Transcript of a Press Briefing on Sub-Saharan Africa Regional Economic Outlook

October 1, 2004

Washington, DC, October 1, 2004

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Abdoulaye Bio Tchane, Director, African Department, IMF
Anupam Basu, Deputy Director, African Department, IMF
Siddharth Tiwari, Deputy Director African Department, IMF
Benedicte Christensen, Deputy Director, African Department, IMF
Lucie Mboto Fouda, Senior Press Officer, External Relations Department, IMF

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, as usual, to welcome all of you to this press conference of the heads of the African Department.

The African Department heads have made themselves available, this year again, to answer a few of your questions and to discuss with you issues of interest. But more importantly, they will also be launching today, during this press conference, the annual report that they prepared on the Sub-Saharan African economy outlook.

Before I turn the floor to Mr. Bio Tchane for his opening remarks, let me go through a few housekeeping issues.

Of course, we have simultaneous translation facilities with English on channel four, French on channel three. Before I give the floor to Mr. Bio Tchane, please let me introduce the people who are here today.

To my left is Mr. Anupam Basu, who is Deputy Director of the African Department. To my immediate right is Mr. Abdoulaye Bio Tchane, who is the Director of the African Department. To Mr. Bio Tchane's right is Mr. Siddharth Tiwari. He's Deputy Director of that same department. And to the extreme right is Mrs. Benedicte Christensen. She's also Deputy Director of the African Department.

Now, Mr. Bio Tchane, you have the floor for your opening remarks.

MR. BIO TCHANE: Thank you very much. Good afternoon. Thank you, Lucie.

Before I start, let me say that there is no extreme right or extreme left; therefore, we are all in center stage.

Let me first welcome you on behalf of all my colleagues here from the African Department. And before we give you the floor for your comments and questions, let me make a few comments.

The first one is to acknowledge that the strength of the global economy, from the standpoint of the global economy, Sub-Saharan Africa is currently seeing robust economic growth. Per capita incomes could rise by over 2 percent of GDP in 2004/2005, marking the fastest growth in a decade.

At the same time, inflation is moderating and fiscal and internal imbalances are narrowing. The gains are particularly large in oil-producing countries, but non-oil producers are also experiencing solid rates of economic growth.

This year, we are expecting a growth rate of 4.7 percent in 2004, and 5.7 percent for next year for the whole continent.

Second, this overall positive assessment should not obscure the challenges that Sub-Saharan Africa continues to face. While some countries have sustained high rates of growth for a prolonged period of time - more than 10 years for some of them - leading to a reduction in poverty, others have faced lingering armed conflicts, natural disasters, and weak governance that have constrained the implementation of some policies.

As noted in the recent Global Monitoring Report, prepared by the Fund and the World Bank, Sub-Saharan Africa is still set to fall well short of achieving the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.

The challenge for Sub-Saharan Africa is to sustain its macroeconomic gains while lifting economic growth and reducing poverty. This will require significant efforts by African countries themselves, but also by their development partners.

The regional outlook that we have prepared for the annual meeting that we are announcing today, as Lucie said, copies of which are available in this room, underline that the current intent for the global economy is, unfortunately for Sub-Saharan Africa to make progress.

Maintaining macroeconomic stability, strengthening governance and institutions, and reinforcing the enabling environment for private sector development are the key domestic priorities for Africa. Where these are in place, there is a prospect, and indeed we call for significantly higher inflows of foreign assistance which will help to accelerate progress toward the Millennium Development Goals, including combatting HIV/AIDS and malaria.

The Fund is committed to ensure that higher levels of foreign assistance are fully reflected in the economic programs it supports. Providing better health and education services is critical to building productive societies that can seize opportunities offered by global economy and assuring that public expenditure directly benefits the poor.

Markedly higher levels of grants will pose macroeconomic challenges, and our policy advice and programs must ensure that these are fully taken into account so that available resources are productively used.

There is also, clearly, a need for more public investment in infrastructure in many countries. These, too, need to be embedded in a sustainable public expenditure framework, and we are currently engaged in several pilot studies, including in Ghana and Ethiopia, to improve ways in which this can be done.

Trade liberalization under the Doha Round represent a significant opportunity for Sub-Saharan Africa to increase its exports, particularly from the agricultural sector. It is very important to maintain the momentum provided by the July framework agreement reached by the WTO. The Fund will continue to use its voice to encourage all countries to press forward with multilateral trade liberalization. At the same time, the Fund trade integration mechanism is designed to help countries address a transitional course that such liberalization can entail. Several African countries could benefit from assistance under this mechanism.

