Transcript -- Press Conference - African Prospects: Facing the Challenges, Finance Ministers from Tanzania, Sierra Leone, Gabon and Niger
April 28, 2001
Saturday, April 28, 2001
Mr. Basil P. Mramba, Minister of Finance of Tanzania
Mr. J. Kuyembeh, Minister of Finance of Sierra Leone
Mr. Emile Doumba, Minister of Finance, Budget, and Privatization of Gabon
Mr. Ali Badjo Damatie, Minister of Finance of Niger
Ms. Lucie Mboto Fouda, IMF StaffProceedings
MS. MBOTO FOUDA: Good afternoon Ladies and gentlemen, I'm Lucie Mboto Fouda from the External Relations Department of the IMF, and I would like to welcome all of you to this press conference today, which is part our continuing efforts to provide you with first-hand information from our African member countries.
We have here today four ministers of finance from different African countries. To my far left is Mr. Gamatie, minister of finance of Niger. To my left is Mr. Doumba, minister of finance of Gabon. To my right is Minister Mramba, minister of finance of Tanzania and Mr. Kuyembeh, minister of finance of Sierra Leone is on the far right side of this table.
The press conference will be on the record. Simultaneous translation facilities are available. Maybe before I take questions in the room, could I ask Minister Mramba to offer a few opening remarks. Thank you.
MR. MRAMBA: Thank you, members of the press. Those of us seated here represent some of the poorest countries in Africa which have had long relationships with the Bretton Woods institutions, especially in regard to the fight against poverty. We are committed to growth in our countries, through which we can effectively combat poverty, and to that extent, we are carrying out in various degrees of progress programs with the Bretton Woods institutions aiming at essentially combating poverty through action programs better known as PRSPs.
The key problem, as you probably know, is the debt burden which has hit many of our countries, and there are programs which are being worked out by the Bretton Woods institutions and ourselves by which the debt burden could be reduced. Some have reached what is known as decision points; some have reached what is known as completion points. My own country hopefully will soon reach the completion point, which will enable something like two-thirds of our external debt obligations to be canceled.
So we are moving towards growth. We are putting our macroeconomic institutions in favorable conditions, and we are doing a lot of other things to move towards growth, towards fighting poverty. That means making reforms, and we are making a lot of reforms in local government, in the civil service, in the privatization of enterprises; fiscal reforms and so forth and so on.
There are challenges facing us, not least of which is the HIV/AIDS disease which, as you probably know, is hitting Africa very much. There are challenges as to what will happen, whether Africa can play a useful role in the global economy. We have some weaknesses and worries and fears of our own, and we have some of our own countries still in conflict. Sierra Leone is just emerging from this conflict, and special measures are required to help post-conflict countries move in the direction of growth, in the direction of fighting poverty.
In working with the IMF, another biggest challenge has been conditionalities. Many of our countries have not been able to fulfill the conditionalities that have been applied in the past, and we have recently welcomed very much the movement of the Bretton Woods institutions to Africa, the President of the World Bank and the Managing Director of the IMF going out to Africa to talk to African leaders; going out to East Africa to talk to leaders in eastern and southern Africa on the issues as they see them on the spot and in trying to reach a better rapport with the Bretton Woods institutions.
These visits have been very useful. The last one was in Mali and Tanzania in late February, and we welcome such visits because they help to bridge the gap between African leaders and the Bretton Woods institutions, and we welcome specifically the commitment by these institutions that conditionalities will be there but will be tailored to suit specific conditions, specific capacities in countries and specific circumstances.
The other issue that we continue to discuss with our friends which is also a challenge is when these countries have had their debts canceled, what we call the post-completion point, what then happens? Of course, the process should be intensified, one would expect, but there still remain many problems dealing with internal debts; dealing with debts other than those belonging to the Paris Club; getting more of the civil society involved in fighting against poverty; getting local government involved; getting the private sector involved and getting our own governments involved in greater debt than ever before.
These things will require a different way of doing things inside specific countries. These things will require even more aid, not less, from the donor community to reach the promised 0.7 percent. These things will require more coordination of aid within countries rather than the old situation, whereby every donor was doing things their own way. These things will require more infrastructure: telecommunications, roads, electricity and so on and so forth, and these things will cost money.
So these are the challenges that we know we will face after reaching the completion point, but it is our hope that with the cooperation of the international community and the Bretton Woods institutions especially, we will be able to overcome these challenges.
So we have come here for the Spring Meetings. As finance ministers, we are governors of these institutions, and once in a while, we come to compare notes, as it were: where are we? What are we doing? How are we facing these challenges? What do you think about tomorrow? And what are they thinking about tomorrow and so forth and so on?
