Press Release: IMF Managing Director Rodrigo de Rato's Statement at the Conclusion of his Visit to Gabon

January 9, 2007

Press Release No. 07/3

The Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, Mr. Rodrigo de Rato, made the following statement today in Libreville:

"I am delighted with my visit to Gabon. Although very brief, the visit has given me the chance to have very productive and fruitful discussions with President El Hadj Omar Bongo Ondimba and senior members of the government. I am also honored to be here in Libreville to inaugurate the launch of the Central African Regional Technical Assistance Center. This occasion has provided me the opportunity to meet other heads of state from the region. It was my privilege to have discussions with President Sassou Nguesso of the Republic of Congo, President Bozize of Central African Republic, and President De Menezes of Sao Tome and Principe. I also met with finance ministers and other senior officials from participating countries, as well as senior officials from bilateral and multilateral donor agencies. I would like to thank the Gabonese authorities for their gracious hospitality and all those I met for very cordial and open discussions.

"In my discussions with the Gabonese authorities, I noted that Gabon has made welcome progress over the last few years. It successfully completed a program supported by an IMF Stand-By Arrangement from 2004-05, paving the way for an agreement on rescheduling its external debt. Since then, supported by buoyant oil revenues, Gabon has been able to further consolidate its domestic and external public debt. Importantly, growth in the non-oil economy has reached its highest level in recent years.

"My discussions focused on how to build on this progress to address Gabon's key challenges: notably, placing public finances on a permanently-sustainable basis, to diversify the economy, and to make significant progress in reducing poverty. We discussed the need to continue to improve the investment climate, and the importance of strengthening governance and transparency. In this context, I welcomed Gabon's leadership role in the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative. We also discussed resuming discussions on Gabon's request for a new three-year program supported by the IMF. I believe that we made good progress in the discussions, and I am confident that these discussions can soon be brought to a successful conclusion.

"It is now widely accepted that strong institutions are critical to economic development and growth. Strong institutions encourage predictability of economic policies, which will in turn promote the development, and smooth the functioning of markets. Here in Africa, strong domestic institutions are needed to enable countries to come up with their homegrown economic policies that will be implemented consistently. This is why we at the IMF believe that capacity building is a key priority in Africa, and this is why we have responded to the call of African leaders urging us to step up our assistance to the region.

"I am honored and delighted to be here at the inauguration ceremony of the Central Africa Regional Technical Assistance Center (Central AFRITAC). The financial contributions of the beneficiary countries, the African Development Bank, France, and Germany, as well as the generous offer of the Gabonese government to host the center make it possible for us to open the third AFRITAC today. With this opening, much needed capacity-building assistance in the six participating countries of the Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa—Cameroon, Chad, the Central African Republic, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, and the Republic of Congo—as well as Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo, can now start without further delay."

"Lastly, beyond the framework of AFRITAC, my discussions with the assembled heads of state and the various high level officials also focused on the reform of the IMF in the context of the Fund's Medium-Term Strategy. Our work in developing countries—and especially the poverty reduction effort—is an essential part of that reform strategy. The IMF is committed to improve its effectiveness in helping low-income countries meet the Millennium Development Goals by focusing on what it does best, and on tasks where it can make the greatest contribution.

"We are also making some very important changes in the Fund's own governance. Last September in Singapore, the IMF won strong endorsement, including from virtually all African countries, for a package of measures in support of governance reforms. These governance reforms are the first step in a process that will increase the representation of many emerging market countries to reflect their increased weight in the global economy. Equally important, Governors agreed that we must strengthen the voice and representation of low-income countries that continue to borrow from the Fund but have only a limited share in Fund voting. We will shortly bring to our Executive Board a paper on how to achieve this by increasing the number of "basic votes": voting shares that all members are entitled to equally regardless of their economic size. We are also looking at ways in which we can help the voice of low-income countries in Africa be heard more clearly, by increasing staff working for the Executive Directors who represent African countries."


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