Finally, the latest Regional Economic Outlook has special forecasts on regional integration initiative in Africa. As I emphasized at the recent summit on the African Union in Addis Abeba, accelerated regional integration has the potential of boosting economic growth and promoting poverty reduction. Our analysis showed that this potential has not yet been fully seized. Trade liberalization, ensuring regional harmonization of business regulation, and the provision of better regional infrastructure can provide a much-needed boost to private investment.

We will be working closely with our African membership to help them take advantage of the benefits that closer regional integration offers.

MS. MBOTO FOUDA: Let me just mention that copies of Mr. Bio Tchane's opening remarks will be available at the end of this press conference, along with copies of the report.

Now, as usual, before you ask your question, please introduce yourself and state your affiliation. Thank you.

QUESTIONER: I wondered if you could talk a little bit more about the accumulation, there was a remark about accumulation of reserves and how that's managed to cushion the shock of higher oil prices in oil-importing countries, and basically, to elaborate a bit how the reserves were accumulated. Is that through participation in AGOA, or exactly what helped the countries over the last five years to boost their reserves?

MR. BIO TCHANE: Well, let me first say that, as I've said, we've seen really substantial macroeconomic gains in the African countries during the last five years. You can even go beyond and see that there is a sustained trend of improvement in macro-stability in African countries over the last decade.

And this has translated more clearly in the accumulation of reserves, even recently. And that's why we believe that here under these circumstances, it's easier for those African countries to face the shocks because then they clearly could adjust for tapping those reserves without really resorting either to further adjustment or to requesting more resources.

And you can see it not only in oil-producing or oil-exporting countries, but also in oil-importing countries, given also that, in net terms, Africa is a petroleum-importing continent instead of a refining, exporting country.

So that's the exact situation where we are in broad terms. Obviously, the situation is different from one country to another.

MR. TIWARI: I think what Abdoulaye said was that in the last five to ten years, economic imbalances have declined. One example of that is thatt inflation is down, reserves are up, and this has happened because of two reasons, both reforms within and trading with the rest of the world.

At this time with the oil price shock, absorbing the shock has been made easier, both through flexible exchange rates, the use of reserves, and higher import bills. But the fact is that reserves right now have provided the cushion which perhaps may not existed around five years back.

QUESTIONER: You just said that Sub-Saharan Africa is not going to meet the poverty reduction goals in the Millennium Development Goals. Would you say these goals were too optimistic? Or why is it so?

MR. BIO TCHANE: Well, I don't think the goals were too optimistic, and I think, in general terms, they are quite realistic. They should be normally achievable if two conditions are met: one is that we need, clearly, more resources to achieve those goals and during the last two or three years, it's not clear that the resources are there.

But second, I think it's also important to acknowledge that we need more policies, including on the sectoral side. So I think if you agree on those, it's fair to say that the objectives were not too optimistic and they should be attainable.

I think next year will be when the time will come to reassess those objectives and see where we are. You will hear the same question, but clearly, my sense is that the objectives are achievable, provided that we have the two resources and policies.

QUESTIONER: My question is on Zimbabwe. The IMF has just closed its office in Zimbabwe,or is in the process of closing it. I was wondering how that's going to impact your work in Zimbabwe? One would think that may be most necessary now, amid this economic crisis.

MR. BIO TCHANE: Well, it's a very difficult question, so I will yield to my friend who's on my right here. But just to tell you that we have just posted this morning a press release on our Website on Zimbabwe. We closed the office, but the decision to close the office was made 18 months ago. But let me ask--

MR. TIWARI: I'll take the other part of the question that you didn't ask, which is both what's going on in Zimbabwe and how we have got here.

If you look back in the last four or five years, output has declined by 30 percent. Inflation is in the realm of 300 or 400 percent. There's clearly a need for policies to be adopted that are good for Zimbabwe. These policies include macro policies, obviously, but it is clear that structural reforms, more pointedly land policy, is also the heart of this. And without, broadly, these two sets of policies, it's going to be very difficult to move ahead in Zimbabwe.

The second thing Zimbabwe needs to do is that it needs to reintegrate itself in the international community, the donors, its creditors. It's a two way street. Zimbabwe needs to move and the donors would need to move.