And these meetings, by virtue of being informal and somewhat less structured than one would expect are useful. It's good for us to, as members of these institutions, as shareholders in these institutions, to get an opportunity at least once to know what is happening, and this is why you see so many of us here, precisely because it is important that we are together on the same wavelength, as it were.
So, roughly, this is what I can say, why we are here. I know that some of us may have things to tell us maybe or questions to ask, and all of us here will be quite willing to respond depending on the nature of the question.
MS. MBOTO FOUDA: Thank you, Mr. Minister.
Now I would like reporters to suggest that reporters identify themselves as well as their media before asking their question.
QUESTION: A couple of years ago, the relationship between the IMF and World Bank was the African leaders expressed as shaping a man's hat in his absence. How do you feel at this moment? Is there more commitment from World Bank and IMF to the African leaders than there used to be 5 years ago?
MS. MBOTO FOUDA: I would suggest that Minister Kuyembeh takes this question first.
MR. KUYEMBEH: As if you were picking the subject matter from my notes, I was wishing someone would explain there used to be the old IMF, the old World Bank; and we now have a new IMF and a new World Bank. Now, whereas in the olden times, for instance, the IMF approach was extremely philosophic; was extremely strict, in fact, to the extent that they had something which looked like penal codes: if you didn't do this, this shall happen to you.
All that seems now to alter to the extent that if I were given the chance, I would suggest that what we used to call conditionalities should probably be referred to now as partnership guides. It has become a partnership arrangement. And so has the World Bank. They are completely approachable. It used to be a very difficult thing.
But then let me hasten to say this is the start, and our requirements are very huge. We would want even greater flexibility, a flexibility which would involve us maybe talking things with the Bretton Woods institutions, beginning from when they formulate their policies.
MS. MBOTO FOUDA: Minister Doumba, would you like to add a few words to this, please?
MR. DOUMBA : Last February, the President of the Bank and the Managing Director of the IMF went to Bamako to talk to heads of state and find out what they think, what they'd like. A year earlier, they met with them in Libreville. Well, the President himself didn't come, but the Managing Director and the Assistant Managing Director of the IMF went to Libreville, so as you know, relationships will improve. They will improve in the allocations to programs, programs that we are discussing today.
There is a lot more attention paid to us; they listen more, and that's important, because the Africans are making an effort, a significant effort. Africa is a continent that is moving forward in spite of difficulties, and we are here to point this out. And so, we would like to have our voices heard by our partners, and we're happy to note today that they have heard us.
MS. MBOTO FOUDA: Minister Gamatie please?
MR. GAMATIE: At this point, what I would like to say is that's true. The relationships between our countries and the World Bank and the IMF, it might seem very complicated, but I guess the reason why we are here is to tell you that things are changing. Things are changing, and there is hope, and there is good reason for hope, because I guess the key point is what's new that would make the programs that didn't work in the past to work now? I guess that's the key point, you know.
We've spent four years trying to fight poverty in Africa, and now, there is this new initiative. What's going to make the difference? I guess the key point is that now, people are listening to what is happening in Africa, what Africans want to do. And basically, what we are telling to the World Bank and the IMF as well as to the international community as a whole. It's not only the World Bank and the IMF on one side and the African countries on the other side. You have the world as a whole.
There has been some responsibility vis-a-vis Africa in the past. Let's make sure that there won't be responsibility vis-a-vis Africa for the future. And the way to do it is to build a partnership where there is going to be an ownership of what is going to happen, and we can monitor what's happening in our country. That's what I would like to add at this point.
QUESTION: MS. ULRICH, Christiana Ulrich, German Press Agency.
Some of the protestors outside say the debt relief that you are getting is not enough, and they campaign for 100 percent debt relief. Would you subscribe to that?
MS. MBOTO FOUDA: Minister Mramba, please?
MR. MRAMBA: Well, as a poor country, I would be very happy if we got 100 percent debt relief. But this question was also asked in Tanzania when the World Bank President and the IMF Managing Director were there, and their reply was that if they did that, the institutions would be bankrupt, and therefore, there would be nothing to lend or to help the poor with.
So if 100 percent debt relief would lead to the bankruptcy of these institutions, then, it would not be very wise to kill the hen who lays the golden eggs. I think the answer will be that these institutions, knowing that there is a limit beyond which they cannot go, should perhaps heighten their campaign to get the bilaterals to reach their 0.7 commitment as donors so that the donor countries, working with these institutions, can, in effect, reach that 100 percent that the poor are looking for.
