Press Release: IMF Approves Third Annual ESAF Loan for Cameroon
September 7, 1999
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) today approved the third annual loan under the Enhanced Structural Adjustment Facility (ESAF) 1 to support Cameroon’s economic and financial program. The three-year ESAF loan was approved on August 20, 1997 in an original amount of SDR 162.12 million (about US$221.24 million), of which SDR 108.08 million (about US$147.49 million) has been disbursed. Today’s decision provides Cameroon with another SDR 54.04 million (about US$73.75 million) to be disbursed during the third year of the ESAF, with SDR 18.01 million (about US$24.58 million) available immediately.
In commenting on the Executive Board’s discussion of the request by Cameroon, Stanley Fischer, First Deputy Managing Director of the IMF, made the following statement:
"Directors commended the authorities for their good record of performance in implementing the first two annual ESAF-supported programs. Despite the adverse impact of the deterioration in the terms of trade in the first half of 1998/99, economic activity remains buoyant, and inflation has declined to a low level, owing to appropriate macroeconomic polices.
"Directors noted the progress made in the past two years in strengthening public finances through a regular transfer of oil revenues to the budget, the successful introduction of the VAT, and the adoption of an action plan aimed at improving expenditure management. Directors stressed, however, the importance of further strengthening the fiscal position in the medium term. To this end, they emphasized the need to raise non-oil revenue further by broadening the tax base, strengthening the customs administration, and improving tax administration, including with respect to the forestry sector, while strengthening public expenditure management.
"Directors noted the progress made in implementing structural reforms, including the rehabilitation of the banking system, the large-scale privatization of public enterprises, and the significant actions to liberalize the energy and transport. Directors encouraged the authorities to continue implementing vigorously structural reforms, to consolidate and deepen the reform program in the public utilities, petroleum, agro-industry and transport sectors, and to liberalize trade. They stressed the need to improve transparency and fight corruption with a view to enhancing the effectiveness of government operations and stimulate private investment. In this regard, they considered the focus of the third annual arrangement on good governance, transparency and accountability in government and public sector operations to be appropriate.
"Directors urged the authorities to continue to demonstrate strong program performance, and prepare well-defined spending plans in the social sectors to ensure efficient utilization of the additional resources in the priority sectors of health, education and poverty alleviation. In sum, Directors hoped that steadfast implementation of structural reform and well-targeted spending on the social sector would make Cameroon eligible under the HIPC Initiative," said Mr. Fischer.
Cameroon’s good record of performance under the first annual ESAF program continued under the second, despite the adverse impact of a sharp deterioration in the terms of trade in the first half of 1998/99. Almost all quantitative and structural performance criteria and benchmarks for the year were met. Real GDP growth for 1998/99 was revised downward from 5 1/4% to 4½ %, and the annual average national consumer price inflation was contained at 2.9 %.
The medium-term strategy under the program aims at restoring external and internal viability, bringing the economy onto a sustainable growth path, and substantially reducing poverty. Within this framework, the main macroeconomic objectives for 1999/2000 are to limit inflation to 2 % and contain the external current account deficit to 3½ % of GDP. Real GDP growth is projected at 4.8%.
The medium-term growth prospects depend crucially on the success of increasing investment, including direct foreign investment; raising the domestic budgetary revenue effort; strengthening expenditure management; improving governance and accountability; rebuilding the country’s infrastructure; and implementing efficiency-enhancing structural reforms while reinforcing external competitiveness. The program2 also emphasizes the completion of reform measures already under way, thus to begin producing tangible results that benefit the population at large.
The key budgetary objectives are to achieve a primary surplus of 5.2 % of GDP and thereby reduce the overall fiscal deficit to 2.9 % of GDP, excluding grants. The authorities intend to strengthen non-oil revenue by improving the customs and tax administration, to combat fraud, to broaden the tax base, and to strengthen value-added tax (VAT) collection. At the same time, all export taxes have been eliminated except those on forestry products.
Structural reforms will focus on consolidating and deepening the ongoing reforms in agro-industry; public utilities; and the petroleum, transport, and financial sectors. These reforms are essential for creating a favorable environment for private sector activity and for safeguarding Cameroon’s external competitiveness. But there is a need to remain vigilant and bring about the successful conclusion of the privatization operations currently under way while ensuring the independence and integrity of the newly created regulatory agencies.
Improving transparency and fighting corruption are indispensable in enhancing the effectiveness of government operations and in stimulating private investment. The government is aware of the fact that it is critical to proceed vigorously to tackle issues of economic governance and transparency as a core component of the reform program. Thus the promotion of good governance is at the center of many of the reforms being undertaken by the government, particularly in the areas of public expenditure management, the privatization of public enterprises, the liberalization of markets, and the introduction of transparency and accountability into public sector activities.
Cameroon’s objectives in the social area, in general, and in poverty alleviation, in particular, are to be achieved through higher economic growth combined with improvements in quality and volume of spending in the primary health and education sectors, and through policies to ensure access to safe water and to generic drugs. These policies would reverse the worsening trend of recent years in education indicators, and more broadly, raise the low level of social indicators. The strategies for the health and education sectors, which are to be elaborated next year will form a critical element in the government’s fight against poverty and will concentrate on establishing greater regional equality and greater accountability in the distribution and use of resources. In addition, the rural poor are to benefit from investment in roads and the measures to reduce transport costs, which should also enhance competitiveness and thus help to expand agricultural production and exports.
The Challenge Ahead
Cameroon’s performance during the first two annual ESAF-supported programs marks a major departure from the past record of performance and economic decline. This record of performance notwithstanding, more will be required over the next few years for Cameroon to rebuild its physical and institutional infrastructure and to create the conditions for sustainable, private-sector-led growth and durable poverty alleviation, while asserting its leading role in the subregion. To that end, the continued effort of the donor community in providing concessional financing and debt alleviation will be crucial.
Cameroon joined the IMF on July 10, 1963, and its quota3 is SDR 185.70 million (about US$253.41 million). Its outstanding use of IMF financing currently totals SDR 128.17 million (about US$174.91 million).