afrol News, 11 March - At the closure of a donors' conference for Comoros in Doha, the archipelago secured aid worth US$ 540 million from Arab states and institutions. The amount is record high given a Comoran population of only 650,000 and an estimated total GDP of US$ 750 million.
The President of the Union of Comoros, Ahmed Abdallah Mohamed Sambi, himself represented Comoros at the donors conference in Doha, Qatar. There, he met with leaders of mostly Arab countries and institutions. And President Sambi was highly successful in securing funds for his impoverished island nation.
The Qatari hosts opened the donations rush by announcing a US$ 13 million grant funding to Comoros. This was followed up by a grant of US$ 10 million by the United Arab Emirates. Further state grants included 3 million from Oman, 3 million from Algeria, 6 million from Libya and a pledge of US 1 million from Sudan. The Arab League pledged a US$ 1.5 million grant.
According to a statement by the Qatari government, total pledges reached US$ 540 million, out of which most were grants. Overall donations by states reached US$ 90 million, charities US$ 90 million and development funds US$ 45 million. Donations by public authorities amounted to US$ 13 million, the private sector US$ 182 million and the Islamic Development Bank US$ 120 million.
These sums strongly contrast development aid sums hitherto given to Comoros. Official development assistance given Comoros in 2005 only totalled US$ 25 million, increasing to US$ 44 million in 2008, according to official statistics.
Half a year ago, Comoran authorities achieved a three-year poverty reduction agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The programme totals "only" US$ 21.5 million, out of which US$ 6.70 million were released in September 2009.
The pledges achieved in Doha - if really transferred to Comoros - will make the archipelago one of the greatest receivers of development aid per capita in coming years. And it will make the archipelago of 650,000 inhabitants largely independent from Western aid and institutions such as the IMF and World Bank.
The aid, if realised, will also strengthen President Sambi's position in Comoros. His union presidency is strongly challenged by governments of the three autonomous islands, and President Sambi earlier this month further provoked these island governments by securing an 18-month extension of his presidency in parliament.
Until now, the union presidency has had very limited budgets to promote its policies, while autonomous island governments had a more secure financial basis. If President Sambi secures the pledged funds are channelled through his office, the power balance in the Comoran Union will be dramatically changed.
Comoros has immense development challenges, with most of its population living in dire poverty. Political instability, repeated coups and civil wars had so far contributed to lack of foreign investments and interests in granting development aid. But positive developments in neighbouring Indian Ocean island states, in particular capitalising on tourism, cause some optimism regarding Comoros' development potentials.
According to President Sambi, the generous pledges made by Comoros' Arab partners should aid the archipelago "to step out of poverty." He announced the immediate set-up of a monitoring authority "with the aim of mobilising the pledged funds."
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