Press Release: IMF Approves US$9.0 Million PRGF Credit for São Tomé and Príncipe
April 28, 2000
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) today approved a three-year credit for São Tomé and Príncipe under the Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility (PRGF)1 equivalent to SDR 6.657 million (about US$8.9 million) to support the government's 2000/02 economic program. The credit will be disbursed in seven semiannual loans, with the first loan, equivalent of SDR 0.951 million (about US$1.3 million) available immediately.
In commenting on the Executive Board discussion on São Tomé and Príncipe, Eduardo Aninat, Deputy Managing Director, made the following statement:
"The authorities of São Tomé and Príncipe are to be commended for the credible record of policy performance in stabilizing the economy in 1998-99 under the staff-monitored program. Tight fiscal and monetary policies in the context of a flexible, market-based exchange rate regime made it possible to turn around the primary fiscal balance from a deficit of 2.2% of GDP in 1997 to a surplus of 1.3% of GDP in 1999, and to reduce inflation from 81% in 1997 to 13% in 1999. The authorities also narrowed the spread between the official exchange rate and the parallel market rate of the currency from 6.5% in 1997 to 1.5% in 1999. In addition, trade and price liberalization policies and the privatization program helped promote private sector initiative, including in food crop exports and tourism expansion, and resulted in an increase in real GDP growth despite a 52% deterioration in the terms of trade during 1999 and a continued fall in cocoa production.
"However, per capita income continues to decline, the debt burden is particularly heavy and not sustainable, and the country continues to depend heavily on external assistance and cocoa growing. São Tomé and Príncipe is one of the poorest country in the world and the authorities are developing a poverty reduction strategy in a broad-based participatory process involving civil society. They have already prepared an interim Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP) and the full PRSP is scheduled to be completed by end-2001.
"The program is comprehensive and very demanding given the limited administrative capacity in São Tomé and Príncipe, and successful implementation will require continued determination on the part of the authorities, and the support of labor unions, political parties represented in parliament, and the public at large. Continued external technical assistance will also be essential in this regard. Important aspects of the program include cautious fiscal and wage policies, priority given to education and health spending, civil service reform, public enterprise privatization, the streamlining of business legislation and regulation, strengthened banking supervision, and the enhancement of good governance, accountability, and transparency. São Tomé and Príncipe will need adequate external financing during the period of the program, in the form of concessional debt relief and nonproject support", Aninat said.
Following a decade with very large macroeconomic imbalances and declining real per capita incomes, the government successfully implemented an IMF staff monitored program in 1998/99 that shifted the primary budget deficit to surplus, lowered inflation, and helped improve real GDP growth. Poverty and social indicators worsened, however, and the country's public external debt remained particularly heavy.
The key objectives of the PRGF-supported program include bringing the economy onto a sustainable growth path, reducing poverty, and making progress toward external viability. Within this framework, the macroeconomic objectives for 2000/02 are to reduce inflation to 5% in 2000 and to 3% during 2001/02 on an end-of-year basis, and to contain the external current account deficit (excluding official transfers) at 66% of GDP in 2002. Real GDP growth is projected to increase to 4% by 2002 from 2.5% in 1998/99, allowing per capita income to rise by 1.7% a year. Private investment is expected to exceed 30% of GDP, and the program seeks to raise national savings to 20% of GDP by 2002.
To achieve these objectives, the economic reform efforts are to focus on four key policy components: (a) the pursuit of a prudent fiscal policy aimed at increasing the primary budget surplus, while allocating increased funding to education, and health; (b) the pursuit of an appropriately tight monetary policy to lower inflation and improve international reserves; (c) a deepening of structural reforms to promote private sector development and investment; and (d) the implementation of an ambitious poverty reduction strategy and action plan.
Fiscal policy aims at reducing the overall fiscal deficit to 16% of GDP in 2002 from 26% in 1999, and increasing the primary budget surplus (excluding foreign-financed investment) to 5% of GDP in 2002 from 1.3% in 1999. Government revenue is projected to increase by 22% of GDP in 2002 from 19% in 1999. Domestically financed primary expenditures will be contained to 17% of GDP in 2002.
Structural reforms will aim at reducing the economy's dependence on cocoa exports and encourage private investment. In this regard, price and trade liberalization will be pursued, a comprehensive civil service and retrenchment program will be implemented, as well as a public enterprise reform and privatization program. Transparency, accountability, and good governance will also be enhanced, including in the central bank, budget, and oil exploration operations.
Poverty Reduction Strategy
Given São Tomé and Príncipe's clearly unsustainable debt burden, its widespread poverty, and the remaining structural rigidities that impede economic growth, the authorities have decided to reinforce the progress made in restoring macroeconomic stability and to tackle the country's structural problems as a matter of urgency. An interim Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP) has been adopted, and a full PRSP, which is expected to be completed by end- 2001, will be prepared through an open participatory process. A household survey and a poverty analysis will be carried out in 2000 and the results will be used to develop social and poverty monitoring indicators. Immediate actions give priority to restoring adequate public education and health services and include classroom and school rehabilitation, increased immunization of children, improved water and sanitation networks, as well as the launching of information, education, and communication campaigns.
São Tomé and Príncipe joined the IMF on September 30, 1977. It's quota2 is equivalent to
SDR 7.40 million. (about US$9.9 million). It has no outstanding use of IMF credit.