The creation, in 1994, of the Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC) customs union was a major step in the regional integration process in central Africa. The implementation of the agreed regime by the member countries, however, has remained unsatisfactory. A 2002–03 initiative to improve policy implementation has largely stalled. Several recent initiatives concerning external trade provide new challenges and opportunities for welfare-enhancing reforms. Although the 1994 reforms that created the CEMAC customs union were a major step forward, the trade regime remains plagued by poor implementation.
This Selected Issues paper on the Republic of Congo analyzes the challenges of sustainable growth in the Republic of Congo. The paper highlights that it is paramount for the authorities to avoid repeating the experience of the 1980s, particularly in light of the projected decline in oil production over the next decade. It proposes a macroeconomic policy strategy that takes advantage of this unique opportunity to foster higher sustainable growth. The paper also provides a summary of various recent assessments of the quality of the Congo's public financial management system.
Congo's vital dependence on trade for development stands in contradiction with its trade policy. As a member of the CEMAC, Congo's tariff scheme at least formally is guided by CEMAC's 1994 trade regime agreement. This paper shows CEMAC's customs code is restrictive relative to that of comparable regional integration groups. The paper also discusses a number of quantitative and qualitative barriers to trade applied by Congo that render its current regime complex, nontransparent, and relatively unpredictable, compromising efforts to develop the non-oil sector and the country's export base. Moreover, Congo's high tariffs and other taxes have not led to higher fiscal revenues, as the number of exemptions granted in recent years has surged and customs administration remains weak.