
    0.0   0.0     0.0   0.0
           
C. Quantitative benchmarks    
From December 31, 2001    
Budgetary revenue5,9   37.1 79.7 122.7 160.9
Wage bill 3   13.0 25.9   39.0   52.1

1Performance criteria for program indicators under A and B; benchmarks otherwise.
2This ceiling on net bank credit to government will be adjusted if the amount of disbursements of external budgetary assistance, as defined in footnote 6, exceeds or falls short of program forecasts. If disbursements are less than the programmed amounts, the ceilings will be raised pro tanto in line with the observed shortfalls up to a maximum of CFAF 7.5 billion at end-March 2002, and CFAF 15.0 billion at end-June, end-September and end-December 2002. If disbursements of assistance exceed programmed amounts, the ceilings will be lowered pro tanto unless the excess assistance is used for a reduction of domestic payments arrears in excess of the programmed reduction.
3Maximum.
4Total revenue, excluding grants, minus total expenses excluding foreign-financed investment expenditures.
5Minimum.
6External aid, including traditional debt relief, but excluding IMF financing, HIPC Initiative interim assistance, and net of external debt service and payments of external arrears.
7Except for ordinary credit for imports or debt relief.
8Excluding debt relief obtained in the form of rescheduling or refinancing.
9Excluding revenue from privatization, which is included in financing. N.B.: The term "debt" has the meaning set forth in point number 9 of the Guidelines on Performance Criteria with Regard to Foreign Debt, adopted on August 24, 2000 and also to commitments contracted or guaranteed for which value has not been received.

Table 4. Niger: Structural Performance Criterion, and Structural Benchmarks for the
the Second Year of the Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility-Supported Program
January 1, 2002–December 31, 2002
Prior action for completion of the second review  
Clearing of external payments arrears accumulated at end-September 2001
vis-à-vis Paris Club creditors
Cleared on December 24, 2001
Continuous structural performance criterion  
Continuous implementation of the pricing system for petroleum products adopted on August 1, 2001. 2002
Structural benchmarks  
Submission of a report on (i) the execution of the Presidential program to reduce poverty and (ii) the use of resources freed by the HIPC Initiative in 2001. End-March 2002
Strengthening of the external debt unit through the introduction of a new
debt management software and training of staff.
End-June 2002
Introduction of the new budget nomenclature and the new chart of
accounts, and their use in preparing the 2003 budget law
End-September 2002
Preparation of a budget review law for 2001 and the transmittal of the
FY 2001 accounts to the audit office
End-December 2002


Technical Memorandum of Understanding

Niamey, January 16, 2002

1. This technical memorandum of understanding provides the definitions of the quantitative performance criteria and quantitative benchmarks for the second year of Niger's program supported under the Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility (PRGF). The targets for these quantitative performance criteria and benchmarks are set out in Table 3 attached to the government's memorandum of economic and financial policies (MEFP) dated [January ... 2002]. This technical memorandum also sets out the data-reporting requirements for monitoring the program.

I. Definition of Terms

2. For the purpose of this technical memorandum, the following definitions of "debt," "government," "payment arrears," and "government obligations" will be used:

    (a) As specified in point 9 of the Guidelines on Performance Criteria with Respect to Foreign Debt adopted by the Executive Board of the IMF on August 24, 2000, debt will be understood to mean a current, i.e., not contingent, liability, created under a contractual arrangement through the provision of value in the form of assets (including currency) or services, and which requires the obligor to make one or more payments in the form of assets (including currency) or services, at some future point(s) in time; these payments will discharge the principal and/or interest liabilities incurred under the contract. Debts can take a number of forms, the primary ones being as follows: (i) loans, i.e., advances of money to obligor by the lender made on the basis of an undertaking that the obligor will repay the funds in the future (including deposits, bonds, debentures, commercial loans and buyers' credits) and temporary exchanges of assets that are equivalent to fully collateralized loans under which the obligor is required to repay the funds, and usually pay interest, by repurchasing the collateral from the buyer in the future (such as repurchase agreements and official swap arrangements); (ii) suppliers' credits, i.e., contracts where the supplier permits the obligor to defer payments until some time after the date on which the goods are delivered or services are provided; and (iii) leases, i.e., arrangements under which property is provided which the lessee has the right to use for one or more specified period(s) of time that are usually shorter than the total expected service life of the property, while the lessor retains the title to the property. For the purpose of the guideline, the debt is the present value (at the inception of the lease) of all lease payments expected to be made during the period of the agreement excluding those payments that cover the operation, repair or maintenance of the property. Under the definition of debt set out above, arrears, penalties, and judicially awarded damages arising from the failure to make payment under a contractual obligation that constitutes debt are debt. Failure to make payment on an obligation that is not considered debt under this definition (e.g., payment on delivery) will not give rise to debt. The external debt excludes treasury bills and bonds issued in CFA francs on the regional financial market of the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU).

