Transcript of a Press Conference of African Finance Ministers
April 24, 2004
April 24, 2004
View this press conferenc using Media Player.
Mr. David MWIRARIA, Minister of Finance for Kenya
Mr. ELZUBIER AHMED ELHASSAN, Minister of Finance and National Economy for Sudan
Mr. BOHOUN BOUABRE, Minister of Finance for Cote d'Ivoire
Mr. André Philippe FUTA, Minister of Finance for the Democratic Republic of the Congo
MS. MBOTO FOUDA: Ladies and gentlemen, good morning. I would beg for your indulgence. We are still waiting for Minister Mwiraria to join us. So it's going to take maybe five more minutes.
MS. MBOTO FOUDA: Ladies and gentlemen, good morning.
I'm Lucy Mboto Fouda from the External Relations Department of the IMF, and I would like to welcome all of you to this press conference of the ministers of finance from Africa, who, as you know, are among the Governors of this institution.
We have on this table today to my immediate right Minister Mwiraria, who is Minister of Finance from Kenya. Then, we have Mr. Elhassan, who is Minister of Finance from Sudan. To my immediate left is Minister Bohoun Bouabre, Minister of Finance from Cote d'Ivoire and Mr. Futa, Minister of Finance from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Now, I would call on Mr. Elhassan to offer a few opening remarks, and I will get back to you for the details of how we are going to proceed.
MR. ELHASSAN: Ladies and gentlemen, we thank you all for attending this press conference. We share the increased optimism regarding the global recovery, as highlighted by the recent economic indicators, but we need to remain vigilant about the vulnerabilities, more specifically, coming from a potential rise in the global interest rates, which could have a major impact for the stability of financial markets, particularly for developing countries with the largest stock of foreign debts, and secondly, a further weakening of the U.S. dollar, which could have an adverse impact on the export performance of developing countries.
The increased geopolitical and global security concerns should not be undermined, and we think that the importance of the Fund's work to eradicate poverty which undoubtedly helps setting the foundation of a more equitable and stable world, as we are very much persuaded that poverty is a major contributor to the current global instability.
Turning to Africa, we note that growth continues its upward trend, reflecting progress in addressing issues related to security and political instability and improving the quality of policies and institutions. Yet, economic growth rates remain low, and the region is lagging behind its effort to reduce poverty and achieve the Millennium Development Goals.
Overall, the continent is expected to grow by only 4.8 percent in the year 2004, which is slightly higher than the trend observed since 1995 but way below the required rate of 7 percent needed to halve extreme poverty by 2015. In addition, Africa continues to confront daunting challenges including, in particular the negative impacts of the HIV/AIDS pandemic and malaria on the economy.
May we take this opportunity to remind you that today is the malaria annual day, and it is necessary to remember that Africa is the continent most affected by malaria, with the highest morbidity rate, 80 to 85 percent, and about 1 million deaths annually. We all know how diseases are associated with huge economic burdens. Malaria, for instance, contributes to a GDP loss of about 1.3 percent a year in Africa.
To combat malaria and all other daunting challenges that Africa faces, there is an urgent need to scale up actions on the part of all stakeholders. African countries are committed to stay the course of adjustment and reform, but they need the full support and the commitments made in the Monterrey Consensus to increase concessional aid and debt relief and to foster aid and technology transfer.
Indeed, the most significant obstacles to achieving the MDGs, Millennium Development Goals, is the shortfall in ODA. In Monterrey, the international community expressed its support for the mobilization of $100 billion per year of financial resources, which is the minimum estimated needed to achieve Millennium Development Goals; however, while a number of commendable initiatives and undertakings have been announced by some donors, a number of commitments to raise additional financing to increase ODA, including the U.K. International Finance Facility proposal, progress in these regards are still very low.
More importantly, the expansion of trade is critical for Africa to attain diversification and external sustainability toward achieving the Millennium Development Goals. However, trade barriers in developed countries remain highly discriminatory against developing countries and are a major impediment to development.
