African ministers applaud debt deal
African finance ministers attending the IMF-World Bank Annual Meetings welcomed the G8 debt relief proposal to cancel the multilateral debt of the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPCs) but urged more initiatives to help Africa meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015.
During a September 24 press briefing, finance ministers from Niger, Kenya, and Zambia heralded the debt cancellation as an opportunity for poor countries to use the freed-up resources in their efforts to reach the MDGs. Finance ministers Ali M. Lamine Zeine and David Mwiraria from Niger and Kenya, respectively, suggested that the G8 proposal be extended to non-HIPCs with similar income and poverty levels. Kenya, for example, is not a HIPC country, but eager to reach the MDGs nonetheless, Mwiraria said. “Therefore, while appreciating what is being done for our HIPC brothers, we think we should be considered for that waiver as well as for increased aid,” he added.
The ministers also urged the IMF and World Bank to go further in simplifying and rationalizing its conditionality, and making it easier to apply. Zeine said that although the IMF had already taken encouraging steps to rationalize program conditionality, progress was still below expectations. While Zambia’s finance minister Ng’andu Magande echoed this view, he stressed that the condition-ality in these programs “must be our own” and cannot be imposed. He described Zambia’s experience as one of good cooperation, where IMF staff and Zambian authorities sit down together to discuss and draft a mutually binding agreement. Both Magande and Mwiraria strongly welcomed the potential role of the IMF’s new Policy Support Instrument (see page 291), as a nonfinancial mechanism that would give clear signals on a country’s policies.