Press Release: Statement by IMF Managing Director Rodrigo de Rato at the Conclusion of a Visit to Cameroon

January 11, 2007

Press Release No. 07/4

Mr. Rodrigo de Rato, the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), made the following statement on January 10 in Yaoundé at the conclusion of his visit to Cameroon:

"I am very glad to have the opportunity to make my first visit to Cameroon as Managing Director of the IMF. It has been a very fruitful visit indeed, and I would like to thank the authorities for their warm welcome and hospitality.

"During my brief stay here, I had the privilege of meeting with President Paul Biya, Prime Minister Ephraim Inoni and other senior officials. Our talks were open and productive. I came to exchange views with policymakers and other stakeholders about the post-debt relief challenges that Cameroon faces, and how they think the IMF can help. I also wanted to get better acquainted with the financial sector issues affecting the Central African Monetary Union region. I am grateful for the opportunity I have had to exchange views with representatives of the private sector, labor unions, non-governmental organizations, bankers, and the donor community. And I was inspired by what is possible when I visited the Centers for Hope, which is caring for children who have lost their parents to the HIV/AIDs pandemic. I saw close up how the work we do is reflected in the lives of people and what it means for some of the most vulnerable in our society.

"I congratulated President Biya on the reforms implemented by Cameroon that allowed access to significant debt relief last April at the completion point under the enhanced Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative and Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative. The IMF contribution to these efforts amounted to about US$255 million. Resources freed up by debt relief will allow Cameroon to bolster its efforts to boost growth and lower poverty.

"But there are still significant challenges ahead if Cameroon is to meet the Millennium Development Goals, and to achieve substantial and lasting reductions in poverty. This was the subject of discussion at a roundtable meeting organized by Prime Minister Inoni. It was clear from the discussions that a key challenge for Cameroon is to resume the path of sustained growth and poverty reduction. There was broad agreement on the need to preserve fiscal sustainability while raising priority spending, including by mobilizing non-oil revenues and pursuing a sound debt management strategy. Creating an environment conducive to private sector development is another priority area. In this context, strengthening governance, including a sound and predictable legal and regulatory framework, and an efficient judiciary is important. Further, steadfast implementation of structural reforms, including completion of the reform of public enterprises, will send a strong signal to the investor community of the government's commitment to private-sector-led growth.

"I was also strongly encouraged by the importance African policymakers place on financial stability and financial sector development—so critical for economic growth and reducing poverty—at the seminar on regional financial sector issues, organized by Governor Mamalepot, at the Bank of Central African States. The seminar underscored the importance of taking concrete steps in efforts to deepen and widen financial sectors. Officials also highlighted Cameroon's lead role within the regional institutions to reform the trade and financial systems and make them more business-friendly.

"President Biya and his colleagues impressed me with their determination to respond to the challenges they face. They stressed the importance of learning from the successful experience of other countries. They also agreed on the need for good governance and transparency. I told the President that the IMF remains committed to working with Cameroon, through its Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility, to support its development efforts. In addition, the IMF stands ready to provide assistance with capacity building as appropriate.

"Cameroon is a country endowed with substantial natural and human resources. Given the appropriate policies, the opportunity exists to foster macroeconomic stability and more rapid growth and so make possible the lasting reduction in poverty we all want to see."


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