The lack of coherence of many policies in developed countries in terms of their development impact is also cause for concern. All too often, there are contradictions in policies, with support for development provided in one area defeated by actions in the other. This is the case, for instance, of the $58 billion provided in ODA by the OECD countries, which is undermined by five times as much protection to domestic agricultural products.
Also, advocacy of and support for private sector development and export diversification in low-income countries are blunted by systematic escalation of tariffs on higher-value imports from those countries.
Finding solutions to Africa's problems and addressing effectively the daunting challenges Africa faces would be significantly facilitated if Africa is more appropriately and efficiently represented around the table where decisions that matter are being made.
In this connection, we are greatly disappointed by the lack of visible progress in the respect of voice and participation and voting power of developing countries in the two Bretton Woods institutions and of governance issues generally in the institutions. We also regret the slow progress made under the current 13th General Review of Quotas to find a suitable quota formula and quota distributions that reflect the relative positions of countries in the world economy and take also in account the interests of small, resource-constrained countries.
It is indeed our strong view that there is no better time than now to reform the governance structure in both institutions to better reflect the global reality of the 21st Century. We therefore call for the setting up of a clear timetable to speed up the completion of work toward enhancing the voting power, voice and participation of developing countries in the Bretton Woods institutions.
In this connection, it is our view that basic votes should be increased to at least their original level and that additional representation of Sub-Saharan Africa on the Boards of Executive Directors should be considered.
Furthermore, we respect the call made by the April 2001 Joint Report of the Working Group of the Executive Boards of the IMF and World Bank for an open and transparent election process to attract the best candidates regardless of nationality. This report was endorsed in 2001 by both Executive Boards as guides for future selection of the heads of the two institutions and noted by the Institutional Monetary and Financial Committee.
Lastly, we want to highlight the severe concentration on the support for lower-income countries and the post-conflict countries emerging after wars in Africa, because this will be a very positive direction to lead Africa towards peace and development.
And thank you.
MS. MBOTO FOUDA: Thank you, Mr. Minister.
We now turn to the room to take questions. Could I remind you, as usual, to please identify yourself and your affiliation?
Thank you. No questions for the ministers? Yes, sir.
QUESTION: I'm curious to know how the recent studies suggesting a reduction of loans and aid from the IFC for oil production is being received by African finance ministers.
MS. MBOTO FOUDA: Could I ask Minister Mwiraria to take this question first, please?
MR. MWIRARIA: Well, the African ministers don't normally accept easily any reduction in financial support. In countries which have got oil, such as Sudan, and who need to exploit it for their development, particularly aimed at reducing poverty, reduction of finances means that the country's economy is going to take long to move ahead.
I know it's possible to get private companies to invest, but in the case of some of our African countries, it's really important that we get international finance, particularly from the Bretton Woods institutions.
MS. MBOTO FOUDA: I think Minister Bouabre would like to offer an insight on that issue.
MR. BOUABRE: [Interpreted from French] Thank you. I don't come from an oil-producing country. My country, Cote d'Ivoire, produces a few barrels, but it's not a sizeable amount. So it's not really the issue of oil resources that concerns me.
But I think that clearly, one should be aware of the fact that, globally speaking, the foreign resources received by African countries correspond to the annual debt service, so if there is a decrease of foreign resources, well, we will immediately have difficulties in servicing the debt, and then, we will be in a position of arrears, and this endangers our relationship with the international financial institutions.
This is the fundamental issue. This is why, for us Africans, we wish to resolve the issue of debt, the issue of debt sustainability. This is what needs to be resolved in a clear and final manner. I am particularly concerned by the evolution of debt sustainability in African countries who have already reached the completion point in the HIPC framework. If one goes through the procedure and that the debt remains unsustainable, what should we do?
The international community has not yet found an answer to that issue. So this is why I think that one should not consider decreasing the foreign financing or the outside aid under any pretext, including for oil-producing countries, because the resources, the national resources will never be enough to truly develop the oil production.
MS. MBOTO FOUDA: Minister Futa, please?
MR. FUTA: [Interpreted from French] Thank you.