    (b) Government refers to the central government of the Republic of Niger; it does not include any political subdivision, the central bank, or any government-owned entity with separate legal personality.

    (c) Payment arrears are payments due (following the expiration of a 60 days grace period) but unpaid.

    (d) Government obligation is any financial obligation of the government verified as such by the government (including any government debt).

II. Quantitative Performance Criteria

A. Net Bank Credit to Government

Definition of the performance criterion

3. Net bank credit to the government is defined as the balance of the government's claims and debts vis-à-vis national banking institutions. Government claims include the cash holdings of the Nigerien Treasury, deposits with the central bank, deposits with commercial banks, and secured obligations. Government debt to the banking system includes funding from the central bank (essentially IMF assistance and refinancing of secured obligations), government securities held by the central bank, funding from commercial banks (including government securities held by commercial banks), and deposits with the postal checking system.

4. Government securities held outside the Nigerien banking system are not included in the net bank credit to government.

5. The net bank credit to government is calculated by the Central Bank of West African States (BCEAO), whose figures are those deemed valid within the context of the program. The scope of the net bank credit to government as defined by the BCEAO includes all central government administrations. The performance criterion is based on the variation of stock in net bank credit to the government from September 30, 2001 to the date considered for the performance criterion.

Adjustment

6. The ceiling on net bank credit to the government will be subject to adjustment if disbursements of external budgetary assistance (excluding IMF financing), including traditional debt relief--but excluding the interim assistance to be provided under the Initiative for Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC Initiative)--net of debt-service obligations (excluding IMF obligations) and payments of external arrears, exceed or fall short of program forecasts. In the event of excess disbursements at the end of each quarter (end-March 2002, end-June 2002, end-September 2002, and end-December 2002), the ceiling will be adjusted downward pro tanto by the amount of the excess disbursements, unless they are used to absorb domestic payments arrears. In contrast, if at the end of each quarter disbursements are less than the programmed amounts, the ceiling will be raised pro tanto by the amount of the shortfalls up to the limit (on a noncumulative basis) of CFAF 7.5 billion at end-March 2002, and CFAF 15 billion at end-June 2002, end-September and end-December 2002. If HIPC Initiative assistance is granted to Niger, the debt-service savings will be transferred to a central bank account and used to finance new poverty reduction programs that have been approved in the budget law and are in line with the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP).

Reporting requirement

7. Detailed data on net bank credit to government will be provided monthly within six weeks following the end of each month.

B. Basic Budget Balance

8. The basic budget balance is defined as the difference between total budgetary revenue, excluding grants, and total expenditure excluding externally financed capital expenditures (including investment expenditures financed under the HIPC Initiative). In the program, the performance criterion is based on the cumulative basic budget balance since end-September 2001.

Reporting requirement

9. This information will be provided to the IMF monthly within six weeks following the end of each month.

C. Reduction of Domestic Payments Arrears on Government Obligations

Definition of the performance criterion

10. Domestic payments arrears on government obligations are reduced through the payment of these obligations as defined under 2c and 2d above. The government undertakes not to accumulate any new domestic payments arrears on government obligations, except for arrears on obligations other than government debt, in which case, the government undertakes not to accumulate beyond six months. The Centre d'Amortissement de la Dette Intérieure de l'Etat (government domestic debt amortization center) (CADIE) keeps and updates the inventory of domestic payments arrears on government obligations and maintains records of their repayments.

Reporting requirement

11. Data on the outstanding balance, accumulation and repayment of domestic payments arrears on government obligations will be provided monthly within six weeks following the end of each month.

D. Nonaccumulation of External Payments Arrears

Definition of the performance criterion

12. Government debt is outstanding debt owned or guaranteed by the government. It excludes treasury bills and bonds issued in CFA francs on the WAEMU regional financial market. Under the program, the government undertakes not to accumulate external payments arrears on government debt, with the exception of external payments arrears arising from government debt in the process of being renegotiated with creditors, including Paris Club creditors. In addition, the government undertakes to attempt in good faith and without delay to sign agreements that would confirm the preliminary understandings reached on the settlement of its external payments arrears before the Fund Board consideration, on December 14, 2000 of the authorities' requests for a new 3-year arrangement under the Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility.

Reporting requirement

13. Data on the outstanding balance, the accumulation, and the repayment of external payments arrears will be provided monthly within four weeks following the end of each month.

E. External Nonconcessional Loans Contracted or Guaranteed

by the Government of Niger

Definition of the performance criterion

14. The government will not contract or guarantee external debt with original maturity of one year or more with a grant element of less than 50 percent. Nonconcessional external debt is defined as all debt with a concessionality level of less than 50 percent. To calculate the level of concessionality for loans with a maturity of at least 15 years, the discount rate to be used is the 10-year average "Commercial Interest Reference Rate" (CIRR) calculated by the IMF, based on the rates published by the OECD; for loans of less than 15 years, the 6-month average CIRR is to be used.

