Building Integrated Economies in West Africa [Excerpt]
Building integrated economies in West Africa : lessons in managing growth, inclusiveness, and volatility [excerpt]
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Building monetary unity in West Africa has reached an important milestone. Its institutional core, the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU), has been successfully providing the region with a common currency, a common market, and institutions tasked with conducting and coordinating economic policies. A lot has been done by the eight WAEMU member countries—Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Niger, Senegal, Togo—in preserving macroeconomic stability, low inflation, fiscal integrity, debt suitability, and the fixed exchange rate.
At the same time, policymakers in the WAEMU face major challenges—achieving high and inclusive growth, reducing poverty, managing commodity price volatility, and addressing domestic and external shocks. They have to balance pressing development needs against the imperative to maintain economic stability and contain government deficits and public debt. Regional growth still remains uneven and thus hasn’t led to substantial poverty reduction. Regional trade is low, and local products aren’t sufficiently competitive internationally. The private sector needs more vibrancy to bolster growth and job creation.
The book you have just opened takes stock of key developments in the WAEMU in recent years and sketches the agenda for reforms that could foster further growth, inclusiveness, and integration. Drawing on a wide range of work that captures the depth and breadth of the IMF’s analysis of the region, it covers such key issues as growth and inclusiveness, fiscal policy and coordination, single monetary policy, financial sector development and regional capital markets, and trade and competitiveness. Furthermore, given the considerable interest in monetary unions in general, this book aims to outline the costs and benefits for policymakers in other countries contemplating joining an existing currency union or establishing a new one.
The IMF is committed to being a partner to help WAEMU countries manage these challenges, and we have stepped up efforts to support them through continued policy dialogue, increased capacity building, more analytical work, and additional financing.
This book is one facet of that continued commitment. It draws on international experience and contributions from regional policy makers, IMF and World Bank staff, and academics. The findings and policy discussions collected within focus on both the WAEMU as a whole, as well as the individual circumstances of its member countries.
We hope this book will serve as a resource for policymakers in the region and for those more generally interested in monetary unions and low-income countries.
This book provides a comprehensive analysis of the key macroeconomic and financial sector issues in the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU). It combines coverage of the various analytical topics with a discussion of the institutional setup of the economic and monetary union, and provides background information on the social, political, and economic setting. An understanding of all of these areas is important for the formulation and successful implementation of sound policies.
This book completes the series of books on regional integrations in developing countries published recently by the IMF. Included among them are The CFA Franc Zone: Common Currency, Uncommon Challenges (C. Tsangarides and A-M. Gulde, editors, 2008), Oil Wealth in Central Africa: Policies for Inclusive Growth (B. Akitoby and S. Coorey, editors, IMF, 2012), The Eastern Caribbean Economic and Currency Union: Macroeconomic and Financial Systems (A. Schipke, A. Cebotari, and N. Thacker, editors, IMF 2013), and The Quest for Regional Integration in the East African Community (P. Drummond, S. Kal Wajid, and O. Williams, editors, 2014).
The authors would like to express special thanks to Antoinette Sayeh, Roger Nord, and Ali Mansoor for guidance and encouragement. This book would not have been possible without the support of many economists and research assistants, cutting across a large number of IMF departments and the experts of the BCEAO, the WAEMU Commission, and the WAEMU Securities Agency. The authors would also like to express their appreciation for the useful comments and suggestions received from the authorities in the region during annual regional consultations with WAEMU institutions. The authors are also indebted to Bruno Cabriliac (Bank of France) and Louise Cord (World Bank) for their comments.
Yanmin Ye has provided research assistance and formatting for the many figures and tables in record time. The authors would also like to thank Linda Kean and Patricia Loo for initial input. Most important, the authors would like to thank Lorraine Coffey for an outstanding job in copy editing the manuscript and Joseph V. Procopio of the IMF Communication Department, who managed the book’s editorial production from beginning to end.
Lessons from the WAEMU: Findings and Recommendations
The West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU) is one of four currency unions in the world. The WAEMU consists of eight low-income countries—Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Niger, Senegal, Togo. It coordinates its member countries' macroeconomic policies, and addresses a number of important common challenges they face. The Central Bank of West African States (BCEAO),1 the central bank of the WAEMU, issues the common currency, the Communauté Financière Africaine (CFA) franc, pegged to the euro; conducts a single regional monetary policy; pools foreign exchange reserves of members; and supervises the banking system of the WAEMU. The WAEMU has reached an important milestone in its development and needs to advance to the next level, which would bring most of its countries closer to the status of emerging economies. Against the background of the long and varied history of this unique monetary union, this book examines how the WAEMU can achieve its development and stability objectives, improve the livelihood of its people and inclusiveness of economic growth, while preserving financial stability, enhancing competitiveness, and maintaining the fixed exchange rate.
The WAEMU and its member countries face five distinct challenges in meeting these goals:
- Increasing trend growth, while making it more inclusive and poverty-reducing.
- Creating sufficient fiscal space for growth-enhancing projects, while preserving macroeconomic stability and avoiding unsustainable debt buildup.
- Improving the efficiency of regional monetary policy so that it can contribute more actively to achieving the goals of price stability and credibility of the currency peg, and to the overall economic development of the union. Enhancing financial inclusiveness, stability, and depth so that the financial sector can play its role in mobilizing savings and converting them into productive investments.
- Accelerating regional integration, deriving more benefit from regional trade and financial integration, while using the benefits of the economy of scale to increase international competitiveness.
These five challenges are the organizing principle for this book.