This 100 percent really is an expression saying what you are doing is not good enough, is not enough. But we don't have only one source. There are so many other sources which you can tap, and that is the point. And I think to that extent, the World Bank and the IMF have been working with the poor countries. I know I have seen documents where, like a recent speech made by the World Bank and IMF chief executives in Germany, to the German parliament saying do more; the bilaterals, do more. We can reach only this far as banks; please, let's do more. Let's coordinate more. Let's harmonize more to help the poor.
And I think that should be the message to our sympathizers outside and elsewhere in the world, that if the donor communities did more together with the banks, perhaps a lot more could be achieved.
MS. MBOTO FOUDA: That's a crucial question on which I would like all of the ministers to express themselves.
Minister Kuyembeh, would you?
MR. KUYEMBEH: Yes; a very interesting question indeed but a question which links with a lot of cultural statements and philosophies right across the globe. The first is there is always a starting point to everything. Therefore, we are awaiting this one to start, and let us see what it is. If I start with overambition, a lot of philosophic statements make it that extremes are errors, and therefore, we are not just hopping to an extreme. Let us start gradually and see what it is. Then, we can go ahead.
But Rome was not built in a day, and the British say a half a bread is better than nothing. If you were in the status some of us are, even one-quarter of a bread is better than the present situation.
Let us therefore be quite grateful about this and let us handle it in the proper way. Let us develop from this. Then, we can look for the huge sort of aid we are looking for. But if we begin to look for the impossible, it would be to our detriment.
MS. MBOTO FOUDA: Minister Doumba, please?
MR. DOUMBA: Yes, 100 percent relief, why not? If you look at history, there are countries in the world who were able to take advantage of such a relief, and I'm very pleased that it is a German journalist who asked that question. History shows that after World War I, Germany was able to have advantages like that, and if you look at the type of some expenditures in industrialized countries, you see that the subsidies that are granted in some countries reach practically the GDP of African countries, so why not?
But I'd like to seize this opportunity to underline that when you talk about the debt, very often, you forget intermediary countries. We always talk about poor countries, but what about the others? People pay less attention to them. And these intermediary countries are sometimes in a situation of poverty which is similar to that of the poor countries, so I hope that creditors will, little by little, realize what the real situation of intermediary countries is.
I think that perhaps minds are not ready to accept 100 percent relief, but it's time to think about it, and we count on you, the journalists, and we thank you.
MR. GAMATIE: Yes, I have to remind myself that I am a French speaker. It's an excellent question, but we have to be practical and realistic first of all. The people who are demonstrating outside, we should listen to them. We should not just ignore their message. And if they become violent, it means that the listening system is not good. We are not listening well enough. So we have to make an effort to listen to what they have to say.
Secondly, the message has been reduced. When they say debt has to be canceled, what they are really saying is that the resources that have been mobilized for the development of poor countries are not enough, and they are right. It is not a technical question to say that the banks are going to go bankrupt or to say that there was slavery, therefore, we have to pay for it; or that the debt has already been paid many times over and that now, it's time to cancel it.
No, the real question is that within the responsibilities of the international community, because responsibilities are shared, African countries are responsible, and the international community is responsible. For Africa, very quickly, we have to resolve our internal problems of democracy and human rights. But on the side of the international community, there's this question of resources, and if the question of resources is not settled, it is a handicap for our future development, and therefore, we have to ask the debt question within the framework of global resources that are needed for Africa. Even if debt was 100 percent canceled today, it would not solve the problem of resources that will be needed for development.
And so, to be practical, and without any question of slavery or saying that we have already paid or whatever, Africa's development is a question of stability and market opportunity. I mean, why are we here? I have flown 6,000 kilometers to be here, one of the poorest countries. It's because we want to be part and parcel of globalization. But we have our responsibility; you have yours. And together, we have to settle that question.
So demonstrating for the debt? Well, it is very simplified: canceling or not canceling. This is not the right question. We should see this within the framework of a partnership between Africa and the international community, and we should listen better to them, and we should translate better what they are saying. And as long as this is not improved, there will be violence.
MS. MBOTO FOUDA: As you can see it, the debate is really more than important for all of us on this question.
QUESTION: MR.Charles Cobb with allafrica.com.
Mr. Mramba in particular mentioned the need within the context of developing infrastructure. Here in the United States, it seems as if the idea of aid is replacing the idea of trade. Two, we are in a global slowdown, and there are all kinds of questions about the amount of aid that might come from Europe and Japan, where it looks like virtually no aid is going to come from.
Is this a realistic demand in these particular times? How are you going to get more aid?
MR. MRAMBA: We need both trade and aid. We need both trade and aid. How are we going to get more aid? That is a question each donor can answer for themselves. But I think there has been a previous commitment which has not been fulfilled. I can only go by previous commitments, global commitments by the donor community, by the industrialized countries. If they struggle to reach that 0.7 percent, then, at least they will have fulfilled their previous commitment, at least they will have.