I think that my colleagues have already answered the question as to the reduction of, the decrease of aid to oil research in Africa and in the rest of the developing world. The decrease of aid in a precise sector should not be a source of concern for Africa. What is much more relevant is global aid that is brought to bear in Africa.
If the decrease of aid to the oil sector is supported by an increase of aid in other sectors, such as health, education, or agriculture, well, then, we need not be concerned. So if it is just an issue of compensation, of how the aid is allocated, then, it is not truly an issue.
So to answer your question, the oil sector is, of course, very important. It brings currencies to our continent. But there are other priority sectors in our continent, and we insist that if this reduction in aid were to occur, then, it should be compensated by an increase of aid towards the priority sectors for Africa, and you know what those sectors are. Our colleague from Sudan mentioned them in his introduction.
MS. MBOTO FOUDA: Yes, in the back over there, the lady.
QUESTION: Ngozi Ukecha Ahluwagu [phonetic], This Day Newspaper, Nigeria and South Africa.
On the issue of voice, what new structure would be suitable for the African ministers, and what time structure are you hoping to have these changes implemented?
MS. MBOTO FOUDA: Minister Elhassan, please?
MR. ELHASSAN: There are two issues about the voice of Africa. One we have mentioned is that the quota of Africa in the IMF, for example, and the World Bank is decreasing always from the initial quota earlier, in the early sixties and seventies. We want to increase our quota, because as you know, it is a main measure to raise our voice.
Second thing is that the voice of Africa, now, we are 48 country members in this African constituency. We have only two members, one in the IMF and one in the World Bank, and we think that for 48 countries of the whole world, only two members is too small.
We are asking to have more representation in the Board of Directors of these two institutions so as to raise the voice of Africa while the decisions in these two important institutions are taken.
MR. FUTA: [Interpreted from French.]Thank you.
As regards the position of Africa within the Bretton Woods institutions and the IMF and our voice in these institutions on the African side, we say that we should come back to our original position. As my colleague has said, this position has had a setback, given the negative evolution of our economies, and also because of a rough, if you will, estimation of the true position of Africa, because the criteria, such as they are applied today are purely quantitative criteria, and they also raise some issues, because in some of our countries, the quality of the data and the availability of the data are such that sometimes, the estimations for Africa are not as good as they should be when it comes to the economic figures.
So maybe it is time to revise the methods of computation in order to give another evaluation, in order to give Africa its true worth. What should the mechanism be? Well, the criteria should be things such as the purchasing parity ratio. This could be considered as a means for calculating what should be the true weight of Africa in relation to the rest of the world. We believe if this criteria were applied, this would lead to change. Other criteria should also be weighted. The weight of Africa, for example, in relationship to its population, not only its current population but its population as projected for the future, we believe that this should come into play. We also believe that beyond the population, one should consider other proactive elements. Why not?
In relationship to the issues that are raised by Africa in the global balance, if we are a global concern, well, then, those who are concerned should be at the heart of the decisions that are made.
QUESTION: There was a piece in the Guardian some months ago which I attached great importance to, which is one of those pieces which appeared and then suddenly disappeared, and you never heard anything more about it.
And the article referred to a formalized joint energy project between the British and the Americans, that they were coordinating their interests right across the energy spectrum and were seeking to exploit and to open up energy opportunities all over the world, working together, especially in Africa.
Could anybody on the panel please comment on whether they have noticed this and, if so, what importance they attach to it.
MS. MBOTO FOUDA: Yes, Minister Elhassan? No?
Could we offer any insight on this?
Unfortunately, the panelists do not have information on this project at this point in time. We can get back to you bilaterally later on, please.
We'll take another question; yes, here.
QUESTION: How is it possible to achieve the Millennium Development Goals and reduce poverty when Sudan is obviously facing an internal conflict, and Ivory Coast and DRC are getting out of one?
And the second question is are you supporting Rato's candidacy, taking into consideration that he just had--obviously, the election system was changed, and nationality shouldn't matter?
