Angola unable to meet IMF criteria, finance minister

[ANGOLA] Angola has made windfall earnings from the current high oil price.
Windfall earnings from the current high oil price (Sonangol)

Angola's finance minister has said the issue of an agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) was being politicised and this was scuppering the country's efforts to hold a donor conference.

The government told the media in November 2004 that it expected a windfall of US $600 million for the year, due to skyrocketing oil prices, but donor sources earlier this month criticised the authorities for failing to answer IMF questions on the whereabouts of the money.

They said this was why an IMF mission to Angola had been postponed repeatedly, and that an agreement with the Fund now appeared to be some way off.

But finance minister Jose Pedro de Morais said it would be impossible for Angola to supply all the data the IMF was requesting.

"We will never be able to provide all the economic and financial information the Fund needs, according to their codes of fiscal transparency or of monetary operations," de Morais told IRIN. "We are a developing country, our institutional infrastructure is not well developed and, on top of that, we recently had severe disruptions in our institutions. So the process of providing economic information is a gradual process."

Late last year the government and donors said it looked like Angola was on the brink of securing an IMF Staff Monitored Programme (SMP) in the first quarter of 2005, but the recent wrangling has raised concerns that a deal could be delayed until way beyond this - a hold-up which, de Morais said, rested entirely on the shoulders of the international community.

"We are ready; Angola is ready to have any kind of agreement with the IMF. What we need is to restructure our external debt and put this country back to the flow of financial and commercial transactions. So ... the agreement doesn't depend on us; we are ready," he said.

In the past Angola has relied on expensive oil-backed loans, but would like to gain access to cheaper loans on more favourable terms - a process that would require an agreement with the IMF.

Sources said a donor conference, seen as key to securing funds for Angola's development as well as rebuilding its battered image, also hinged on such a deal.

Although Angola is one of the continent's richest countries in terms of natural resources, its people are among the poorest, with allegations of corruption and mismanagement levelled at the leadership.

De Morais felt the international community's reluctance to back Angola was both unfair and a serious impediment to its development.

"The agreement with the IMF is now a political issue. From the point of view of the government, technically, we are ready - we have expressed that. But it's a question of political will from the international community," he said.

"If we have to be penalised by the divisions that we had in the world many, many years ago between the West and East, then it's sure that we will take many more years to have this agreement," he noted.

The IMF has said Angola's track record on transparency had improved, while also acknowledging that much more still needed to be done.

But De Morais argued that the international community was holding Angola hostage over the proposed IMF deal.

"We should not put the Angolan government in a situation whereby, first of all, they have to comply with all kinds of codes and standards before the donor conference can take place," he said.

"We finished the war and we have embarked on a new era, and the least the Angolans had hoped from the international community is to receive the basic support for that," De Morais explained. "We are doing our part; we are doing our best and we expect the international community to do theirs."

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information:

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