How, as I say, is really a matter for themselves, but trade in the long run, in the medium and long term will be more important even than aid. I don't know whether you are American, but let me take this opportunity to congratulate the U.S. Government for enacting that legislation called AGOR. It's a legislation which allows tariff-free importation of goods from African countries. That is a very good beginning. At least, it tackles the tariff question.
But, you know, for African countries to effectively trade with industrialized countries, it's more than tariffs. Tariffs alone will not lead to a substantial flow of goods from Africa to the industrialized countries. They have to be enabled. African countries have to be enabled to sell in the developed, industrialized markets.
And so, that's how we look at it and in fact, globalization as a whole will not become much of a benefit to Africa unless African countries are enabled to play, to reach the football ground. We still cannot reach the football ground, let alone play equitably in that football ground, and that is a question which the Bretton Woods institutions have been thinking about. It's a question that we in Africa know is very important.
I'll give you an example maybe to be more practicable. The prices of agricultural commodities are falling in Africa by more than 50 percent. As we are speaking today, the prices of cashew nuts, coffee, tobacco, cotton, you name them, all of these important cash crops of African countries, because we are essentially producers of commodities, the prices are falling by more than 50 percent in the world market.
And yet, even to get those markets is a big problem. To sell even the little that we have at the little price that is being offered is a big problem for these countries. So that is the challenge. That is why I say that this is a challenge to us; it's a challenge to the industrialized countries, to the donor community, and it is a challenge to the Bretton Woods institutions, but it is a challenge which, if solved, would take us a long way towards our economic growth and fight against poverty.
MR. GAMATIE: Since you are American, I am going to speak in English.
Trade but not aid: really, what it comes down to, at least from my point of view, is that we need help to create opportunities. We don't want you to help us feed our people. We want you to help us create opportunities. And if you are talking about trade, let's have trade among ourselves. That would be a starting point; and then, to have trade with the rest of the world.
That brings up to the issue of regional integration. If you look at our markets now, they are all oriented vis-a-vis your countries, not among ourselves. If you take, let's say, West Africa, for instance, you have only 10 percent of exchange between our countries. So when you say trade not aid, really, you want to make a switch in the way you bring assistance to Africa. You want to help to have opportunities, you know, to transform your aid, instead of sending excess corn from the U.S. or Europe to Niger, how would you make it possible for farmers in Niger to grow their own corn so they can feed themselves, so there can be a market, so there would be stability on the market for the whole world?
The key point is not just to reduce it to say, okay, the U.S. is not going to help, or Europe is not going to help Africa anymore. It's to help in a different way. Just the way the IMF and the World Bank are changing their way of doing business with us in terms of the programs we are carrying out now, it has to be this switch in the way you are helping us. So, trade, yes, but trade as a way of creating opportunities.
MR. DOUMBA: I think the minister has made a point that I think we should stress: aid is always interpreted in monetary terms, but it's not just monetary. What we need most today is developing human skills or human resources. We need to have access to your universities; we need to have access to knowledge and know-how. That, in addition to the efforts done by the World Bank and the IMF and the efforts we've made to improve the macroeconomic framework, that is what will allow us to have greater access in the future to your markets and become export countries like others.
MR. KUYEMBEH: That question could be answered by another question: are there alternatives? Let us be sincere. Is trade an alternative to aid? If you want to define those with two words: one is help, and that is what aid is. Now, if you want to define trade really seriously, it is a question of survival of the fittest. Therefore, if trade were to take the place of aid, it means the help system in all of our relations is lost, and only those who are strong will survive. It will be a disaster for all of us.
And the current arrangement, as has been mentioned by one of my colleagues here, the ODA, which was supposed to be the sort of help that should go to the developing world was fixed as a certain point; it has started dwindling until it is very small. We are still appreciative, because it is better to receive something than to receive nothing. But I don't know how they are going to use that equation. To have to refer to trade, you will have first to give aid to develop the economies, to be able to stabilize their trade systems to be strong enough to compete with other traders before you take trade as a main instrument.
Therefore, the question is not as yet right. There shall be aid for the time being until we are able to stand on our feet. Then, we shall go to trade.
QUESTION: I have a couple of questions related to conditionality. First, I was wondering whether you could give us a few practical examples of what you mean when you're saying that we've had a change in conditionality from a very harsh one to something that is more like a partnership. So, could you give us a couple of concrete examples of what it was before and what it is now so that we can figure out what you actually mean?
And question number two is about political conditionality and to what extent that should be part of the deal and to what extent you would find that acceptable. Minister Gamatie touched upon that earlier when he said that Africa, to some extent, had to do its part by working on such issues as democracy, human rights. Should that be working in any way in a relationship with what you get from the IMF and the World Bank and others?
