Tighter macroeconomic and financial policies helped to avert a deeper crisis, and gross external reserves increased more rapidly in recent months, largely exceeding the mid-2019 target. However, reserves are still below the level appropriate for commodityexporting economies (5 months of imports) to absorb terms of trade shocks. Fiscal consolidation has been tilted towards cuts in public investment. This, together with a lack of significant progress in structural reforms, has weighed on growth which remains too low. The outlook for 2019 and beyond foresees further improvement in regional reserves assuming CEMAC countries remain committed to their program objectives and new programs with CAR and Equatorial Guinea could start around end-2019. This outlook is subject to potentially significant risks, including: a significant slowdown in global growth and associated decline in oil prices; a deterioration in the security situation in some countries; and weaker implementation of IMF-supported programs.
This paper highlights annual discussions on Central African Economic and Monetary Community’s (CEMAC) Common Policies in Support of Member Countries Reform Programs. Tighter macroeconomic and financial policies helped to avert a deeper crisis, and gross external reserves increased more rapidly in recent months, also helped by a stronger implementation of CEMAC foreign exchange regulations. Reforms to support a more diversified and inclusive growth, including by improving governance and the business climate, should gain momentum to make current efforts to buttress the external position of the region sustainable. The outlook for 2019 and beyond foresees further improvement in regional reserves assuming CEMAC countries remain committed to their program objectives and new programs with Cameroon, Central African Republic and Equatorial Guinea could start around end-2019.
The regional strategy has helped stabilize the regional economic position thanks to large fiscal consolidation efforts, a tighter monetary policy, and external financial assistance. The external position improved, and external reserves picked up. However, the region remains dependent on oil revenues, with little progress in economic diversification, under-performing budget non-oil revenues and weaknesses in the financial sector.
The policy assurances included in BEAC’s letter of December 2018 were implemented as planned and the CEMAC authorities reiterated their full commitment to the strategy and their readiness to implement additional corrective measures if needed. Progress was made towards new IMF-supported program in Congo and Equatorial Guinea.
The regional strategy has helped to avert an immediate crisis but continues to face headwinds: two countries have yet to enter financing arrangements with the Fund: regional reserves have underperformed despite higher-than-projected oil prices; the projected recovery of non-oil growth has still to materialize; and the security, social, and political context remains challenging.
Consistent with the policy assurances it had provided, the BEAC has taken corrective actions, including an increase in its policy rate, to address the NFA underperformance and has made substantial progress toward finalizing by end-year the modernization of the monetary policy operational framework and the drafting of new foreign exchange regulations. A follow-up letter of support provides updated policy assurances on the NFA path.
The medium-term outlook continues to see a gradual improvement in the economic and financial situation but is subject to substantial downside risks, including further delays in the approval of financial arrangements with Congo and Equatorial Guinea, lower oil prices, and tighter global financial conditions. The region continues to face daunting challenges to diversify its economy, with a poor business environment and high perception of corruption.