MS. MBOTO FOUDA: I think Minister Futa should answer the first part of this question, which is related to the DRC, and the other ministers will express themselves on the Rato issue if they wish.
Go ahead, Minister Futa, please.
MR. FUTA: [Interpreted from French.] Well, I am among those who believe that there are always miracles that can occur in the economic field, so one should be optimistic when it comes to the MDGs. If peace prevails, and if all our efforts for reform that we are implementing in our various countries are implemented effectively, I believe that the investment opportunities which might occur, be it from a perspective of ODA or direct investment from the private sector, these influxes could increase considerably, and we still have 10 or 11 years in order to reach 2015, which was the deadline for the MDGs.
And therefore, I believe that if, in the next two years, peace prevails in Africa, and all the African leaders are working hard in order to have peace in Africa--my country is an example of this; we had a war, you know this, of more than five years with our neighbors, and this war was a setback.
We are 10 years, we are lagging 10 years behind where we should be. But my President, among others, has worked to bring peace back into the area. We now have the Lusaka Agreements, and we are in a pacific transition process with the inclusive agreement that we have signed with Congo, and if all of these efforts lead us in the next two years to have peace and stability which could be maintained until and beyond 2015, I can assure you, Madam, that we can reach the MDGs in the next 10 years.
There are economic miracles that occur. It's an issue of will.
MS. MBOTO FOUDA: Minister Bouabre and then Minister Elhassan, please?
MR. BOUABRE: [Interpreted from French.] And I wish to say that I support what was just said by my colleague on peace. Peace is a condition, a necessary condition to the implementation of the economic programs, but that being said, I don't necessarily share his optimism when it comes to the 2015 deadline.
But that being said, this is not a secret, and we don't wish for it to be a secret. Africans have gathered in Johannesburg in order to discuss the role of Africa within the Bretton Woods institutions and all of the decision making bodies, and this, if you will, is a follow up on the question that was raised on voice. This aspect is important to us. We want Africans to be present, given the specificities of the situation of Africa, that is to say, when one considers the quantity of countries which benefit from the aid and the programs of the World Bank, well, Africa is well ahead of any other region. And when it comes to the volume of resources received, of course, we are lagging far behind. We are almost last.
And so, given that we consume the programs, the resources of the World Bank and the IMF, and given the fact that our economies are very rigid, we believe that there should be an African way to study problems and to consider the problems of Africa, taking into account the African sensitivities in order to find the solutions to bring to bear.
That is why we say that in the decision making bodies, in the Boards--and this was mentioned--as well as within the management of the IMF and the World Bank, it is important for Africa to be heard. We have requested that since we were not candidates to be Director of the International Monetary Fund, but we requested that Africa benefit from a position of Vice-President or Deputy President or Director.
And this is a request, because there could be three or four Deputy Directors. So we request that there be a position of Deputy Director for Africa. And the Africans should benefit from more positions within the staff of the World Bank and the IMF at the higher levels, and the African Department, which is the one who, within the IMF, has the heaviest workload, since it has the most countries, that it has the means, the human resources, the financial means in order to truly carry out its mission.
I believe that this is the minimum necessary that we are requesting for, not only to the international community but also to the future Director of the Monetary Fund. So this is what I am requesting. And for us, in Africa, there was a consensus around this issue. At the end of our work in Johannesburg, we requested to the President Thabo Mbeki to be our interpreter to the African Presidents, and with the presidents, the leaders of the whole world, in order to support this request from Africa.
And we believe that if the African leaders commit truly around this issue and around this fight, then, it is quite possible for us to win. And we wish to win this fight not only for the good of Africa but for the good of the whole global community, because there is no point in making progress but not being able to eradicate poverty or to reduce poverty. Why? Well, because the programs don't work. We are convinced that the Africans are truly positioned to find the better programs to adapt it to the African issues.
MS. MBOTO FOUDA: I think the second part of the question was related to whether the African Governors support Mr. Rato's candidacy.
Minister Elhassan, I think you have an answer to that.