MS. MBOTO FOUDA: I'd like to ask Mr. Gamatie to take this question first, maybe.
MR. GAMATIE: It is an important question indeed to talk about conditionalities. At one point, one doesn't know whether one manages a program or conditionalities. The World Bank, the Fund, the EU, they all have conditionalities, because do not forget that when you embark on a program with the Fund, the Fund gives you $15 million, but the program will be around $100 million.
Well, $5 million; the rest comes from outside. They come with the conditionalities. Everything stacks up. Very often, even the procedures themselves become conditionalities, so what we are trying to do now is to determine quantitative targets. Let's take health or education. If you want to increase school enrollment from 30 to 35, and that requires the building of 1,000 classrooms, we're going to check that 1,000 classrooms have been built; that teachers are there; that students were present.
That's easy to check, and we see that something has been accomplished. In the past, they would have checked the inflation rate; the net situation of the government; the deficit. In our countries, 95 percent of the population has no idea what a budget deficit is. They have no idea what is the net position of the government. They have never heard of a balance in payments, but they know what it means to build a school.
So how do you want us to have ownership if we talk about conditionalities that only people in Washington talk about or that you only mention when you're in a five-star hotel with the IMF experts? So that's a change. The fact that we can promote ownership: we have to have new checks and balances. I don't like the word conditionality. I'd like to have a mutual obligation framework. We each have our responsibilities with simple criteria that the population understands. We say we're going to build 100 classrooms, but first, we have to build 50.
We're going to give you 80 percent of the cost; you bring 20 percent of the cost, and then, we go on. That is the kind of qualitative change that brings these programs more to the level of a majority of citizens.
So you're talking about a political aspect. It's true. What we are trying to say is that today in Africa, we are aware that it's not the Bank nor the Fund that is going to develop our countries or fight against poverty. It's up to us. We shall do it. We need to be accompanied by these institutions, because they have the know-how that helps us to amplify, multiply and accelerate what we are going to do. Without the Bank; without the Fund, the way we are fighting against poverty in Niger would work without them. It would be a lot slower, but we need them so that we can do it faster.
So when we talk about democracy, democracy, we don't do it for Mr. Köhler or for Mr. Wolfensohn. It's for the Nigerian farmer so that he can say what he has to say. I'm always bothered to say that there is a political dialogue. Yes, there is one among partners. But to try to integrate political dialogue within a program, you're creating new conditionalities. We are back to square one.
MS. MBOTO FOUDA: Minister Mramba, you were addressing the question of conditionality with the Managing Director of the IMF and the President of the World Bank, together with 12 African heads of state. What can you say on this important question?
MR. MRAMBA: Well, I can only say that at the Dar es Salaam meeting and during a press conference, both during the meeting of the presidents and at the press conference after that meeting, both executives stated publicly that they now accept that in the past, these conditionalities were more or less very dogmatic, were too dogmatic and that now, they will begin to work on a case-by-case basis looking at the realities in the particular countries; looking at the capacities in the particular countries and seeing how one could remain because banks are banks. There are always conditions. You can't go to a bank and just lift money without any conditions. It's far from it. No one is saying that they don't have conditions for lending.
Conditions for their co-activities, for their co-activities, but after that, there is a whole area where flexibility can be practiced, and this is the commitment: they will be very flexible in dealing with the specific countries, and after studying the specific conditions of different countries.
On my arrival here, I followed up this question, because it is one of the most difficult issue in the relationships between Africa and these institutions. And I have been told that since Dar es Salaam, internal work has gone on, and fresh instructions will soon be released which will reach us and which will reach the staff of these institutions on how they can practice conditionality with a human face.
So this is a matter of time. I think things will be different. But we already concede to ourselves. I'll give you a little example that I have. If, for example, there is an infrastructure project, let's say a road project, for the World Bank to fund it, certain steps must be fulfilled.
We in Tanzania have a road project which had suffered this problem. It had been turned down because the drawings were drawn by someone they did not approve. I mean, the drawings of the road project were made by someone they did not approve; they did not appoint. But the drawings were there anyway.
So we said this is a typical example. We can't borrow fresh money to draw the road project afresh. And they agreed. They said, oh, the most logical thing is for us to look at those drawings so that if they comply with the required standard, sure, we will not have to redo it just to fulfill one conditionality. So it is that kind of a flexibility that is going to be exercised, and I think this is a very welcome move.
And the African leaders in that meeting are very optimistic, that now, they can move quickly. The other thing, by the way, is some of these conditionalities take a lot of time, and they're expensive. Just to fulfill the conditionalities themselves is a very expensive process. So now, we can move more flexibly, faster and perhaps more cost-effectively in implementing projects.