In terms of the office, we have a hard budget constraint. Offices are opened where value added is the most. And at this moment, the decision, which was made 12 months back was that, relatively speaking, resources could be used more efficiently, as well.

MR. BIO TCHANE: Okay; you have a question?

MS. MBOTO FOUDA: Yes, sir.

QUESTIONER: I'm from the Insight in Ghana.

I'd like to know--

MS. MBOTO FOUDA: Would you state your name, please?

QUESTIONER: Kwesi Pratt [ph]. I'd like to know your assessment of the general impact of crude oil price rises on the gains which have been made in Sub-Saharan Africa and also the policy measures you would advocate for dealing with the impact, considering the fact that petroleum prices increase as a result of high taxes, as a result of the price of crude on the international market, and also sometimes as a result of currency depreciation. What are the measures that you would recommend?

And, secondly, in your presentation, you used the usual indicators--GDP, capital, and so on. Now, bearing in mind that these statistical averages, they do not tell the whole story. For example, if you take the case of Ghana, guinea worm infestation is on the rise, access to education is declining and so on. How would you do an assessment which reflects the real concrete situation on the ground? Thank you.

MR. BIO TCHANE: Well, let me take the first part of your question with regard to the impact of oil prices and the policies. Clearly, even in oil-exporting countries, there is some adjustment made. And what we said earlier is that, given the progress made during the last 5 years, including a country like Ghana, it is certainly possible to use the accumulated reserve to face the new shocks. So that's partly the response.

The second one is--and I guess you are speaking with regard to the pass-through in the detailed markets -- our recommendation is that, clearly, there should be some pass-through in the retail market, but clearly the country authority should make the decision, taking into account the actual situation on the ground. What I mean is, if you take a country like Ghana, you could make a decision, for instance, to differentiate the pass-through between, for instance, kerosene and diesel or between, I mean, diesel and other products, depending on what kind of social policies you want to conduct, and they have done it in the past in Ghana, but also in other countries. But you don't want also to make that decision by deciding from that you would subsidize, and that we will not recommend. So that's what I would like to say on that question. The second part, maybe, Anupam, you want to address that point?

MR. BASU: What was the second point?

MS. MBOTO FOUDA: Could you state the second part of your question again, please.

MR. BIO TCHANE: Social indicators, if they are, apart from the fiscal GDP, current account deficit, the macro indicators, do we have any other indicators that could reflect more the social conditions in the countries?

MR. BASU: Well, the primary risk I see is if, in fact, the budget gets hit by higher costs because you basically have trade-offs between what you--if you want to hold back the price increase and subsidize for a temporary period. Given tight budget situations, you of course have to look at where else the resources get diverted from.

Apart from that, I think the two key points--one on diesel and one on kerosene--are the main ones. Much of the kerosene is, in fact, consumed by, let's say, the poorest strata of the population, and diesel is extremely important in the transport system and the total--the transport system of the country and feeds through and down, you know, all the prices as a result of that.

So those, I think, are the two particularly key channels, apart from budgetary pressures, but everything depends on how temporary this is or how permanent this is. If it is, in fact, a permanent upturn in prices and remains a plateau, I think some kind of domestic adjustment measures would be advisable down the line. But, meanwhile, as Mr. Bio Tchane says, and others would agree, I think, is that some loss of reserves has occurred and, you know, that has--before the adjustment measures begin -- that has helped a little bit to cushion the impact. At least since you mentioned exchange rate depreciation as one particular valve, it has at least cushioned that valve from doing that. But the worst thing, I think, is if it constrains public expenditures at a time when we see social expenditures as a top priority and needs to be scaled up.

MS. MBOTO FOUDA: Another question?

MR. BIO TCHANE: Let me say one thing partly in response to your question on the indicators. I think also that we--I mean, speaking for someone coming from Ghana -- we should also acknowledge that there has been some progress. And, indeed, if we are asking those type of questions, it's because particularly we made some progress on the macro front, and we want to build on that. We want to build on that by looking at the underlying factors affecting growth. What do we need to have to face unemployment issues? What do we need to face the social indicators? Those questions are relevant, and we are looking at it. But clearly we need to build on the progress we have made and continue building on that.

MS. MBOTO FOUDA: We'll take the gentleman there, and then I'll get back to you.

QUESTION: Thank you. Mr. Director, my question is--

MS. MBOTO FOUDA: Please introduce yourself.

QUESTION: Sorry. Richard Musaro [ph]. I report for the [inaudible] Daily.

