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IMF Staff Concludes Visit to Mozambique

Performance in some sectors of the economy has improved since the latter part of 2016. Growth declined to 3.8 percent in 2016 and is now projected to edge up to 4.7 percent in 2017. Publication of the detailed summary of the Kroll audit report is welcomed; more needs to be done to fill the information gaps on the use of loan proceeds.

An International Monetary Fund (IMF) staff team led by Michel Lazare visited Mozambique from July 10-19, 2017 to discuss with the authorities measures needed to follow up on the recent audit report of EMATUM, Proindicus, and MAM public sector companies. The team also assessed recent economic developments and discussed monetary and fiscal policies in the context of the 2018 budget.

At the end of the visit, Mr. Lazare issued the following statement:

"Performance in some sectors of the economy has improved since the latter part of 2016. The decisive October 2016 monetary policy tightening helped rebalance the foreign exchange market and resulted in the metical appreciating by about 30 percent vis-à-vis the US dollar since end-September 2016. This monetary stance contributed also to a decline in inflation from a year-on-year peak of 26 percent in November 2016 to about 18 percent in June, despite a large increase in fuel prices in March. Moreover, higher international coal prices and a marked increase in coal export volumes helped narrow the trade and current account deficits of the balance of payments, supporting a large accumulation of international reserves, which at end-June covered about 6 months of non-megaproject imports. On the fiscal front, the government took important steps by removing wheat and fuel subsidies and reinstating the old automatic fuel price mechanism in March.

"However, the overall outlook remains challenging. Growth declined to 3.8 percent in 2016 and is now projected to edge up to 4.7 percent in 2017, mainly on account of a surge in coal production and exports. Inflation remains elevated but is expected to decline further. Despite budget cuts in investment and in the purchase of goods and services, increased spending on wages and salaries continues to put pressure on the budget, contributing to a large accumulation of domestic arrears. Total public debt, mostly denominated in foreign currency, remains in distress and the government missed external debt payments.

"Macroeconomic policy discussions centered on the urgent need to further consolidate public finances. The team emphasized that a strong commitment to fiscal adjustment is an essential element to ensure policy sustainability, foster a decline in inflation and interest rates, limit further increases in public debt, while at the same time facilitate debt restructuring. The team stressed that the 2018 budget should decisively reduce the fiscal deficit. It should focus on eliminating tax exemptions (including for VAT), containing the expansion of the wage bill, and prioritizing the implementation of only the most critical public investments while avoiding the further accumulation of arrears. Protecting critical social programs and reinforcing the social safety net should cushion the impact of these measures on the most vulnerable segments of the population. Urgent action is also needed to strengthen the financial position of loss-making companies and limit the fiscal risks they represent.

"On the monetary side, the team welcomed the recent introduction of the new monetary policy regime centering on the use of a new policy rate (MIMO) as the central bank's main instrument of monetary policy. The team acknowledged the strong commitment of the central bank to reduce inflation. To address financial sector vulnerabilities, the team urged the central bank to remain vigilant to risks, ensure adequate liquidity provision to the economy, and continue to step up supervision and enforcement of prudential regulations.

"The team welcomed the publication of the detailed summary of the Kroll audit report by the Public Prosecutor's Office as an important step towards greater transparency regarding the borrowing undertaken by the Ematum, Proindicus, and MAM public companies. However, as highlighted in a June 24 press statement 17/243, while the report summary provides useful information on how the loans were contracted and on assets purchased by the companies, critical information gaps remain unaddressed regarding the use of loans proceeds. The team urged the government to take steps to fill the information gaps and to enhance its action plan to strengthen transparency, improve governance, and ensure accountability.

"The team met with Prime Minister Carlos do Rosario, Minister of the Economy and Finance Adriano Maleiane, Bank of Mozambique Governor Rogerio Zandamela, Public Prosecutor Beatriz Buchili, senior government officials, representatives from the Parliament, private sector, and the donor community.

"The team thanks the authorities for their continued hospitality."

Distributed by APO on behalf of International Monetary Fund (IMF).
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