MR. ELHASSAN: Yes, I will refer to the previous question about the effect of peace on achieving the Millennium Development Goals.
Of course, we know that war is one of the main problems of Africa and main factors that increases the poverty of Africa, and that is why we are now, in Sudan, for example, running very hardly to reach a final and sustainable peace agreement with the SPLM movement, and we are expecting this is about to be finished within this month or the coming months, hoping that this will help in enhancing development.
But also, war is in Sudan since 1955 and has been only ceased from 1972 to 1985, but I tell you what has been happening in Sudan along the last seven years is that the average of our GDP growth had been about 6 percent as the IMF are saying; we say it's 6.5. I tell you if peace comes to Sudan, Sudan will have a rate of growth ranging from 8 to 9 percent, and this, we think, now, although war is there, but we are the nearest African country to miss the Millennium Goal of 7 percent annual GDP, but we are optimistic that when war is finished, and we are working hard, we will be far better; will achieve about 8 to 9 percent of GDP; we will have more programs in poverty alleviation, and we will have a better life for our people.
But we think that now, we are here in Washington, we are trying to see how the donors, how the Fund, the Bank are going to support Sudan after peace, and we have our fears that, as has happened in many areas over the world, after peace, people will forget their promises of support, and the donors will get their fatigue coming very soon, and the support will not come.
So recalling that we are about to have peace, we call on all Sudan friends to support Sudan in getting full financial and technical and humanitarian and developmental support after peace so that we can make a sustainable peace for Sudan and for all of Africa.
For the new MD of the Fund, we, as Africans, welcome his nomination, and I think we are going to have a meeting with him tomorrow evening at 5:00, and we are going to raise the interests of Africa to His Excellency, because we know that coming as a new MD, for Africa, we should have what we have mentioned now in this conference for you in some sort of details; we are going to invite him to have more visits for Africa, to see how things are going there in Africa and to have meetings with us as African constituency and as ministers of finance to see how the Fund can go under his new administration to help Africa and to help the other developing countries.
MS. MBOTO FOUDA: I think Mr. Mwiraria has a comment on the MDGs.
MR. MWIRARIA: Well, the question was addressed to countries where there is no peace, but the problem of attaining the MDGs affects most countries in Africa, including those which have peace.
What I want to say is that for most of the African countries, there is a need for substantially increased ODA, particularly taking into account the present trends where domestic resource mobilization and the private capital inflows will not be sufficient to meet the MDGs.
Secondly, I think there is great need and urgent need to move on the trade agenda, to remove constraints which make it difficult for African countries to compete fairly in the world market, particularly in sectors where the countries are competitive, and I would like to single out agriculture.
Thirdly, there is need for further action on debt relief to ensure that highly-indebted countries, including non-HIPCs, realize permanent exit from debt overhang. So what I am saying really is that all African countries, including the ones enjoying peace, will require more assistance if they are going to achieve the MDGs.
MS. MBOTO FOUDA: Thank you, Mr. Minister.
We are going to take another question in the room, please; there.
QUESTION: I would like to ask a question in relation with Rato. Can you elaborate on how you arranged the meeting with the former Minister of Economy, Mr. Rato of Spain for tomorrow.
And secondly, do you ask Mr. Rato about the assistant director your colleague mentioned before as a condition?
MS. MBOTO FOUDA: Minister Bouabre, please?
MR. BOUABRE: [Interpreted from French.] Thank you.
We will meet Mr. Rato at a request from his country. We responded to an invitation, so that is why we will meet him. We will meet with him tomorrow in order to present to him the concerns of Africa.
We meet him as a candidate to the position of Managing Director of the IMF, and we will share with him the concerns of Africa, which are threefold: first, there is the issue of voice, the voice of Africa. As a candidate, should he become Managing Director, what will he do in order to push the issue of the voice of Africa within the International Monetary Fund? Our goal is to have this issue resolved in 2006, so we hope that he will commit himself to resolving that issue.
