IMF Executive Board Approves US$21 Million PRGF Arrangement for The Gambia and Additional Interim Assistance under the HIPC InitiativePress Release No. 07/28
February 21, 2007
The Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) today approved a three-year arrangement under the Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility (PRGF)1 for The Gambia in an amount equivalent to SDR 14 million (about US$21 million and 45 percent of quota) in support of the government's economic program into 2009. The first disbursement under the PRGF arrangement will be in an amount equivalent to SDR 2 million (about US$3 million).
In addition, the Board granted additional interim assistance under the enhanced Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative in an amount equivalent to SDR 0.36 million (about US$0.5 million).
Following the Executive Board's discussion on The Gambia, Mr. Murilo Portugal, Deputy Managing Director and Acting Chairman, stated:
"The Gambian authorities are to be commended for successfully stabilizing the economy over the last three years. A tightening in monetary policy helped to stabilize the exchange rate and to lower the annual rate of inflation to single-digit levels. Prudent macroeconomic policies and increased external financing helped real GDP growth recover from a drought-induced decline in 2002 to average about 6 percent annually during 2003-06.
"Notwithstanding the recent achievements, The Gambia continues to face formidable economic challenges including widespread poverty, vulnerability to exogenous shocks, and a heavy public debt burden. The program supported by the new three-year arrangement has been designed to consolidate macroeconomic stabilization while also addressing the above challenges. It is based on the authorities' recently completed second Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper that integrates the Millennium Development Goals into its objectives.
"Maintaining fiscal discipline will be critical to the achievement of the program's medium-term macroeconomic objectives. In particular, containing the government's domestic borrowing requirement is needed to help lower real interest rates from their current very high levels, and thus stimulate private investment as well as create fiscal space for increasing priority government expenditures.
"The authorities are taking steps to strengthen public financial management and accountability. The launching of the Integrated Financial Management Information System in January 2007 is a key step in improving budget execution and monitoring, and should facilitate the establishment of an effective commitment control system and better alignment of budget execution with PRSP priorities.
"The Central Bank of The Gambia (CBG) deserves commendation for enhancing its monetary operations and for the steps it has taken to address the breakdown in internal controls that led to monetary policy lapses in the early 2000s. The program includes measures to tackle remaining weaknesses and vulnerabilities, and to strengthen the operational independence of the CBG.
"The proposed policies and external debt relief are expected to help The Gambia achieve debt sustainability. Satisfactory implementation of the PRGF-supported program for at least six months is one of the pre-requisites for The Gambia to reach completion point under the enhanced initiative for Heavily Indebted Poor Countries and to become eligible for assistance under the Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative. The authorities have indicated their commitment to fully implement the program," Mr. Portugal said.
The Gambia's macroeconomic performance has improved significantly over the last few years. Real GDP growth recovered from a drought-induced decline in 2002 to average about 6 percent annually during 2003-2006, outpacing estimated 2.8 percent annual population growth. The fastest growing sectors were hotels and restaurants (reflecting increased tourist arrivals), construction, and telecommunications. The authorities also succeeded in reducing inflation from a peak 21 percent per year in August 2003 to annual rates below 3 percent since June 2005. Fiscal performance in 2006 was stronger than the previous year, but not as strong as envisaged in the budget on account of expenditure overruns associated with an African Union summit held in Banjul in July. The economy has stayed relatively competitive in spite of a slight appreciation of the nominal and real exchange rates.
The primary objectives of the program are to consolidate recent macroeconomic achievements and promote sustained high growth and poverty reduction. The program draws on the authorities' recently completed second Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP II), which integrates the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) into its objectives. It targets annual growth of 6-7 percent between 2007 and 2009, annual inflation in the range of 2-4 percent, and fiscal basic balance surpluses of about 3 percent of GDP a year to reduce domestic public debt to a sustainable path. Based on indications from donors, the program projects a significant increase in net external financing which will allow for increased growth-promoting and poverty-reducing government spending. Structural reforms include measures to enhance internal controls and operational independence of the central bank to underpin macroeconomic stability, strengthen public financial management and accountability to ensure that public resources are used effectively and efficiently, and deepen financial intermediation.