MR. KUYEMBEH: You see, the question has asked for particular examples. From what I see, from recent consultations, discussions with the Fund, incidentally, it's not only the Fund. Everywhere you go, if I was going to ask America to assist Sierra Leone, they would give you conditionalities. Let nobody hide that: every one of them: the European Union, the bilateral places, they all have conditionalities.
But what used to be, it used to be a dictated element from the ivory towers of Washington. Somebody sitting here would say that shall be. And the young man who went to meet us carried things in their bags called briefs. They never went beyond that brief. They were not allowed to. There was one time discussing with one of the officers here in this building some far time back, I spent some time with the minister of finance, when the man said I agree with you, Mr. Financial Secretary, but if I go beyond that, there will be somebody in this building who will not like me for this.
So it was not whether you had a very beautiful argument to put forward but that there was a dictation from above. We all agree now that that has altered. In fact, I begin to sense that conditionalities are becoming residues of gaps in the discussions. We want this, and they ask you to do this; you do that. And you tell them we are able to do this and do this and do this. They have started considering what our restraints are and are making the final conditionalities far more flexible and acceptable than they used to be.
It shall be very perfect when they shall consider our own side all completely. But even if you are giving money to your friend, if you tell him you will pay after seven days, you have imposed a conditionality. If you don't give it back, I say I'll sue you; you have imposed a conditionality. What the conditionalities are there for, I have said, they are nothing but partnership agreements. The Bretton Woods institutions want to create ideal situations within which a country is capable of earning enough money to pay back the funds that they are taking.
But if they didn't consider the ability to pay back and merely gave with closed eyes, then they are asking disaster from all of us. So we want to be a little flexible at this point, yes. There is sometimes, even the residues are a little sour. But let it come to a point that whatever conditionalities there be, there shall be that which shall be dictated by the two sides. That is all we can say, but it will always be there.
QUESTION: MR. LEERING: My name is Raoul Leering from the Netherlands. I would like to ask Mr. Mramba: you said earlier that you do not only want import tariffs to be taken down, but also, you want the Western world to enable African countries to export their products to those countries which were, until today, too much closed because of tariffs. Could you give me some concrete examples of what is lacking for Africa to export, for example, some agricultural products besides the tariff walls that still exist?
MR. MRAMBA: Let me give you a very practical example. In the whole of Tanzania, we have no export bank. There is no bank that finances enterprises that are exporting. So the poor fellow, the poor enterprise, has to finance the whole export process from the production side to the export market, and they have to wait for those so many months before they are paid.
And export financing is totally inadequate or lacking. So this is just one of those hindrances. I'll give you another example. Cashew nuts may be grown in an area where the transport situation is very bad. By ship, you don't have enough of those. By lorries, to hold the stuff, the crops from the farmers in the deep villages, you don't have reliable roads or railways or ships for most of these.
So what do you do? You have to have roads, in the first place. You have to have the infrastructure that is required. And to put up roads, usually, some of these things may be very far away from the main ports. That means expensive roads will be necessary.
If you are buying these crops in the deep villages, and the world markets are changing all the time like is happening with coffee, you can't even communicate. You can't even make your call to the capital, a telephone call to the capital to say what's the situation with the New York market today for coffee? You can't even make a telephone call, because it's not there. If it is there, it is not working in the rainy season. If it is working in the rainy season, it has collapsed because maybe a tree has falled on the cable, it has been destroyed by ants or a bush fire or something.
It's hopeless. So it is the infrastructure that is necessary for local production; that is necessary for selling goods within the country for the internal market or for the broader market in the neighboring countries or even for an export market: that infrastructure, be it roads or telecommunications or energy or whatever or the banks to finance exports. All those are not there.
So if you enabled some of these commodities to reach the markets by doing things, by facilitating their production, facilitating their export processes, that would be quite a contribution, and that is a very expensive business, I mean, if you take a country like Tanzania which is quite large.
QUESTION: I'm Chris Rostori, International Currency Review.
The perception and image of sound economic management in Africa generally is being undermined by the behavior of the Zimbabwe Government towards the white population. Now, whatever the reasons behind this, and we can speculate, can you confirm that, in fact, this is having an adverse effect on your individual and communal efforts to attract the attention of the international community and to generally obtain the objectives that you're seeking?
MS. MBOTO FOUDA: We don't have a minister of finance from Zimbabwe here this afternoon, but I believe for regional consideration, we can maybe try some answers here.
Minister Mramba, please?
MR. MRAMBA: Well, let me say that Zimbabwe is a member of the SADC region, the Southern African Development Cooperation, to which Tanzania also belongs.