My question is on debt and reforms in sub-Saharan African countries. A lot of these countries are reforming currently, and these reforms place a lot of strain on the debt service repayment. In Nigeria, for instance, where I come from, we need to spend about--over $3 billion annually to effect these reforms. I would like to know, sir, is there anything that the Fund plans to do to encourage that by way of liaising with the creditors to make this less burdensome on them? Thank you.

MR. BIO TCHANE: Well, clearly, there is--I mean debt is an issue in the African countries, and that's why we have a design in the international communities financing the HIPC initiative and even in countries like Nigeria or, say, Gabon that are not HIPC countries, we are still helping to address the debt issue. But we also need to look at the issue from two perspectives.

One is that--and I would like to say it's also from the perspective of an African--one is that we need to build a kind of a credit culture that we need in our countries to build that culture that you borrow, but you pay also, and that's the only way you can clearly grow and get out of the debt trap.

Second, there are new initiatives that you heard about. And the position we have currently in the institution is that we welcome those initiatives.

But, third and finally, I think the situation, the current situation in the global economy, and particularly in the oil market, gave a new opportunity for some of the countries we're talking about--Nigeria and others--that are oil-exporting, and that will gain some windfall from that situation. I think those resources should be partly used to address the issue of the debt issue, and clearly I see that this is possible, obviously, with the other conflicting needs of the country.

MS. MBOTO FOUDA: Let's get back to Leslie.

QUESTION: The IMF extended the HIPC initiative for another two years. How soon can you see the remaining countries entering that initiative is my first question. The other one is on locusts--so maybe I should go back to that after you've answered that one.

MR. BIO TCHANE: Benedicte, do you want to take the first question on the HIPC--how soon the other countries?

MS. CHRISTENSEN: I think, first of all, a number of countries, as you know, have already reached those decision points and the completion point. Probably we are through with the group of countries where it was easiest to achieve progress also on the policy front.

A number of the other countries we are waiting for are often post-conflict countries, and there are a couple of those countries that we are in the process of negotiating new arrangements with, and I don't think I would like to be specific on the actual countries at this point. But we hope to be able to add another few countries in the coming year.

QUESTION: Sorry. Just a follow-up on that one. You've seen the reports going on about the initiative for 100% debt relief for these countries. We have heard very little from the African Department on how they feel about this and how they think that this would impact, you know, all these countries and if it, in fact, will be beneficial.

MS. CHRISTENSEN: I think Mr. Bio Tchane has already touched upon it, namely, that we welcome the initiative, but it's still early days. I mean, some of the initiatives have just been announced, and we need to discuss it, and our Board needs to discuss the initiatives too.

I mean in general, there are a couple of the perspectives. One is the one Mr. Bio Tchane mentioned that also at some stage also you need to have a credit culture, but the other one is one of efficient use of the debt relief, and that's the one where we have a role to play to make sure that actually additional debt relief is used effectively through good public expenditure management systems, through good policies.

And essentially our role is to look at the macroeconomic side of the countries and to make sure that that at least offers some guarantee for effective use. The Bank, World Bank, on the other side and donors look at more sectoral issues.

MS. MBOTO FOUDA: Any other questions?

Yes, Paul?

QUESTIONER: If one looks in the report, you draw a very sharp contrast between the West African franc zone countries that have no inflation, but a very high-value exchange rate tied to the euro and the Anglophone countries which have quite high inflation, but have been able to devalue or allow their currencies to depreciate it some of the time.

How do you think you can achieve some sort of degree of economic integration and when people talk about a possible single currency for the whole of ECOWAS, or do you think that that's just a sort of long-term fantasy almost and that this gap won't close in the foreseeable future?

MR. BIO TCHANE: Well, I think you'll see the numbers in the recent outlook. I think it's clear that even in non-franc zone countries inflation is going down. That's on the macro side. We are seeing a lot of progress. Look at the numbers for Nigeria in the recent six months. You'll see clearly that inflation is going down. Reserves are going up. You have less pressure on exchange rates. So I think my sense is that I don't want to at this stage to differentiate between the two groups of countries. What we are seeing is some progress, and we want to see that progress continue.

But as for the second part of your question, in particular, in areas like COMESA or ECOWAS, where we're hearing some ideas or some proposal about common currency, I think our position is that we are--it's not fantasy, but it's maybe premature to do it -- say like in the next six months. We need to see more progress in some areas like the fiscal consolidation, some areas in narrowing, for instance, the spread in the informal market. So I think there is a world program, and you can see it when you discuss even with the country authorities in West Africa that they all agree that there is some work to be achieved before they reach a common currency.

