During the second half of the 1980s and in the early 1990s, a prolonged deterioration of the terms of trade, a steep increase in labor costs, and the nominal appreciation of the French franc against the U.S. dollar resulted in a considerable real effective appreciation of the CFA franc (Figure 1 and Figure 2 and Appendix II).3 These developments led to a serious decline in the competitive position of the CFA franc zone and a substantial weakening of the economic situation in the region. For the WAEMU as a whole during 1990–93, real GDP growth per capita was negative, and savings and investment ratios were very low (see Table 1 and Appendix IV, Tables 4–13). The deterioration in the terms of trade, together with the slow growth of export volume, resulted in a widening of the external current account deficit to an average of 11 percent of GDP in 1990–93. The shrinking of the tax base caused by the decline in real income as well as the financial difficulties of most corporate taxpayers were reflected in a drop in the ratio of government revenue to GDP, a deterioration in the overall fiscal balance, and severe constraints on government investment. Consequently, there was a significant accumulation of both domestic and external payments arrears, a large increase in the public debt, and a decline in the net foreign assets of the BCEAO.

Recent Developments and Policy Issues