OVERVIEW AND POLICY SETTING
The WAEMU, simultaneously a customs and a currency union, is probably one of the most advanced integration groups among developing countries. Improved competitiveness, economic convergence, common market, policy coordination, and law harmonization are the statutory objective of the Union. Achievements have been substantial but much remains to be done. Several countries remain noncompliant with the convergence criteria, that is, the common integration goals set by WAEMU members, which were revised in 2015 and should be met by 2019. The WAEMU is moving toward harmonizing budget laws and procedures in member countries, including budget and accounting laws, and laws governing public accounting and the chart of accounts, although progress has been slow. Multilateral surveillance focuses on members’ compliance with convergence criteria and their compatibility with the Union’s monetary policy. The Union has achieved progress in pursuing a common market and has established a common external tariff, which was expanded and revised in 2015 to include all Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) countries. However, nontariff restrictions on regional trade still persist and not all impediments to the declared free movement of people and capital in the region have been eliminated. Finally, the WAEMU conducts a single monetary policy, with the goal of preserving price stability, although its effectiveness remains constrained by shallow financial markets.
The macroeconomic performance of the WAEMU has been uneven and has not yet led to decisive breakthroughs in poverty reduction or improvement in overall quality of living. Though historically low, growth in the WAEMU has increased recently, driven by structural reforms and economic recovery in the region’s largest countries. With the currency pegged to the euro, inflation in the region had traditionally been low. However, high fiscal deficits have been exerting increasing pressures on the external position. The combined fiscal deficit of the WAEMU has widened recently, largely reflecting rising levels of public investment in infrastructure in several countries. Because of the high import content of this investment, the rising fiscal deficits have exerted pressure on the current account deficit, the gross reserves of the BCEAO, and the net foreign assets of commercial banks. Fiscal consolidation is needed in coming years, consistent with the recently reaffirmed WAEMU convergence criteria. To maintain much-needed infrastructure investment, including public investment, steps to increase tax revenue and control current expenditure will be essential. Should the planned fiscal consolidation in member countries fail to materialize, the BCEAO may need to consider a tighter stance. Prudential standards in the WAEMU are weaker than in comparable countries. About a quarter of banks do not meet these prudential standards. Ongoing efforts to strengthen bank supervision and raise prudential standards go in the right direction but will take time and need to be accelerated. Steps to upgrade the regulatory framework and build buffers in the financial system should be accelerated before downside risks materialize.
The WAEMU has all the necessary institutional instruments to implement sound and coordinated macroeconomic policies. Fiscal-monetary policy coordination is an important precondition for macroeconomic stability in a currency union. There is room for improvement of such coordination in the WAEMU. A coherent framework is needed for the WAEMU Commission and the BCEAO. This could help align and mutually reinforce their so-far largely autonomous efforts at implementing fiscal and monetary policies. There is ample theoretical evidence that mutual adaptation of fiscal and monetary policy on a continuous timeline can lead to successfully reaching policy objectives. In normal times, ministries of finance should continue to target long-term debt sustainability, while the BCEAO should focus on inflation. This can be achieved through mutual adaptation of fiscal deficit levels and policy rates. During stress times, the fiscal policies of finance ministries should still target debt sustainability, while the BCEAO’s monetary policies should target inflation. However, in the short term, the BCEAO should be willing to tolerate temporarily high inflation as a strategy for increasing the likelihood of meeting the inflation target in the long term. Ministries of finance can focus on stabilizing output and employment at the expense of a temporary deviation from a sustainable debt path.
GROWTH AND INCLUSIVENESS
The WAEMU remains vulnerable to exogenous shocks. It should increase its resilience to these shocks and reduce its macroeconomic volatility. The WAEMU’s economic performance has improved only modestly, while idiosyncratic shocks have been frequent. Although further growth diagnostics would be needed to better understand the cause of these shocks, some unambiguous recommendations emerge at this point. Political stability is clearly a must. At the same time, continuous broad-based reforms are needed to foster investment, trade and structural competitiveness, and financial development. Improvements in health, education, and institutional quality also are essential for economic development. In addition, there is a need for more efficient shock-smoothing mechanisms such as larger fiscal buffers, greater financial market development and, eventually, a centralized insurance scheme.
The WAEMU’s insufficient product diversification is one reason for the region’s low resilience to shocks. Diversification should be strengthened through further structural transformation. The structure of economies in the WAEMU has changed very slowly over the past decades, as has been the case for many other low-income countries. The majority of the region’s population is still employed in low-productivity agriculture and the secondary sector is underdeveloped. Further structural transformation and diversification of output and exports could yield significant growth dividends as resources are reallocated from low-productivity sectors, such as agriculture, to higher productivity sectors, such as manufacturing. This process should be assisted by policies that focus on addressing weaknesses that hinder entry into new lines of economic activity. These weaknesses include deficiencies in infrastructure, education and training, financial services, trade networks, functioning factor markets, and supportive regulatory environments. The regional economic plan hopes to target key areas such as improvements to governance, access to energy, and the development of regional infrastructure and human resources. But structural transformation can also occur “within sectors” and create productivity gains through, for example, implementation of quality improvements to existing products and services. To promote strong, inclusive growth, agriculture should be a particular focus of “within sector” productivity improvements in the WAEMU, as well as in other low-income countries where the primary sector employs a relatively high share of the workforce and has a low productivity level. Agriculture is particularly important in the context of rapid population growth, since other sectors are unlikely to be capable of creating sufficient jobs to absorb the large projected increases in the workforce.
