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IMF sounds alarm over Congo debt before possible bailout

Brazzaville, Congo | AFP | A team from the International Monetary Fund on Thursday wound up a mission to the Republic of Congo by expressing concern at debt and corruption before considering any bailout.

“Congo’s economy continues to suffer from the effects of low oil prices, unsustainable debt, and significant governance weaknesses,” mission leader Abdoul Aziz Wane declared at the end of the visit.

“A deeper recession of the non-oil economy in 2017 — with growth estimated at -9.2 percent — is hurting the most vulnerable segments of the population,” he added in a statement.

The visitors to the central African country, whose main export is oil, distantly followed by diamonds and tropical timber, had talks with Prime Minister Clement Mouamba and Finance Minister Calixte Nganongo, among a slew of senior officials including foreign diplomats.

“The authorities will need to take bold and immediate governance reforms to anchor expectations of a positive change in the management of public resources. In that regard, the IMF team welcomed the government’s intention to approve in early 2018 a governance study that will guide future reforms” — reforms that should include the creation of independent anti-corruption bodies, suggested the text.

“The IMF team will continue to support the authorities as they work in the coming weeks in several areas, including on restoring debt sustainability, strengthening governance, and ensuring adequate program financing,” the statement said.

“Once this work is completed, a financial arrangement to support Congo’s economic program would be discussed at staff level before being proposed for the IMF Executive Board’s consideration.”

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