QUESTIONER: But it's within a plannable--we can think in several years, can we not?

MR. BIO TCHANE: That is why I am saying I don't think it's a fantasy. It's certainly a goal achievable, but we need to see some more work on that before we move in the implementation phase.

MS. MBOTO FOUDA: Yes, the gentleman over there.

QUESTIONER: Well, clearly, the proposals for further debt relief are not all the same. Indeed, some of them are contradictory. I would like to find out your attitude to the specific proposal of Gordon Brown, which advocates 100 %, you know, debt relief and which also recommends that you revalue IMF gold in order to find the money, you know, to provide debt relief for countries in Africa and elsewhere.

MR. BIO TCHANE: I think our position is clear. It has been stated at the highest level yesterday twice by our Managing Director that we welcome that initiative. We welcome the initiative put forward by the U.S. And we also agree that those initiatives are needed. But we need to see more detailed information on what's the actual content of those two initiatives, and also we need to hear from our Boards as to what is the position of our Board, the representative of the countries in our governing body. So I think our general position is that we are open to look at the detail of the two proposals.

MS. MBOTO FOUDA: Yes. The lady here.

QUESTIONER: Since I am an immigrant Africa, West Sub-Saharan Africa, and France has been spoiled from the money, there have been--the CFA franc, the exchange was the first one and also the fact that the central bank is retrieving the 1990 CFA franc, 10,000 bills out of circuit, could you just put your emphasis on those events in Africa?

MR. BIO TCHANE: Well, on the two aspects, one on the exchange rates, I think the rate is appropriate. That's our position. And I think the arrangement is serving the countries well. Therefore, we are not discussing the level of the exchange rate. I think as for any other currency for the South African rand, any other currency in the world you take it, it's more or less market-determined, at least when you compare it with the U.S. dollar. There is a fixed exchange rate between the CFA franc and the euro, and that's it. So I don't think the rate is overvalued or undervalued. It's determined by the rate of euro, and we believe we have done--actually, we are going to the Board next week on the original consultation, and our sense is that the level of the exchange rate is appropriate.

On the second part, I think it's a technical matter. That's where I was writing some of the note. It has no impact whatsoever on the exchange rate, and I hope some of the population will not be affected by that.

QUESTIONER: My question, in fact, had to do with counterfeiting, you see in France, CFA counterfeit bills that were found in Belgium. That's CFA counterfeit bills. That was my question. And, you know, we're talking about several billion counterfeit CFA francs, I wondered--well, that's news to me, says Mr. Bio Tchane -- but in any event, it isn't the central bank that would be in any way liable for this. But it would be the money--you see, the counterfeiters who would have trafficked in this way, it would be very difficult for us to have any intervention whatsoever in that framework. The central bank, you know, is well aware of that. There is quite a volume of counterfeit bills, of CFA bills that have been circulating. It isn't a new thing, alas. Thank you.

QUESTIONER: I was wondering if you could tell me your assessment of the economic impact of the locust plague in West Africa, and how you plan on assisting the governments affected?

MR. BIO TCHANE: Well, we don't have a current assessment yet on the impact. We are working on that. We know countries like Mauritania, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Niger, and maybe Togo--we're still looking at that--are affected. We're doing our own assessment.

But what I can tell you is that we stand ready to assist the countries, including financially, to face that situation if it's needed.

MS. MBOTO FOUDA: Another question?

QUESTIONER: You said you would assist the countries financially and otherwise. What other ways would you assist them?

MR. BIO TCHANE: I said financially or advise them on the policies, macro policies.

MS. MBOTO FOUDA: Yes, the gentleman over there.

QUESTIONER: I'm returning to the same question of my Ghanian colleague concerning economic indicators and social level. When you travel in Africa, you're expressing, or the World Bank and IMF has indicated that there's an economic growth. But on the ground, the level of poverty has increased. How do you reconcile that? And how do you give a better picture of the situation on the ground? That's the main issue.

MR. BIO TCHANE: Okay; thank you. Anupam?