For growth in the WAEMU to be durable and sustained, it should be inclusive, with benefits shared widely across income and gender groups, and between rural and urban areas. Growth performance depends on its distributional characteristics. While inclusivity is good for poverty reduction, growth is even more important. Although growth episodes in the world have sometimes been accompanied by increased inequalities, the fundamental question is one of equality: Are the benefits of growth shared equally across different income groups and do all income groups and both genders have an equal opportunity to contribute their fair share to growth? While poverty has fallen in the last two decades in most WAEMU countries, poverty reduction has slowed in recent years. Although available indicators sometimes give conflicting signals on distributional shifts, two case studies—one on Senegal and one on Mali—suggest that people in the middle of the income distribution usually receive the most benefit of growth, and mainly in urban areas. Further progress in poverty reduction and inclusiveness would require sustained high growth and exploration of growth opportunities in the sectors with high earning potential for the poor. Better-targeted social policies and more attention to regional distribution of spending would also help reduce poverty and improve inclusiveness.
To achieve sustainable high growth, substantial additional financial resources should be mobilized from both regional and international sources. The regional financial market has grown substantially in the past decade but still remains relatively shallow and falls short of supplying sufficient long-term financing for growth-enhancing public and private investment projects. Although the institutional structure for financing mobilization is broadly in place, a number of factors increase financing costs and hinder market efficiency. These include the undiversified issuer and narrow investor bases, banks’ preference for short-term securities, the limited set of maturities offered by sovereigns, underdeveloped secondary markets for bills and bonds, organizational issues, and limited access to information. The yield curve in the region has been generally upward sloping as interest rates at issuance were higher for securities with longer maturities. Interest rates have been largely driven by country ratings, market liquidity conditions, and bidder appetite at the time of issuance. The principal component analysis suggests that the issuance volumes offered also affected the level of interest rates, with seasonality, issuance procedures, and the frequency and predictability of issues each playing a role. Further reforms could help the region reap the full benefits of a more dynamic securities market to finance growth-enhancing projects.
FISCAL POLICY AND COORDINATION
Fiscal policy will remain the primary policy tool available to individual WAEMU countries and should be strengthened by the application of well-designed fiscal rules. However, high fiscal deficits are exerting increasing pressures on the external position often reflecting the high import content of domestic investment. These rising fiscal deficits continue to exert pressure on the current account deficit, the gross reserves of the BCEAO, the common central bank, and the net foreign assets of commercial banks. Fiscal consolidation during the coming years is needed, consistent with the recently reaffirmed WAEMU convergence criteria. In this context, well-designed fiscal rules could be helpful in achieving the consolidation objective and disciplining individual countries’ performance. In practice, the existing convergence criteria and other fiscal rules applied in the WAEMU have proven to be of limited effectiveness.
Economic convergence and the recently revised convergence criteria provide an important tool for safeguarding macroeconomic stability in the monetary union and preserving the single currency and the fixed exchange rate regime. The recent revision of convergence criteria is a step in the right direction, with its reduction in the number of convergence criteria and focus on fiscal sustainability of the revised surveillance framework. However, scope should be provided to exceed the budget deficit convergence criterion for temporary periods in the event of adverse economic shocks, subject to well-defined rules. The 70 percent of debt-to-GDP ratio should be viewed as an upper limit and not an optimal level toward which to converge, and debt management should be driven by regular debt sustainability analyses rather than by the debt criterion. Steps are needed to increase countries’ ownership of the new criteria by encouraging them to transpose regional rules into national laws and strengthen monitoring and oversight, including through the establishment of fiscal councils at the national level.
Markets have an important role to play in enforcing macroeconomic discipline and their further development should be a significant part of the agenda of WAEMU governments. Achieving fiscal discipline in a monetary union without a central fiscal authority, while crucial for the union’s stability, is challenging institutionally and practically. While sovereign interest rates are broadly responsive to governments’ fiscal behavior, further development of the regional financial market is needed for an improvement of the effectiveness of market discipline in the WAEMU. In addition, fiscal aspects of the WAEMU’s regional surveillance framework should be reconsidered to improve both design and enforceability. Fiscal risks should be better mitigated. In particular, as countries start to broaden their financing options for large investment projects, policymakers’ attention should turn to fiscal risks, including those related to contingent liabilities and off-balance-sheet items, which may not be fully apparent in “headline” fiscal indicators. Transparent disclosure and management of fiscal risks would help reach this objective. This should be carried out by strengthening incentives to ensure that risks are identified, estimated, and carefully managed; promoting earlier, smoother policy responses; increasing confidence among stakeholders in the quality of fiscal management; reducing uncertainty for investors and taxpayers; and improving access to international capital markets.
The procyclical nature of public investment is a significant impediment to stable and high growth in the WAEMU and needs to be reconsidered. Countries facing difficulties seem compelled to drastically cut back investment in bad times. Countercyclical fiscal policy rules could help preserve investment levels in the WAEMU, where such rules can become important anchors of medium-term fiscal policy over the cycle. This would help preserve fiscal discipline at the aggregate level. Some flexibility in fiscal convergence criteria could help mitigate the strong pro-cyclicality of public investment. A countercyclical fiscal rule would allow for some positive correlation, with smaller deficits (larger surpluses) in booms and larger deficits (smaller surpluses) in contractions. At the same time, because shocks affecting WAEMU countries are highly asymmetric, there is room for establishing fiscal federalism arrangements or for adopting a form of risk sharing (or group insurance) to mitigate the incidence of these shocks. Risk-sharing mechanisms would aim to allocate larger financial resources to the union members exposed to negative shocks.
