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Cameroon: IMF calls for policy adjustments

As Cameroon and the entire Central African sub region count their achievements from the just-ended visit of the Manager Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Christine Lagarde to the country, they may consider adjusting developing policies that have either not worked or produced satisfactory results. Speaking in Yaounde on Friday January 8, 2016 during a roundtable on “Low oil prices and the financing of infrastructure,” the visiting IMF Managing Director said the new reality necessitates policy adjustment to preserve macroeconomic stability and create new sources of growth. “If you always walk down the same path, you will go to where you have already been. Confronted with this new reality, CEMAC needs to chart a new path for its prosperity.

The IMF can help through policy advice, capacity building and financial support if needed,” she said. Like other speakers who took to the rostrum during the heavily-attended roundtable, Mrs Lagarde observed that in an environment of rising fiscal pressures, careful consideration needs to be given to priorities. This may require scaling back some plans. It emerged from the discussions that selectivity in infrastructure development-based on economic merit and cost efficiency- can help guide the process of re-setting the development priorities. There is no gainsaying that Cameroon and CEMAC had largely depended on oil (70 per cent) to develop their economies. Economic analysts believe it is high time decision-makers diversify the economies to stand the tests of time. Cameroon’s Minister of Finance, Alamine Ousmane Mey said the country and sub region are working to broaden the tax base, safeguard fiscal revenue by curtailing from the source and develop other growth-induced sectors like agriculture, livestock, services and infrastructure.

Almost all speakers said global experience consistently points to the importance of a vibrant private sector that can boost growth and diversify the economy. Mrs Lagarde said, “Our own analysis indicates that facilitating tax payments and intra-CEMAC trade would significantly improve the business climate.” Disturbingly, she revealed that on average, it takes 572 hours per year in CEMAC versus 304 in other African countries to pay business taxes, and the waiting time for clearing goods; 40 days for exports and 50 days for imports. “Reforms in these areas would yield the highest benefits,” the visiting IMF Manager Director advised. Fully developing the public/private sector partnership framework wherein projects are mostly engaged on Build-Operate-Transfer mechanism could also be given serious consideration.

The integration drive that has almost always been a white elephant project in CEMAC, experts say, has to be attained and genuinely too. CEMAC comprises six micro economies with a GDP of FCFA 30,000 billion and a population of about 45 million inhabitants. This is nothing compared with other individual countries like Nigeria with a population of about 180 million inhabitants and the Democratic Republic of Congo with close to 90 million inhabitants. The situation even becomes worse within CEMAC when States are unwilling to let go some of their national sovereignties so as to reap the fruits of integration. Before leaving Yaounde, Mrs Christine Lagarde reminded the sub region of the strength in diversity and success in unity. “By coming together today, you can harness the dividends from integration and deliver on the region’s promise of greater prosperity for its people tomorrow.”

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