Statement by IMF Deputy Managing Director Murilo Portugal at the Conclusion of his Visit to Burundi

Press Release No. 07/84
May 3, 2007

Mr. Murilo Portugal, Deputy Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), made the following statement today in Bujumbura:

"I am grateful for the opportunity to visit Burundi for the first time, and I especially want to thank President Pierre Nkurunziza, Second Vice-President Gabriel Ntisezerana, Minister of Finance Denise Sinankwa, Central Bank Governor Isaac Bizimana, and other senior Burundian officials for their cordial hospitality.

"I came here to demonstrate the IMF's strong commitment to Burundi and to hear from the authorities what the IMF can do to better assist them in their efforts to raise living standards of the population. I had very fruitful meetings with President Nkurunziza and senior government officials, representatives of civil society, the private sector, and the local donor community on the challenges facing Burundi as it emerges from a period of conflict. I also had a memorable visit to the public school Ecole Publique Milango, which has benefited from resources made available by debt relief under the enhanced Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative. Finally, I found my visit to the SODECO coffee mill in Buterere informative and it helped me understand the importance of the coffee sector in Burundi.

"I congratulated President Nkurunziza on the good progress Burundi has made in the economic recovery and reform program the IMF is supporting. In very difficult circumstances, the government has maintained fiscal discipline, which is key to macroeconomic stability. The authorities have liberalized the foreign trade and exchange rate regime, reinforced monetary policy, strengthened public financial management, and begun to reform the productive sectors. We also discussed the policy challenges of managing the trade-offs between strong pressures for higher wages and ensuring adequate room for private sector to grow. The President conveyed to me his strong commitment to buttress governance and his determination to press ahead with the economic reforms that are needed to produce a sustainable increase in private-sector led economic growth that is essential to reduce poverty.

"During discussions, I noted that while Burundi is on the right road, it still has a long way to go to reach the Millennium Development Goals. Burundi must resolutely implement the deep-rooted structural reforms that are necessary to relaunch the economy, including in the coffee sector. A timely privatization of the extensive state holdings will help to create an environment that attracts private sector activity and investment. We agreed that the size of the peace dividend could be larger provided that growth recovery is led by the private sector. This is a task not just for the government but for all stakeholders. And it requires stronger support of the international community.

"At the IMF, we are thoroughly committed to working with the authorities on the implementation of their economic program. At their request, we have also scaled-up our technical assistance efforts, especially in support of better management of the public finances and rehabilitation of the financial sector. Further, I noted that the Fund will call upon the donor community to step up aid commitments and to make these commitments more predictable. The authorities, in turn, agreed that such an outcome will require further structural efforts on their part.

"In conclusion, I am impressed by the commitment of the people of this young democracy and their leaders, who are successfully implementing a negotiated peace under very difficult circumstances. The challenges to economic recovery are many, but perseverance with the reform agenda holds the prospect of a brighter future."



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