As we understand it, the Zimbabwe question is more complex than the international community actually understands it. It depends from what angle you look at it. The issue there is landlessness. The issue in Zimbabwe is landlessness. The history has been that the landed class has not been very willing to give away some of the land they don't need immediately, either for sale or for whatever.
So, and this question has been left to an extent that it has become a political issue, and it has exploded. Now, from there, your opinion is as good as mine, whether the Government should have done this or should have done that. I'm not a spokesman for the Zimbabwe Government. But the only thing I can say is that this is an issue of governance and that the countries that are in the HIPC Initiative are working very closely with the donor community and with the Bretton Woods institutions to minimize conflict, to minimize conflict by finding some internal way of doing this.
I understand that Zimbabwe is also on the list of these countries, and I hope that they are also doing something to minimize this conflict, to minimize the adverse effects of this conflict. But there is no other country that resembles Zimbabwe, because many of our countries have too much land. It's not too little land; too much land. In fact, in Tanzania, we're looking for people to come up and open up that land for agriculture, for whatever they want to do.
So that's a very unique example of a small community with a lot of land and a bigger community with very limited land, and the question then becomes a political one, and someone has to solve it out, has to solve it politically, and that is a privilege and a prerogative of the Zimbabwe Government.
But because Zimbabwe is Africa, then Africa is Zimbabwe? No. Each individual country has to be taken on merit, and every investor, external investor or donor or bank has to assess the local situation. Precisely what we were saying: conditionalities have to assess the local situation.
MS. MBOTO FOUDA: Thank you, Mr. Minister.
QUESTION: Peter Willett, Social Development Review.
The NGOs are currently very concerned indeed about a question of World Bank policy. There have now been three drafts, none of which have been officially publicly released, I think. There was even resistance to releasing a draft for public discussion about this public discussion. Very ironical.
The first draft was quite generous. The second and third drafts have cut back from the first draft. What is the attitude of the ministers to the idea that all the documents concerning your countries' policies and their relationships with the World Bank should be available for discussion in your civil society? Because it seems to the NGOs that consultation with civil society without information is meaningless.
And in particular, I wonder if Mr. Gamatie could clarify, because I'm not sure whether it was a problem of translation, but he first of all emphasized democracy and human rights and the importance of relations with civil society and then appeared to criticize integrating dialogue into the program as a new form of conditionality. Are you actually saying that you don't want civil society dialogue?
MS. MBOTO FOUDA: Minister Kuyembeh, would you like to take the very series first questions, and then, we'll come back to Minister Gamatie for the very specific question that was addressed to him.
MR. KUYEMBEH: Let me first tell you the greatest shortcomings of the NGOs, they refuse to accept the actual things that operate in the locality when they arrive there. We are turning to find out that they are almost beginning to be like when the IMF and the World Bank first got to our villages: every situation in any country would depend upon the situation in the country. If somebody were to get to Freetown and begin to either praise or clap for one of the RUF, they would be causing trouble for the government, for the ordinary man on the street.
But the NGOs who want to say if you are handling the RUF or whatever it is, get all their documents and give it to us, and they have no responsibility for either protecting or taking care of the information. We have had scars of this nature before, and the governments only want to be slightly careful about helping all their people. But if it is the ordinary support for NGOs, yes, there is such absolute support as far as Sierra Leone is concerned that really, we are sometimes a little worried about how certain items of information that ought to have been kept secret because of certain reasons get into the hands of the wrong people, and in a world society, that is a disaster.
So really, maybe the question ought to have been classified. You ask in areas where there is absolute peace, should they carry this? But in areas that are under curfew 24 hours, also, because, you see, you may have confused those. But when you are passing around, you know somebody is watching you; there is trouble hanging over you, you are never completely free. That is another situation.
Now, those two situations are different, but the question is extremely general, and I would ask that he personifies it; then, the answers would be available.
MS. MBOTO FOUDA: Thank you, Mr. Minister.
Mr. Gamatie, please?
MR. GAMATIE: Let me get that straight. Our Executive Director is here. We concluded a program with the IMF and the World Bank at the end of last year. I personally wrote to them to make available on the Internet any documents related to Niger: all documents. And I personally went on local TV and in the newspaper making comments on trying to make it available to everybody. So yes, I agree on that.
Now, number two, we have to be serious. This business of NGOs: it won't come to anybody's mind that the Red Cross would replace the U.S. Government or the French Government. Government is government. Consultation doesn't mean that you make the decision. The government is in charge. The government signs. It makes a decision. Let's make that clear. You consult, and the civil society is not limited to the NGO, okay? So what I'd like to say here is we don't want to be in a situation where you will have any local NGO being a piece of government that you can move if you don't have everybody on this.