Second, we will request from him, if he were to be elected Managing Director of the IMF, we will request for him in order to help the Africans to become--for more Africans to become staff members in the IMF and among other things by creating a Deputy Director position. And then, when there is competition for the other positions that one treat and consider the African candidates in an intelligent manner. So in all the departments of the IMF, I request that there be a visible presence of African staff members.
And third, we will request for him that the African Department be supported, strongly supported. This Department needs to be supported. Its human capacity needs to be strengthened. So enough staff needs to be recruited. It needs to have the financial means in order to confront the issues at hand.
But I think that above and beyond all of this, we will request of Mr. Rato to commit to support Africa, that is to say that he needs to be our advocate in the international fora in order to present the issues of Africa as being priority issues.
A friend of ours was saying today that if a Managing Director of the IMF wishes truly to be remembered as having been a leader of this institution, the only continent where he needs to visibly make progress is in Africa, so we wish him to commit to this, not only in order to support the programs that have already been launched but also to use his imagination in order to think up new programs to help Africa to finally over come its issues.
QUESTION: I'd like to follow up on the question about achieving the MDGs with the current conflicts going on and the problems trying to implement the peace process, since that continues to be broken.
I'd like to know from any of you if the current situation in the Middle East has totally eclipsed the problems in the African continent, and with the exception of Libya, that there is a current stampede for investment; how do you all reconcile the fact that there may be problems in people trying to--corporations trying to invest in Africa with conflicts going on in that respect?
I'd like any of you to address that question please.
MS. MBOTO FOUDA: Minister Futa, please?
MR. FUTA: [Interpreted from French.] Thank you.
Well, I think we have already answered this question. What should we do in order to attract the investments or the funds necessary to our development? Well, many African countries, including mine, are already doing that. That is to say that we are implementing reforms, reforms that are strengthening the macroeconomic framework and ensuring that the economic decisions are structured and based on policies that are truly adapted to the world of today.
We also need to ensure that having stabilized our macro situation that the business climate be as encouraging and be similar, if you will, to the climate in Asia or Latin America or even Europe. So all of the African countries are now reviewing their legal tools precisely to ensure that the law, the business law, the fiscal policies, everything be such, that Africa truly attracts investors.
These reform efforts, to my mind, are carried out in an effective manner and with true political good will, but what we are also hoping for is that on the basis of the commitments made in Monterrey, we hope not only for an increase of aid, but we also hope that the burden of debt be decreased.
Some of us are members of the HIPC Initiative, and we are financed by the International Monetary Fund and other institutions as well as we have bilateral aid. But beyond Naples and Cologne we hope to continue to strive to find mechanisms that should set Africa back on its initial position; that is to say that it would have a light debt, a sustainable debt, in order to ensure that there would no more be obstacles to investment and to development.
And my colleagues have also mentioned this: there is the issue of international trade, and we are always highlighting the hypocrisy and the contradictions that were mentioned by my colleague from Sudan in his introduction. On the one hand, one is supporting free trade; the development of private markets; competition, but on the other hand, we see huge amounts that go above and beyond what should be given to us to decrease our debt. These amounts are used as subsidies, and they are wrongly used, because it's not based on any economic rationale, be that in the United States or in Europe. There are these subsidies, and we think that this is hypocrisy. And when our partners will stop this hypocrisy, then, I think that we will have a dialogue that will be based on a true partnership. And with all of this, I think that we will be able to really, in order to strive to position Africa on the same footing as other regions.
MR. ELHASSAN: Years ago, we were saying that the world is now a village, but now, the world, it is said to be one room. And of course, the instability in the Middle East affects Africa a lot, indirectly and directly.
For example, FDI, foreign direct investment coming from other countries to Africa where there is instability is expected to be less, and ODA also coming to Africa from Arab friends, so the Bank for Development in Africa and other institutions in the aid of development can be less.
Also, where there are instabilities like now in Iraq or in Afghanistan or in Palestine, we, as Africans who are asking for more support, debt relief and for development, when priorities change a lot, when such problems like in Iraq are emerging for rebuilding Iraq or supporting Iraq, this will change some support that is supposed to come, for example, for the debt relief initiatives like the HIPC will be affected a lot, and we'll be waiting again for some time to get the priorities again coming back to Africa.