Creating the fiscal space needed to finance growth-enhancing projects will remain a major challenge for all WAEMU countries. This should be addressed on both the country and the regional level. To create more fiscal space for priority spending, including infrastructure investment, it will be important to look at how much current spending could be constrained, for example, by reducing subsidies and transfers. It will also be essential to minimize the risk that a gradual increase in some countries’ central government wage bill as a share of GDP undermines the capacity to undertake progrowth policies in the Union. The reversal of any such trend (currently projected for some countries) will require firm regional resolve. Additional efforts in these areas will be instrumental to closing the gap between the WAEMU and high-growth countries. In the context of supporting growth, tax policies should also aim at enhancing efficiency, in addition to creating fiscal space. To improve the quality of spending, greater emphasis needs to be placed on adequate safeguards for a well-functioning public investment system. Such safeguards could include strategic guidance for public investment and preliminary screening for consistency with the strategic goals of government; formal project appraisal; independent review of appraisals; transparent project selection and well-structured budgeting; timely project implementation; active adjustment for changes in project circumstances; facility operation; and ex-post project evaluations against approved projects. Additional efforts are needed to raise revenue and improve fiscal institutions to enhance the composition and quality of spending. Also, investments need to be fully integrated in medium-term budget frameworks and significant maintenance costs must be taken into account.
Better tax coordination and tax policy harmonization could help improve revenue collection and enhance the fiscal space. The WAEMU’s tax coordination process is one of the most advanced in the world but remains in many areas ineffective. The framework has, to some extent, succeeded in converging tax systems, particularly statutory tax rates, and may have contributed to improving revenue mobilization. Important lessons can be drawn from the WAEMU experience, especially whether it’s best to take a top-down approach to coordination or a softer approach of sharing best practices and limiting certain types of harmful tax competition. Sound budget institutions are essential to implementing tax and broader fiscal policies effectively and efficiently. Such institutions—defined as the structures and formal and informal rules and procedures that govern budget planning, approval, and implementation—help ensure government accountability and prevent leakage of public funds. They also increase efficiency of scarce public resources and improve the chance of maintaining fiscal stability and meeting social development needs.
REGIONAL MONETARY POLICY
Regional monetary policy has substantial scope for becoming a more active contributor to regional development and financial stability, but remains constrained by shallow financial markets. The institutional and other characteristics jointly needed for an independent monetary policy under a fixed exchange rate regime are present. The BCEAO can control regional interest rates, which diverge substantially from the euro area rates, as capital mobility is limited. Moreover, the BCEAO has substantial weight in the banking system and therefore can exercise sufficient influence on monetary conditions in the area. The BCEAO has the needed instruments (interest rates and reserve requirements) for achieving the goals of its monetary policy. In the absence of the exchange rate channel, all other channels of monetary policy transmission (through the volume of credit, interest rates, asset prices, and expectations) can in principle be more active. However, shallow financial markets and interest rate rigidities impede the transmission of monetary policy signals and the link from the BCEAO’s policy actions to market interest rates. Inflation remains extremely weak and can affect both only marginally. To improve monetary policy implementation, the BCEAO should also continue developing deep and functioning interbank, secondary debt, stock, and other financial markets. Improving the transmission of BCEAO policy actions to inflation by reducing price and interest rate rigidities, in particular by introducing more flexibility of deposit rates, is also important. The current monetary stance remains appropriate. However, if the planned fiscal consolidation in member countries fails to materialize, the BCEAO will need to monitor the risks and consider a tighter stance.
Regional monetary policy could have a stronger impact on liquidity conditions and inflation in the region and on individual WAEMU countries if the transmission mechanism were improved. The transmission to individual WAEMU countries of the BCEAO’s single monetary policy has remained, on average, limited and asymmetric. This is despite some recent progress in regional financial development. The impact of a single monetary policy can be limited for the region as a whole, but may be significant for individual countries with more developed financial markets and/or different product market structures and institutions. The hypothesis of an asymmetric transmission of single monetary policy actions to individual countries can be tested empirically, in particular, the impact of the policy interest rate changes on each WAEMU country’s deposit and lending rates and inflation. BCEAO policy rate changes have no impact on deposit rates. The main channel of transmission of a single monetary policy to individual countries is through the link between BCEAO’s single policy rate and the lending rates in individual countries; this link is relatively strong in Benin, Burkina Faso, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Senegal, and Togo. It is very weak in Cote d’Ivoire and Niger. The link to core inflation is observed only in the same countries. However, the link to overall inflation, which is the ultimate goal of monetary policy, can be reliably traced only in Benin, Senegal, and Togo. In this context, further developing financial markets, increasing financial intermediation, and fostering competition in the banking sector are crucial to improving the effectiveness of a single monetary policy for individual WAEMU countries.
Elevated levels of central bank liquidity provision to commercial banks poses potential risks to stability. Commercial bank borrowing from the central bank represents around 10 percent of total liabilities in WAEMU countries compared with less than 1 percent in most other African countries. The underlying causes of elevated liquidity provision are likely to include a combination of widening fiscal and external imbalances, and carry trade activity by some banks. To the extent that these drivers, in turn, result from weaknesses in fiscal, monetary, or supervisory coordination between national and supranational bodies, the WAEMU experience may also provide lessons for other monetary unions. High levels of central bank borrowing by the banking sector can pose risks to fiscal and financial stability, financial development, and monetary policy effectiveness. Therefore, even in the absence of a change in the inflation outlook, the BCEAO should monitor closely the evolution of such risks and consider whether any preemptive policy action might be appropriate. Possible measures might include reducing fiscal deficits of individual countries in the Union, which would reduce commercial banks’ demand for central bank funding to finance them; discouraging carry trade activity by commercial banks; mitigating market distortions through changes in prudential regulation; relaxing regulatory barriers to entry for financial institutions other than domestic banks; and issuing a greater share of public debt externally. The implementation of the BCEAO’s monetary policy with a view to achieving the price stability objective requires a better understanding of the degree of sensitivity of the inflation rate to changes in the economic and financial environment. The results show that monetary and financial variables have an influence on inflation. Their impact on the evolution of prices is evident over the short and long terms. In particular, the impact of the BCEAO marginal lending rate and money market rate on inflation is significant, whatever the time horizon. Domestic credit is just as significant as the BCEAO’s key rates and the money supply. The impact of domestic credit on inflation appears to be stronger than that of interest rates. Furthermore, the output gap, which has been negative, has had an overall moderating effect on inflation over the recent period. The impact observed over the long term is related to the fact that the transmission of interest rate fluctuations to inflation depends heavily on the manner and speed with which they are reflected in borrowing rates and in demand among economic agents. In addition, the fiscal deficit (or public spending), as well as imported inflation, have considerable effects on the dynamics of inflation in the WAEMU. The impact of imported inflation is stronger than that of the marginal lending rate.