MR. BASU: Thank you. Well, what we're seeing is basically there's been, as you know, a lot of work done on what growth does to poverty. In effect, it's well known, at least in published work, that if the growth rate picks up, that has a very strong impact on poverty levels. But then to reconcile, and to answer your question more directly, I think we find increasing evidence that when you consider the whole set of indicators that's now in the MDGs, the individual social indicators beyond income poverty. One does need to have public expenditures and programs that are targeted, and that growth alone, by itself, without a consolidated parallel strategy on the government's part through public expenditure programs within properly programmed macro frameworks, without that supplementary effort, it's pretty much clear that there's a lot of evidence and work on the way to say that that has to be done to reach the other indicators as such.

Secondly, I think there's a lot of work that now points to the fact that it's only when you tackle some of these other social areas that you will get a synergy between them and, in turn, which feeds back into growth.

So my answer to your questioner is indeed it's encouraging to see aggregate growth rates go up. It's also encouraging to see so many of our program countries moving towards improved and much better and more efficient public expenditure management systems and fiscal frameworks. They are better able to absorb higher levels of aid. And they are better able to attack on a wide front of social areas, not just growth. Growth is good. Growth gives the main punch, perhaps. But there are other areas that can complement and supplement that effort. And that's, I think, the direction in which we are moving, along with other donors, which is to prepare the macro framework that way, to accommodate aid and can accommodate the necessary social programs that supplement the growth effort.

MS. MBOTO FOUDA: I can take two more questioners, if any. Yes, Leslie, then Paul.

QUESTIONER: Question on South Africa. Do you think it's a good time to lift the remaining foreign exchange controls considering the resilience of the rand - my first questio. The other one: there was a line in the WEO in which the IMF has said that interest rates will have to go up in the coming year. If you could maybe just expand on that, please?

MR. BIO TCHANE: Do you want to take that?

MR. TIWARI: Yes, I think the Article IV paper was clear that we supported the phased reduction in restrictions. We've been supportive of the way the government has done it. There's absolutely no uncertainty about it.

The second was--

MS. CHRISTENSEN: On interest rates.

QUESTIONER: It was in the WEO that interest rates would have to go up.

MR. BIO TCHANE: If inflation goes up.

QUESTIONER: I was asking if you could just elaborate on why you think that is, because the government was thinking of keeping them.

MS. CHRISTENSEN: I mean, interest rates are currently pretty low, but you also see there are some domestic pressures. So there might be some mildly inflationary pressures coming from increases in domestic demand. I think that the growth in the second quarter of this year for instance, was 3.9 percent on an annualized rate in all major sectors.

In addition, we have also the increases in oil prices which might also add a bit on the inflation side. But I don't want to overstate the case. It's just there might be some mildly inflationary pressure.

MR. BIO TCHANE: And what we are saying is that if indeed that happened, or has happened, we could take the appropriate step. But they have done it in the past, and we have no doubt that they will take the appropriate steps.

MS. MBOTO FOUDA: Paul, quickly.

QUESTIONER: This is a question about debt. The condition is, when Iraq is expected, before the end of this year, to get a debt write-off, it will be very large. We don't know exactly how much, but 85 % is one of the figures talked about.

Now, Nigeria, for the last three or four years, has lobbied very hard for access to HIPC and large-scale debt relief. And people have kept saying well, you must carry out so many years of economic reform, and you can't disown the debt of previously military dictatorships, and so on.

Do you think there is going to be a consequence for Nigeria's attempt to get debt relief from the Iraq deal, that people will then say well, Iraq has set a big precedent, and we can no longer insist that people must go through every stage of the HIPC process, and particularly in Nigeria's case as an oil producer, that it will get large-scale debt relief as a result of the Iraq deal?

MR. BIO TCHANE: Well, let me first say that you know, the issue of debt relief, particularly in the case of Nigeria, is a question between creditors and the debtor. And in this case, we have discussed this several times with the Nigerian authorities. The decision is the decision of the creditors and they have to set the conditions under which they are ready to provide debt relief to Nigeria. And I think that's what they are working on. That's the only thing I can say.

QUESTIONER: The IMF, what's the IMF's view?

MR. BIO TCHANE: Our view is that Nigeria doesn't owe the Fund anything. So it's not like in other cases where we are part of the creditors. Here, it's clearly a case where you have other creditors, commercial, bilaterals. The fund is not involved. So it's clearly their call.

MS. MBOTO FOUDA: Thank you, Mr. Bio Tchane

Thank you, Mrs. Christensen, Mr. Tiwari, Mr. Basu. And thank you all for coming. See you next year.

MR. BIO TCHANE: Thank you very much.

[Whereupon, at 1:51 p.m., the press briefing was concluded.]


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