IMF's Camdessus urges Africa to end poverty

IMF's Camdessus urges Africa to end poverty

08:50 a.m. Jan 18, 2000 Eastern


                        By Luke Baker


                        LIBREVILLE, Jan 18 (Reuters) - IMF Managing Director

                        Michel Camdessus opened a summit of African heads of state in

                        Gabon on Tuesday with a challenge: seize the opportunity now if

                        you want to turn your countries around and end poverty.


                        ``We must act now,'' he told more than 20 heads of state,

                        dozens of finance ministers and central bank officials attending a

                        three-day summit in the the central African country.


                        ``I am convinced that, with the improvement in the global

                        economy we are seeing, it is time for Africa to find a way out of

                        its morass in order to move into a virtuous circle of growth,

                        poverty reduction and sustainable development.''


                        Outlining a series of priorities for the continent's leaders,

                        including poverty reduction, battling corruption and avoiding

                        conflict, the outgoing head of the IMF declared the arrival of a

                        renaissance for Africa.


                        ``The chances of a new renaissance in Africa are here, the seeds

                        have been sewn, we are now at your disposal to make this a

                        reality for the people of Africa,'' he said.


                        But Camdessus' words of hope were balanced by other

                        speakers who highlighted the huge obstacles for the continent,

                        particularly in sub-Sahara where 22 of the 44 countries currently

                        receive assistance via the IMF.



                        $1 A DAY


                        Nearly half sub-Sahara's population -- around 300 million

                        people -- lives on less than $1 a day per capita and lacks

                        adequate social and medical care, leaving them open to malaria

                        and Aids.


                        Nine out of every 10 children in the world with HIV come from

                        Africa, where 23 million are infected with the disease. One in

                        five African countries is at war.


                        ``That is a face of Africa that is not the face we wish to maintain.

                        The one we love is the one we want to extricate and develop,''

                        said Jean-Louis Sarbib, vice-president of the World Bank in

                        remarks preceding Camdessus.


                        ``We need more growth, but we need a different type of growth.

                        We need enough so that we do not have to run to stay in the

                        same place.''


                        Up for debate at the summit is the IMF's latest initiative for

                        helping the world's poorest countries, the Poverty Reduction and

                        Growth Facility.


                        The programme, introduced in November last year, replaces the

                        Enhanced Structural Adjustment Facility (ESAF) which for more

                        than a decade has been the benchmark for achieving

                        macro-economic stability in unstable countries.


                        ESAF's focus on strict budget deficit, growth and privatisation

                        targets as a pre-requisite for funding, targets countries often

                        failed to meet, was regarded as too bitter a pill for many patients

                        to swallow.


                        The Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility puts the onus of

                        designing an adjustment programme into the loan recipient's

                        hands, and tries to take into account the views of development

                        agencies and civil society.


                        For it to work, a key goal will be gross domestic product

                        growth of between five and eight percent if the poorest people

                        are to see any change in their livelihood.


                        Currently, most African countries are growing at less than four

                        percent with exceptions on either side of that level.


                        The new initiative attempts to look at poverty reduction not in

                        pure macro-economic terms but as part of a virtuous circle that

                        Camdessus believes can be created when growth is achieved

                        and coupled with monetary stability and sound distribution.


                        In a declaration ahead of the opening of the summit, African

                        heads of state pledged to meet the IMF halfway in the challenge

                        of reducing the number of Africa's deeply impoverished.


                        ``We recognize that poverty reduction is a challenge which we

                        must address ourselves, through our own solutions. We are

                        determined to move ahead in confronting this challenge head-on,

                        with the support of our development partners,'' the leaders said.



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