FINANCIAL DEVELOPMENT AND STABILITY
The level of financial development in the WAEMU remains insufficient to support financial inclusion and broad-based growth. The financial system in the WAEMU is dominated by the banking sector, but is evolving rapidly with the emergence of new transnational banking groups and microfinance institutions. The regional securities and equity market is a marginal source of funding, except for governments. The interbank market remains shallow. The banking system in the region is highly heterogeneous. While most banks are adequately capitalized and profitable, pockets of vulnerability, including public banks, have been identified. Compliance with prudential norms remains low for a number of ratios, suggesting a degree of regulatory forbearance, and some of these norms are not in line with international standards. Stress tests and financial soundness indicators show that concentration of lending and asset quality pose significant risks. The rising sovereign-bank linkage requires close monitoring. Compliance with key prudential ratios remains insufficient and needs to improve. Recent capacity building efforts at the WAEMU Banking Commission are welcome but need to be reinforced by strengthening and effectively implementing risk-based supervisory tools and processes, including those related to supervision of anti-money laundering/countering the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) measures. A stronger corrective action framework should be put in place to reduce regulatory forbearance and better enforce compliance with prudential norms. This should include taking timely and effective corrective measures against weak and/or noncompliant banks. The move to Basel II/III standards will be an opportunity to bring prudential rules closer to international norms. As this process is taking time, authorities should meanwhile tighten certain rules, such as that governing risk concentration and the provisioning of nonperforming loans. Authorities should also increase banks’ capital adequacy levels, including by raising operating banks’ minimum share capital to 10 billion CFA franc. The authorities should also closely monitor banks’ exposure to foreign exchange risks and strengthen prudential limits to address them. Moving to consolidated supervision and application of International Financial Reporting Standards should also be a high priority.
Financial inclusion is an important component of inclusive growth and needs to be improved in the WAEMU. WAEMU countries lag behind peer countries in several dimensions of financial inclusion: access to finance is low, especially for the most vulnerable parts of the population, and the financial sector appears to only modestly contribute to the population’s ability to deal with shocks. Private sector credit-to-GDP ratios, however, appear broadly in line with WAEMU countries’ fundamentals. Public policies, such as investments in infrastructure and the social sectors, could help close these gaps. From the firms’ perspectives, policies to reduce participation costs in the financial sector and to lower collateral requirements could increase firms’ access to financing, and thus significantly boost GDP. Further development of well-regulated and supervised microfinance institutions could also help improve financial inclusion. Trust is an essential ingredient for financial sector development. To build this trust, it is essential that first-time depositors in microfinance institutions have a positive experience with depositing their hard-earned savings in these institutions. This seems to require a consolidation of the many small and unprofitable microfinance institutions that have proliferated and operated out of the authorities’ control.
Preserving financial stability will be critical for the proper functioning of the financial system and growth as the regions open up to more foreign investment and capital flows. The WAEMU authorities should enforce existing prudential regulations and raise standards to international best practice. Ongoing efforts to strengthen bank supervision and raise prudential standards are going in the right direction but will take time and need to be accelerated. In the interim, it is important to proceed expeditiously with plans to raise banks’ capital requirements. Steps to upgrade the regulatory framework and build buffers in the financial system should be accelerated before downside risks materialize. It is also urgent to subject bank holding companies incorporated in the WAEMU to appropriate banking regulation and consolidated supervision. Deposit insurance and financial stability funds should be made operational as a matter of priority. A single and independent administrative resolution authority should be established to ensure prompt and effective resolution of banks with negative capital. The emergence of regional banking groups requires the development of supervision on a consolidated basis and strengthening of cooperation with banking supervisors in countries where these groups operate. The increasing exposure of banks to sovereigns is also a risk that needs to be recognized, including through a nonzero weight on government paper in capital adequacy calculations. Microprudential regulation should be revised to bring certain prudential standards closer to international best practice, for example on risk concentration, classification of claims, and provisioning, while taking into account the regional context. The move to Basel II will help address many of these issues.
The WAEMU’s financial crisis prevention mechanism is a critical instrument in the maintenance of macroeconomic stability, and its framework needs strengthening. Crisis prevention requires greater transparency, including through the regular and timely compilation and publication of financial soundness indicators for all member countries. Regular stress tests would be a welcome step toward the introduction of an early warning system. There is also substantial scope for improving the bank resolution framework, which would reduce the budgetary cost of government intervention. Swift action is necessary, including giving broader powers to the supervisor and close collaboration with other supervisors in the case of cross-border groups. To improve transparency and market discipline, authorities should improve the quality of financial data as well as compile and publish financial soundness indicators on a regular and timely basis. They should also continue developing macroprudential policy and analyses, with regular stress tests and early-warning indicators. The deposit insurance and financial stability funds are key components of a financial stability and resolution toolkit and should be made operational without any further delay. Bank resolution is a protracted process in the WAEMU, due to the division of power among a number of institutions at the regional and national levels. The authorities should reconsider this architecture and put in place a single and independent administrative resolution authority to allow for a less complicated and faster resolution, in line with international standards and best practices.