15. This performance criterion applies not only to debt as defined in Point 9 of the Guidelines on Performance Criteria with Respect to Foreign Dept adopted on August 24, 2000, but also to commitments contracted or guaranteed for which value has not been received. However, this performance criterion does not apply to financing provided by the Fund, and to treasury notes and bonds issued in CFA francs on the WAEMU regional financial market.

Reporting requirement

16. Details on any external government debt will be provided monthly within four weeks following the end of each month. The same requirement applies to guarantees extended by the central government.

F. Short-Term External Debt of the Central Government

Definition of the performance criterion

17. The government will not contract or guarantee external debt with original maturity of less than one year. This performance criterion applies not only to debt as defined in Point 9 of the Guidelines on Performance Criteria with Respect to Foreign Debt adopted on August 24, 2000, but also to commitments contracted or guaranteed for which value has not been received. Excluded from this performance criterion are short-term import-related trade credits and short-term treasury notes issued in CFA francs on the regional financial market.

Reporting requirement

18. Details on any external government debt will be provided monthly within four weeks following the end of each month. The same requirement applies to guarantees extended by the central government.

III. Quantitative Benchmarks

A. Definitions

19. Budgetary revenue are a quantitative benchmark for the program. It includes tax, non tax and special accounts revenue.

20. The civil service wage bill is another benchmark of the program. It is calculated by excluding the teaching volunteers' salary and the salaries paid in the process of reinstatement of former rebellion members.

B. Reporting Requirement

21. This information will be provided to the IMF monthly within six weeks following the end of each month.

IV. Additional Information for Program-Monitoring Purposes

A. Public Finances

22. The government will report to IMF staff:

  • detailed monthly estimates of revenue and expenditure, including social expenditure and the payment of domestic and external arrears;

  • complete monthly data on domestic budgetary financing, to be provided monthly within six weeks following the end of each month;

  • quarterly data on implementation of the public investment program, including details on financing sources to be provided quarterly within eight weeks following the end of each quarter; and

  • monthly data on debt service, to be provided within four weeks following the end of each month.

B. Monetary Sector

23. The government will provide the following information within eight weeks following the end of each month:

  • consolidated balance sheet of monetary institutions and, as appropriate, the balance sheets of selected individual banks;

  • the monetary survey, eight weeks after the end of each month for provisional data;

  • borrowing and lending interest rates; and

  • customary banking supervision indicators for bank and nonbank financial institutions; as needed, indicators for individual institutions may also be provided.

C. Balance of Payments

24. The government will provide the following information:

  • any revision to balance of payments data (including services, private transfers, official transfers, and capital transactions) whenever they occur; and

  • preliminary annual balance of payments data, within six months following the end of the year concerned.

D. Real Sector

25. The government will provide the following information:

  • disaggregated monthly consumer price indexes, monthly within two weeks following the end of each month;

  • preliminary national accounts, no later than six months after the end of the year; and

  • any revision in the national accounts.

E. Structural Reforms and Other Data

26. The government will provide the following information:

  • any study or official report on Niger's economy, within two weeks following its publication; and

  • any decision, order, law, decree, ordinance, or circular with economic or financial implications, upon its publication or, at the latest, when it enters into force.

F. Summary of Main Data Requirements

Type of Data Tables Frequency Reporting Lag

Real sector National accounts Annual Six months
  Revisions of national accounts Irregular Eight weeks following revision
  Consumer price indexes, disaggregated Monthly End of month + two weeks
Public finances Net government position Monthly End of month + six weeks
  Table of indicators, including breakdown of revenue, expenditure, and repayment
of domestic wage and nonwage arrears
Monthly End of month + six weeks
  Provisional table of government financial operations (TOFE) Monthly End of month + six weeks
  Investment budget execution Quarterly End of quarter + eight weeks
  Petroleum products pricing formula, tax receipts, and pricing differentials Monthly End of month + four weeks
Monetary and financial data Monetary survey Monthly End of month + six weeks (provisional)End of month + ten weeks (final)
  Consolidated balance sheet of monetary institutions and, as appropriate, balance sheets of certain individual banks Monthly End of month + eight weeks
  Borrowing and lending interest rates Monthly End of month + eight weeks
  Banking supervision ratios Quarterly End of quarter + eight weeks
Balance of payments Balance of payments Annual Six months
  Revised balance of payments data Irregular When revisions occur
External debt Outstanding external payments arrears and repayments Monthly End of month + four weeks
  Terms of new external loans   End of month + four weeks

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