IMF Executive Board Completes the Fourth Review Under Niger's PRGF Arrangement and Approves US$ 1.4 Million Disbursement

Press Release No. 07/125
June 8, 2007

The executive Board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) today completed the fourth review of Niger's economic performance under a three-year Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility (PRGF) arrangement originally approved on January 31, 2005 (See Press Release No 05/20). The completion of the review enables the release of a further SDR 0.94 million (about US$1.4 million), which will bring the total amount disbursed under the arrangement to SDR 24.44 million (about US$36.9 million).

The Board also approved Niger's request for waivers pertaining to the non-observance of the structural performance criterion on the application of a flexible pricing mechanism for petroleum products and the quantitative performance criterion on the government's contracting or guaranteeing of new nonconcessional external debt.

Following the IMF Executive Board discussion on Niger, Mr. Murilo Portugal, Deputy Managing Director and Acting Chair, stated:

"The Nigerian authorities are to be commended for the overall satisfactory performance under the PRGF-supported program. Economic growth accelerated in 2006 and inflation is close to zero, reflecting good policies and a good agricultural harvest. The national cereal security stocks have been replenished, aided also by substantial external assistance. The assurances by the Nigerian authorities renewing their commitment to full implementation of the program under the new government are welcome.

"The planned fiscal deficit through end-December 2007 has been expanded to accommodate higher-than-expected external budget support. The fiscal program continues to shift resources toward health, education, and rural development, guided by the Poverty Reduction Strategy for 2008-2012. The program also emphasizes improvements in tax administration and a widening of the tax base, in part through fewer tax exemptions and simpler tax procedures.

"The ongoing reforms in public expenditure management, including strengthening of budget preparation and execution procedures, remain critical for enhancing the effectiveness of public spending, achieving the Millennium Development Goals, and mobilizing external resources. In addition, it will be important to further strengthen internal audits and the Auditor Court. To preserve debt sustainability, it is essential that external financial assistance be sought in the form of grants and highly concessional loans.

"Efforts to enhance the business and investment climate deserve high priority. It will be important to improve the judicial and land tenure systems and streamline the regulatory framework for businesses. The steps under way to privatize and restructure public financial institutions, including microfinance institutions, should help expand access to credit and reduce its costs." said Mr. Portugal.



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