- Mali has experienced a slowdown of economic growth during the last half year due to terms of trade losses and a locust infestation. According to the latest report by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Mali thus finds it difficult to fulfil it ambitious 2004-07 economic plans, which foresaw an annual real GDP growth of over 5 percent.
The IMF this week completed a review of Mali's economic performance, noting that Bamako authorities mostly had stuck to reform agreements made with the Fund. Mali had embarked on an ambitious macroeconomic programme in mid-2004, which included structural reforms and a strategy to reduce poverty. The plan was partially financed by the IMF.
In recent months, however, "economic performance has been adversely affected by the economy's vulnerability to exogenous shocks - in particular, terms of trade losses and a locust infestation - as well as delays in the implementation of structural reforms," IMF Deputy Managing Director Agustín Carstens noted in a statement yesterday.
Mali is heavily dependent on its rainfed agricultural sector, in particular the cotton production and export industry. This year has seen relative low world market prices for cotton but high oil prices, severely disturbing Mali's terms of trade. The conflict in Côte d'Ivoire still hinders a smooth access to Mali's nearest port city, Abidjan, thus keeping transport costs high.
Last year's desert locust infestation of the Sahel had also taken a toll on Mali's overall agricultural output. Harvests had however been relatively good due to the favourable climate with sufficient rains in most parts of the country.
The slowdown of economic growth had necessitated corrective fiscal measures by Malian authorities in 2005 to keep budgetary policies on track, Mr Carstens noted. These measures had included a scaling back of non-poverty focused spending and passing global oil price increases through to domestic pump prices.
Although the IMF executive did not reveal any statistics on Mali's economic growth in 2004, his report leaves little doubt that the targeted real GDP growth of 4.7 percent was not reached. Also the targeted 6.1 growth rate for 2005 now seems less realistic. Mali has had an impressing growth rate since 2001 and the government has foreseen further strong growth in 2006 and 2007.
To achieve this goal, authorities last year agreed with IMF recipes for poverty reduction and economic growth, which focus on structural reforms. These reforms aim at diversifying the economy, "improving the business climate and enhancing the economy's competitiveness" by increasing the government's revenue basis and privatising state-owned companies.
Mr Carstens deplored the delays in implementing Mali's structural reforms, which now needed to speed up. "Of particular importance are the ongoing reforms in the cotton sector focused on improving the producer price mechanism, and preparatory steps toward privatisation of the state-owned cotton company," the IMF leader held.
Despite the delay in Mali's implementation of structural reforms, the IMF board yesterday decided to continue funding the country's poverty reduction and growth programme. The Washington-based board approved of a disbursement of about US$ 2 million.
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