You consult, but the government is in charge. The government makes the decision. That's what I wanted to make clear. Now, I know the NGO has a sexy appeal as civil society. You go in some of these countries; I don't know what civil society means. Before I got to this position, I knew what it was. Now, I don't know. Anybody who left office would create his NGO, and then, that's civil society. You know that.
So we have to be serious. Now, we are at the beginning of a process. You have to be open. You have to make information available. We have to discuss with everybody, but you have to remind: The government is in charge. The government has your responsibility up until now, at least the way I see it. That's what I wanted to say. And, of course, I agree: documents should be available to everybody. We should not hide, and if you go on the Internet, you will see all documents that concern Niger's program with the IMF and the World Bank.
MR. MRAMBA: Let me just say that Tanzania is the same as Niger. We have allowed these institutions to release this information except information classified by them. Certain information may be classified by them. Fine. But 99 percent of that information is available to the public, not just in Tanzania; in the world. Anybody can read it. In fact, I was amused when someone from the Web sent me information I had released to the Bretton Woods institutions, thinking that they had discovered something very new for me.
MS. MBOTO FOUDA: I can confirm effectively that we have on our Website, which is www.imf.org, all information related to the letters of intent, the Article IV Consultation discussions reports and so forth.
QUESTION: The IMF has more than the World Bank.
MS. MBOTO FOUDA: Excuse me, sir?
QUESTION: The IMF releases more than the World Bank.
MS. MBOTO FOUDA: I haven't compared the two Websites. Maybe that's an exercise I should try right after we have this discussion.
Thank you. There was a question over there.
Question: Helen Freeman, Washington.
I would just like to follow up on this gentleman's question regarding aid and the fact that there probably will not be the 0.7 percent from the donor community. I would just like to hear the other ministers indicate how realistic is it to expect that there's going to be more aid up to the 0.7 percent, and if this doesn't come, what are they looking for then?
MS. MBOTO FOUDA: Minister Doumba, would you like to take this question, please?
MR. DOUMBA: Yes, I think it is important that the international financial community and the bilaterals should understand that we need to increase aid, because our needs are considerable and especially if we want to reach a reduction by 50 percent of poverty in 2015 as we all agreed. I think we absolutely must have an improvement in the rate of development aid.
What would happen if it does not happen? Well, then, we will have problems. We have to see that. And that's why we are pleading today for more flexibility in our partnership with both institutions, and especially, conditionalities should be reduced. Countries that are HIPC countries should access quickly to the different advantages linked to that initiative, but other countries, also, should be able to obtain debt relief, significant debt relief, because it's only with such an effort that the poor countries will manage to replace resources that they don't have.
But I don't think we should think like that. I think there is an awareness today on the world scale as to the necessity to improve aid to developing countries. Otherwise, what is going to happen: you are going to see land in your countries, hordes of people trying to look for social welfare. I don't think that any government wants to see that. It would be hard to take.
QUESTION: I was wondering what was your feeling as the ministers from African nations to see that there are people outside fighting for Africa?
MR. KUYEMBEH: I would answer that I was in Seattle, and I will tell you: no one is fighting for me. Those are highly sophisticated, self-made attitudinal people who have their ideas of what the good world is and the bad world is. Quite honestly, if you go deep down there, they may fight for you; if you don't take care, when you get out, you may be boxed by them.
It happened in Seattle. So, actually, is it their will they are carrying. They have not consulted us. If they had consulted us, maybe we would say please: please, go easy, because what we want to do is to consult these people and get the best out of them. But if you go and create disruptions to the extent that we all lose, it is not happening.
I won't say they are fighting for me. They are fighting for a feeling which they are entitled to.
MS. MBOTO FOUDA: Mr. Mramba, on this question very quickly? We are running out of time now.
MR. MRAMBA: I really have no position on that. It's their civil freedom. That's the way things happen here in America. God bless them; God bless us.
MS. MBOTO FOUDA: Mr. Doumba?
MR. DOUMBA: I am a bit concerned by this question, because throughout the afternoon, we are trying to show that Africa is moving; that we are working; we are trying to obtain positive results. The growth rate in 2000 was 4 percent on average, at least the countries in the area that we represent, Mr. Gamatie and myself, and we expect to have a rate that is slightly higher in 2001. One of the fears is, of course, the downturn in the world economy, but we are working, and we are making progress, yes, with the support of others. There's nothing abnormal about that; it's perfectly natural, because we belong to the same world.
But we are working hard for us to get ahead alone.
MS. MBOTO FOUDA: Thank you all for joining us this afternoon. Thank you, ladies and gentlemen.