Mobile banking offers opportunities to jump-start financial inclusion in the WAEMU. Mobile phone penetration in the WAEMU is the same as it is in Kenya and Tanzania. However, while mobile banking has taken off in these countries, it has not done so in the WAEMU. Transaction costs, issues of network interoperability, and legal and regulatory barriers may represent substantial constraints to the mobile market development in the WAEMU. To increase mobile banking in the WAEMU, several safeguards will have to be put into place including minimum market entry requirements, financial integrity controls, funds safeguards, and payment stability.
Fast-developing regional banking groups create new opportunities but also new risks for financial sector stability and development in the WAEMU. Pan-African banking groups hold about 50 percent of the assets of the WAEMU banking system. Some originated in neighboring countries and brought along expertise in providing financial services to underserved customers such as women, people with primary or less education, and people living in rural areas. A few of these pan-African banking groups originated in the WAEMU and hold more assets abroad than they hold in the WAEMU. To reap the full benefits of these pan-African groups, the authorities need to subject resident holding companies of banking groups to bank regulation and supervision, consolidated supervision, and stress tests. They also need to build on their experience in supervisory colleges of pan-African banking groups with a non-resident parent to set up supervisory colleges for pan-African groups with a WAEMU parent.
COMPETITIVENESS AND INTEGRATION
With very few exportable products, external competitiveness largely depends on upgrading capacity in a few key sectors. The WAEMU’s external competiveness remains low. The current account deficit is relatively high and driven by continued investment efforts. In the medium term, it would gradually decline and be matched by sufficient financial inflows subject to the implementation of government’s consolidation plans, and helped by a favorable oil price outlook. The real effective exchange rate of the CFA franc appears to be broadly in line with fundamentals based on different methodologies that give a qualitatively similar assessment. However, international reserve coverage should increase to provide stronger buffers against immediate short-term risks. Structural nonprice competitiveness and investment efficiency are also insufficient, and improvements will be essential to ensure that planned large investment programs translate into growth and export gains as well as increased private inflows into the region.
WAEMU countries should start exploiting the full potential of regional trade as an engine for growth. Regional trade is dominated by a few countries and flows. The basic structure of trade interconnectedness in the WAEMU remains broadly unchanged, although regional trade became, on average, tighter with increased bilateral flows and more focus by individual countries on regional trade. The power structure in the region has shifted as Côte d’Ivoire emerged as the only key trading partner and Senegal remained mainly an intermediary. There is a large core and a small periphery in regional trade. All WAEMU countries participating in regional trade experience a network effect. This explicitly takes into account the fact that a country is connected to other countries in the region and assesses the value of these connections. The difference between the nominal GDP and the network value of a country can be positive, neutral, or negative, depending on the value of its connections to other countries in the region. Côte d’Ivoire, Senegal, and Mali can be the main origin of shocks for the rest of the WAEMU economies, including the core and the periphery. They can also be the main origin of shocks to each other, as they belong to the same cluster. Côte d’Ivoire and Senegal are simultaneously playing the gate-keeping role and can be factors for either propagation or absorption of shocks originating elsewhere in the network.
To preserve the gains of regional integration, WAEMU countries should refrain from deviating from the common external tariff of the ECOWAS. The macroeconomic effects of a replacement of the WAEMU common external tariff with the ECOWAS common external tariff on WAEMU member states could be substantial. The new tariff would have an impact on trade levels, government revenue, and growth. The change in the tariff would increase WAEMU imports from other ECOWAS countries but reduce imports from the rest of the world. The impact on government revenue would vary widely by country, ranging from a loss in most countries of up to 2½ percent of current revenue to an increase in a few countries of up to 3 percent. Finally, an increase in relative import prices induced by an increase in the average tariff rate could yield a negative effect on GDP. The WAEMU Commission’s intention to safeguard the common market through a uniform application of the ECOWAS common external tariff across WAEMU member countries and nonapplication of additional protection to 3 percent of tariff lines is welcome.
The WAEMU region can do more to attract foreign investment. Even government debt, the least risky investment instrument, attracts very little attention from nonresident investors, unlike in neighboring Ghana and Nigeria. Possible reasons for this situation include unattractive nominal interest rates in the region, the relatively small size of the market, the lack of a secondary market, cumbersome exchange controls and regulations, fragmentation of the regional market, insufficient communication on the issuances and the language issue, insufficient political stability, and poor investment climate. To make the regional market more attractive to foreign investors, sound macroeconomic policies and a solid financial sector are prerequisites. Beyond this, communication with nonresidents should be improved with Agence UMOA Titres playing a key role in this area; the development of WAEMU financial markets, including the secondary market for government securities, should be accelerated; the size of the market should be increased by eliminating segmentation of the sovereign bond market; and finally, taxation needs to be harmonized and double taxation avoided.
