IMF Surprised about Gambia’s Pace to Rebound from Gross Economic Mismanagement & fiscal indiscipline

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The International Monetary Fund (IMF) on a recent visit to the Gambia has expressed optimism on the country’s ability to quickly rebound from over two decades of financial mismanagement and fiscal indiscipline. A group of IMF experts were surprised about Gambia’s path to rebound from its almost catastrophe fiscal cliff. The IMF team while optimistic about Gambia’s measures, warned that more fiscal discipline and austerity measures would be needed to bring the economy back on track. Below is a press statement issued by the IMF team upon the conclusion of their visit..

Statement at the Conclusion of an IMF Mission to The Gambia
December 12, 2017

End-of-Mission press releases include statements of IMF staff teams that convey preliminary findings after a visit to a country. The views expressed in this statement are those of the IMF staff and do not necessarily represent the views of the IMF’s Executive Board.
• The economy has started to recover following the sharp growth slowdown in 2016.
• Performance to date under the Staff Monitored Program has been broadly encouraging, but more progress is needed.
• The Gambia’s heightened debt stock of 120 percent of GDP remains a serious challenge.
An International Monetary Fund (IMF) mission, led by Mr. Ulrich Jacoby, visited Banjul during November 2–15 and December 7–12, 2017, headed to conduct Article IV consultation discussions and review performance under the Staff Monitored Program (SMP) [1]

(#1) approved in June 2017. [2]

(#2) At the end of the mission, Mr. Jacoby issued the following statement:

“The economy has started to recover following the sharp growth slowdown in 2016, which stemmed from a bad harvest, foreign exchange scarcity, and a drop in tourism due to the political turmoil after the presidential elections in December 2016. Economic growth in 2017 is projected at 3 percent, with a strong rebound in tourism and trade, and renewed interest from foreign direct investors in energy, tourism, agriculture and transportation. Inflation has reversed its rising trend, reflecting the stabilization of the dalasi and a gradual decrease in food prices.

With much improved fiscal discipline and external financial support, the dalasi has remained stable since April and international reserves recovered strongly. “Economic growth is expected to gradually accelerate to about 5 percent by 2020, assuming continued good policy implementation and a significant expansion in electricity supply, expansion of irrigation and commercial farming, investment in the tourism and trade sectors, and continued infrastructure investment. Headline inflation is expected to decline to slightly below the Central Bank of The Gambia’s (CBG) 5 percent target in the medium term.

Performance to date under the Staff Monitored Program has been broadly encouraging, but more progress is needed. The drastic reduction in government’s net domestic borrowing—stemming from increased donor support, fiscal consolidation and the recent pick-up in domestic revenue—has contributed to the decline in interest rates. Looking ahead, the authorities will need to maintain fiscal discipline and implement the remaining fiscal and structural measures committed to under the SMP.

“The Gambia’s heightened debt stock of 120 percent of GDP that the new government inherited is a serious challenge. Maintaining debt sustainability will necessitate refraining from large-scale investment projects involving loans or contingent liabilities before additional fiscal and borrowing space has been achieved, and leveraging private capital. Careful evaluation and prioritization of investment projects within the due diligence procedures of the Investment Implementation Task Force will be crucial in that regard. Mobilization of additional external resources to foster debt sustainability and implementation of the authorities’ debt strategy will be important to create borrowing space.

“Reform of public enterprises remains critical as they pose significant fiscal risks and contribute to high public debt. The mission welcomes ongoing reform efforts which should continue, including mediumterm strategic plans for achieving financial viability.

PRESS RELEASE NO. 17/486
Statement at the Conclusion of an IMF Mission to The Gambia Page 1 of 2
http://www.imf.org/en/News/Articles/2017/12/12/pr17486-statement-at-the-conclusion-of-an-imf-mission-to-th… 12/13/2017

“The CBG should continue maintaining a flexible exchange rate regime and further rebuild reserves, given external vulnerabilities and the high debt. Safeguarding the stability of the financial sector in light of the decline in interest rates is also a key priority.

“Access to financing remains the most important obstacle to doing business, and private sector credit growth remains sluggish despite the decline in interest rates. Promoting credit information systems and financial literacy as well as strengthening creditor rights and their enforcement would help support private credit growth.
“The mission met with President Barrow, Finance Minister Sanneh, Central Bank Governor Jammeh, other senior government and public enterprise officials, members of parliament, representatives of the private sector, civil society organizations, and development partners.

“The mission thanks the authorities for their excellent cooperation and hospitality, and looks forward to close cooperation in the period ahead.”

[1] An SMP is an informal agreement between country authorities and Fund staff, whereby the latter agree to monitor the implementation of the authorities’ economic program. SMPs do not entail financial assistance or endorsement by the IMF Executive Board.

[2] See IMF Press Release No. 17/249. ( http://www.imf.org/en/News/Articles/2017/06/26/pr17249-
imf-executive-board-approves-disbursement-under-the-rapid-credit-facility-for-the-gambia
(http://www.imf.org/en/News/Articles/2017/06/26/pr17249-imf-executive-board-approvesdisbursement-under-the-rapid-credit-facility-for-the-gambia)

IMF Communications Department
MEDIA RELATIONS
PRESS OFFICER: RAPHAEL ANSPACH
PHONE: +1 202 623-7100 EMAIL: MEDIA@IMF.ORG

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