In many ways, we think that stability in the region, in the Middle East and in the whole world helps a lot the poorer, because when there are poor countries like our African countries or less-developed countries like our countries, they are the first to be affected, because the effect will be direct on the support coming to us both from bilateral and multilateral.
So we think that we should all work for stability in the Middle East and in all the world so as to have a better world for all and for Africa specifically.
MS. MBOTO FOUDA: We'll take two last questions.
One over there, please?
QUESTION: Mr. Elhassan, could you please tell us about the outgoing, ingoing negotiations in Darfur in Chad? And what is your input in this matter?
And for Minister Bouabre in Cote d'Ivoire, [Interpreted from French.] What is the situation in Abidjan today? Were the demonstrations peaceful?
MS. MBOTO FOUDA: Yes, please, the first part of the question.
MR. ELHASSAN: The first part; yes, as you know, there are--along the last two years conflict in Darfur, which has been for many years since the early eighties a tribal conflict, and it is also a claim of being underdeveloped as a part of Sudan. This led this conflict to go in sort of a war.
But now, the last weeks, we reached a cease fire, and now, it is holding. And now, the two delegates are in N'djamena beginning the negotiations to have some sort of understanding. There should be a conference especially to solve the problem of Darfur, because the problem of Darfur is different from the problem of the South. People in Darfur are more homogeneous. They are all Muslims. They have no religious conflict. They have tribal conflict mainly about water resources.
One of the main problems of Sudan is the availability of water resources, although we have done a lot in the last three years from our better position after oil, getting the ability of clean drinking water from 37 percent in 1999 to 67 percent last year available for the people. But it is still one of the main problems that needs to be met there.
The development issues of Darfur, connecting them with the other countries through roads and through railways needs a lot to come from multilateral. We are about to finish, of course, the peace agreement with the South, so we don't want a new conflict to come to Sudan so as to put us in a position of war again. We want to go forward with this peace agreement in the South, so we don't want any interruptions to come.
We think that the situation in Darfur, the humanitarian situation, after the cease fire has begun to be better. Now, the United Nations is sending missions there, and they have commitment; the USAID and the United Nations and the European Community have put commitments specifically to get the humanitarian aid there to people in Darfur, and we think that--we hope that both the two conflicts will come to a full peace agreement in the same time within the coming months.
And so, after that, we will have what I have said in my remarks, that we need the support of the IMF, the World Bank and the other multilaterals to make our peace in Sudan sustainable. We have been doing a lot along the last years but without any support from us to abroad; we think that after peace, a lot of support will come from humanitarian, developmental and infrastructure, and so, that will help a lot in solving the problem of Darfur, because it is a problem of development. It is only people who think that they are marginalized in development. MS. MBOTO FOUDA: Thank you, Mister Minister.
Minister Bouabre on the situation in Cote d'Ivoire, please.
MR. BOUABRE: [Interpreted from French.] Yes, rapidly, I want to say that there are many people from Cote d'Ivoire in this room. We follow with a lot of interest and a lot of attention the situation in Cote d'Ivoire, and we are truly grateful to the international community and specifically the UN for the redeployment of the blue helmets, and with their support, the demonstration today was peaceful, and we are delighted by this fact.
This is a true step towards reestablishing peace and order in Cote d'Ivoire.
MS. MBOTO FOUDA: Yes, please.
QUESTION: Just wanted to ask the African Finance Ministers what they would like to see from the World Bank, what help they need from the World Bank and the IMF toward achieving the Millennium Development Goals, especially Education for All, which is a big topic for tomorrow, as well as communicable diseases like malaria and AIDS also coming up on the agenda tomorrow.
MS. MBOTO FOUDA: This is the question on which we will conclude, so I will ask Minister Elhassan to take that question first, and all the other ministers will have an opportunity to comment.
MR. ELHASSAN: Of course, the first support which we expect from the World Bank and the IMF is their support on our debt relief problems. This is indirectly.