The WAEMU’s experience shows that economic integration may have a significant impact on poverty reduction. Until now, the capacity of trade and financial and deep integration to foster growth has been rather disappointing. This result has been partly due to weak implementation of regional rules. However, the WAEMU has benefitted from a good growth-to-poverty reduction conversion. The WAEMU’s experience suggests two lessons to improve the poverty reduction impact of economic integration. First, community policies should be targeted in sectors where regional policies’ comparative advantage is the strongest. It is therefore a political priority to strengthen regional public goods supply, particularly for regional transportation and energy networks, but also for regional financial information networks. Second, particular attention must be given to the distributive effects of economic integration. The effect of integration policies on living and poverty standards within the WAEMU is different across sectors. A number of regional policies spontaneously contribute to gap reduction between member countries. These include agricultural market integration, epidemic reduction programs, and financial service access development. Inversely, trade integration, transportation network development, and skilled labor mobility can lead to a concentration of benefits in the countries initially the richest. Increased momentum for intracommunity transfers must accompany a strengthened integration in order to compensate its distributive effects.
Calixte Ahokpossi is an economist in the Strategy, Policy and Review Department of the International Monetary Fund. He holds a Ph.D. in Economics from Boston University. His research interest includes fiscal and monetary policy, financial sector development, industrial organization and international macroeconomics.
Karim Barhoumi is an economist in the African Department at the IMF. He holds a Ph.D. in applied econometrics from Marseille University in France. Prior to joining IMF, he worked as an economist at the French central Bank and at the IMF Center of Economics and Finance in Kuwait. He has published in several international journals in the area of applied macroeconomics and short forecasting (Economic Modeling, Oxford Bulletin of Economic and Statistics, Journal of Policy Modeling.)
Olivier Basdevant is a senior economist at the IMF. He holds a Ph.D. in Economics from the Sorbonne University in Paris. Prio to joining the IMF he advised Ministries of Finance (Russia, Lithuania), as well as central banks (Estonia, New Zealand), on enhancing their eocnomic fore-casting tools. His publications have focussed on economic modeling and forecasting, fiscal rules, strategies for fiscal adjustment, inflation targeting, and inclusive growth.
François Boutin-Dufresne is a strategist in economics and global markets. Prior to joining Pavilion Global Markets, he worked at the IMF, the Caisse de Dépôt et Placement du Québec, and the Government of Canada. In addition to his professional duties, François was also part-time professor at the University of Ottawa and the Université de Montréal. Over the past years, he has published several articles on global economics and finance for various audiences, including a book with the chief economist of the World Bank, Trajectories of the World Economy. In his career, he worked on a broad set of issues ranging from development economics and finance to global financial markets to developing and emerging markets both in the public and private sector.
Qiang Cui is an economist at the IMF. He has worked on economic research and policy in Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Carribean region. Previously, he also worked on economic policy and regional infrastructure issues at the World Bank and on public policy and private sector consult-ing in China and in the United States. He has published on macroeconomic and fiscal policy issues in Comparative Economic Studies, European Investment Bank Staff Papers, World Development, and several IMF and World Bank publications. He holds degrees of B. Sc. from East China Normal University and of MPA/ID from Harvard University.
Sébastien Dessus is a program leader at the World Bank, in charge of macroeconomic, gover-nance, and poverty programs for Sahelian countries. He previously served as lead economist for Ghana, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea, as senior economist for Lebanon and West Bank and Gaza, and for the office of the World Bank Chief Economist. Prior to joining the World Bank, he served as a senior economist at the OECD Development Center. Sebastien Dessus holds a Ph.D. in economics from Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne University, and has published extensively in academic journals and books on issues related to growth, trade, environment, poverty, political economy, and general equilibrium modeling.
Jose L. Diaz-Sanchez is an economist at the Office of the World Bank Chief Economist. He has also held assignments at the World Bank’s Independent Evaluation Group, the International Monetary Fund, and the Central Bank of Peru. He obtained his Ph.D. in economics from Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne University (Paris School of Economics). Dr. Diaz-Sanchez has researched and published on macroeconomics topics such as housing macro-linkages, public finance, inter-nal and external imbalances, and international finance.
Christine Dieterich is Deputy Division Chief in the IMF’s African Department and mission chief for Benin. Prior to joining the IMF, she worked in the German Ministry of Finance on international relations. Her main area of expertise is fiscal policy, in particular, tax policy and international macroeconomics.
Mame Astou Diouf is an economist in the Surveillance Policy Division of the IMF’s Strategy, Policy, and Review department. She has extensively worked on the design of Fund surveillance policies. Prior to joining the IMF, she worked at the World Bank and in the telecommunications sector in Senegal. Dr. Diouf has a Ph.D. in Economics from the Université de Montréal (Canada) and Master’s degree from Toulouse School of Economics (France) in econometrics, economics and statistics, and finance.
William Gbohoui is completing a Ph.D. in Macroeconomics and Public Economics at University of Montreal (Canada), where he also taught macroeconomics and econometrics. His research interests lie on quantitative macroeconomic theory, empirical macroeconomics, fiscal policy, and international trade. His ongoing research develops Dynamic Stochastic General Equilibrium mod-els to assess the implications of public policies. He also holds a M.Sc. in statistics and economics from ENSEA (Abidjan) and a B.Sc. in Statistics from ENEAM (University d’Abomey-Calavi, Benin). Previously, he was a program officer at the Ministry of Labor in Benin. He also worked for the International Monetary Fund and the African Development Bank.
Samuel Guérineau is an Associate Professor, Université d’Auvergne (UDA) since 2003, researcher at the Centre d’Etudes et de Recherches sur le Développement International (CERDI), thesis supervisor since 2010, and director of studies of the School of Economics-UDA since 2012. He has been a consultant for the World Bank, UNDP, AFD, French Treasury, French ministry of Foreign Affairs, and BCEAO. His research is focused on macroeconomic policies in developing economies, mainly financial development, monetary, fiscal and exchange rate policies, and eco-nomic integration. His work has been published in French and English-speaking peer-reviewed journals. He has been an editor of a book dedicated to economic integration in the WAEMU and CEMAC.