But directly, we need the support of the World Bank specifically.
I said of course, we need the support of the World Bank and the IMF to lead our highly-indebted countries in debt relief solutions. This will help a lot, because we know that foreign direct investment is one of the main wheels that leads to poverty alleviation and jobs being created in Africa, and this cannot be done unless the debt problem is met.
The other direct support from the World Bank and the IMF is support in our infrastructures and services: water, schools, health care; all these needs, a source of support. And of course, the World Bank and the IMF are not the only donors, but they always lead the other donors, and for example, you have the NEPAD Initiative, the new initiative for developing Africa, which is supposed to avail something around $60 billion as support through private sector and ODA also.
The World Bank and the IMF are the main players in this area, although most of it will come from bilaterals, but these are the main topics of poverty alleviation, of the Millennium Development Goals, which we hope that the World Bank and the IMF should support Africa in.
MS. MBOTO FOUDA: Minister Mwiraria, please?
MR. MWIRARIA: Well, my colleague from Sudan has already answered the question.
All I need to add is that we expect the World Bank and the IMF to give African countries budget support. Many of our countries who have implemented free primary education find that education takes a very large portion of the national budget. And without support from outside, we may not be able to implement this effectively. So we need first and foremost the support of the IMF, without whose support the other development partners would not support our countries.
Secondly, we need from the Bank, particularly, grants for education and where we need to construct new schools, we can even take loans. The point has already been made that some of our countries which are not HIPC also require debt relief.
And finally, I think I should mention the fact that we need to be understood, because there is something which happens which I think happens purely because we have not been properly understood: the World Bank and the IMF want us to bring in good governance, and then, when it comes to negotiations and to requests for implementing certain aspects such as privatization, they want us to behave like dictators. The two don't go hand-in-hand. So really, I would appeal that we get understood so that where we are making efforts to bring in good governance, we are helped to do so.
MS. MBOTO FOUDA: Minister Bouabre, please.
MR. BOUABRE: [Interpreted from French.] I will be brief. I don't want to repeat what the colleagues have already said, but I think that there are two fundamental challenges that need to be met as to what we expect from the Bretton Woods institutions. The first challenge is debt relief, and I won't go further into this, because I have already spoken about this.
And the second one is the issue of the financing of our economies. The traditional tools don't always work in Africa. The Central Bank of the West African States, and Governor Banny is probably somewhere in the room, but it has decreased its rate by--its basic rate by 150 points.
And so, we should find mechanisms that are adapted to the financing needs of the African economies. If the Bank and the Fund could support us in this, well, that would be more than enough from our point of view.
MR. FUTA: [Interpreted from French.] I am the last to take the floor, so all I can to do is to agree with my colleagues. The only thing I would add is to request to the Bretton Woods institutions that above and beyond the level of aid that they can bring to bear for our countries, that they consider the trigger level. The triggers; for example, for interventions in the health sector, from my country, $60 million is one dollar per inhabitant, per capita. Is that a trigger level? And that is a true question.
And it is also true for the education sector. What should be the true trigger, if one takes into account the economic situation as it prevails in many countries, that is to say, the normalized frameworks, the absorption capacities, 60, 70, 80 percent, but it is important that these institutions, and I'm thinking of the World Bank here, ask themselves what should be the trigger? If you add $1, that won't do anything, but if you add $2, maybe that will start development with multiplier effects.
So all I can do is request for them to take this into account. Often, the intervention levels are not truly adapted to the needs, and their flexibility when it comes to the goals are not always adapted to the situation. So they should really think about the triggers. What should be the true level of triggers? Should it be $8, $10 per capita? And how will we bridge the gaps?
And this question should be asked to these two institutions but also to the developed countries: the G-8, the G-15, that they support these institutions in order to reach the levels necessary to enable our countries to reach the MDGs.
MS. MBOTO FOUDA: Thank you, Mr. Ministers, for coming, for participating to this exercise.
The press conference is indeed live. We will meet you again sometime early October with a different group of ministers.