Ermal Hitaj is an economist in the African Department at the IMF. He holds a Ph.D. in Economics from the University of Maryland-College Park. He previously worked as an econo-mist at the Central Bank of Albania. Ermal’s work has focused on fiscal rules, remittances, public finance, and the political economy of development.
John Hooley is an economist in the African Department at the IMF. Prior to joining the Fund he was a senior economist at the Bank of England where he had held a number of roles across monetary policy, financial stability, and emerging markets. His publications to date have focused on cross-border capital flows and international shock transmission. John holds degrees in eco-nomics from the London School of Economics and Cambridge University.
Patrick Imam is a senior economist at the IMF. Since joining the Fund, he has worked on IMF programs and surveillance cases in the Middle East and Central Asia department, the African Department, the IMF Institute, and more recently in the Monetary and Capital Markets Department. His publications have focused on issues related to financial stability, macropruden-tial policies, and financial sector development. Prior to joining the Fund, he worked as an Investment Banker at Credit Suisse First Boston in London. He has a Ph.D. in economics from Cambridge University.
Kareem Ismail is an economist at the Strategy, Policy, and Review Department of the International Monetary Fund. He holds a Ph.D. in Economics from Johns Hopkins University. His research interest is mainly on fiscal, external, and financial implications from commodity price fluctuations on natural resource intensive economies.
Christian Josz is Deputy Division Chief in the African Department at the IMF. He has lead missions to Chad, Mali, and the WAEMU and was senior economist on Senegal and Madagascar, assignments which gave him in-depth exposure to financial programming in the context of the use of IMF financial resources. Prior to joining the Fund, he was advisor at the Cabinet of the Minister of Economy of Belgium, financial analyst in a multinational company, and senior economist at the Belgian central bank with postings at the Belgian delegation to the OECD and the Office of the Belgian Executive Director at the IMF. He holds a master’s degree in business and engineering from the Université Libre de Bruxelles and a Master’s in Business Administration from the University of Toronto.
Sudipto Karmakar is an economist in the Financial Intermediation Division of the Economic Research Department at Banco de Portugal since 2013. He holds a B.Sc. in economics from Presidency College, Kolkata, an M.Sc. in economics from the University of Calcutta and a Ph.D. in economics from Boston University, USA. He conducts theoretical and empirical research on issues related to macroprudential regulation and real-financial sector linkages.
Alexei Kireyev is a senior economist at the IMF and former IMF representative to the WTO. He has led advance IMF missions to member countries, provided advice on macroeconomic policies to countries with IMF-supported programs, and reviewed IMF policy advice, financing and technical assistance. Before his IMF career, he was an economic advisor to the president, econo-mist at the World Bank, and professor of international economics at universities in Russia and the United States. His degrees include a Master’s in Economics from George Washington University and a Ph.D. (Doctor of Sciences) in Economics from Moscow State Institute of International Relations. Dr. Kireyev has researched and published extensively on international economics and trade, applied macroeconomics, principles of economics, and the economic prob-lems of low-income countries. His most recent publications include a two-volume book on International Microeconomics and International Macroeconomics.
Stefan Klos is a research analyst in the African Department of the IMF, concentrating mainly on Article IV research and program work for Mali, Guinea-Bissau, and WAEMU. Prior to his time at the fund, Stefan received a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and economics from Northeastern University in Boston. Topics of interest include governance, inequality, and their effects on economic performance.
Christina Kolerus is an economist at the Strategy, Policy, and Review Department at the IMF. Holding a Ph.D. from Mannheim University, she has worked in the Fiscal Affairs Department and African Department, in particular on WAEMU countries. Prior to joining the Fund, she was a consultant and visiting scholar at the OECD and ECB. Her published research includes areas such as fiscal policy, labor markets, and political economy.
Mesmin Koulet-Vickot is a senior economist at the International Monetary Fund (IMF). He graduated in economics from the University of Clermont-Ferrand (CERDI, France). Prior to joining the IMF, he worked at the Central Bank (BEAC) in the Research Department and as Assistant to the Deputy Governor. His research interest includes monetary policy, financial sector development and international macroeconomics.
Mario Mansour is Deputy Chief, Tax Policy Division, in the Fiscal Affairs Department of the IMF. Prior to joining the Fund in 2004, he worked at a Canadian consultancy as a lead economist.
Aristomene Varoudakis is an economic adviser at the Office of the World Bank Chief Economist. He has previously served as a lead economist and country manager at the World Bank’s Europe and Central Asia and Middle East and North Africa Departments and as an adviser at the World Bank’s Independent Evaluation Group. Prior to joining the World Bank, he served as a senior economist in the OECD Economics Department and the OECD Development Center. He is professor of economics, on leave from the University of Strasbourg, France, where he taught at the Institut d’Etudes Politiques and the Department of Economics. His research interests include macroeconomics and growth, development economics, public finance, international finance, and exchange rates. His work has been published in academic journals and collected volumes. He is the author or co-author of four books.
Aleksandra Zdzienicka is an economist in the Strategy, Policy, and Review Department of the IMF. She holds a Ph.D. in International Economics and Finance from the University of Lyon and a M.Sc. in Engineering Studies from the Silesian University of Technology. Aleksandra previously worked as an economist at Centre d’Etudes Prospectives et d’Information Internationales in Paris and a consultant at the Economic Department of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. She has published in international journals in the area of macroeconomics, international finance, and macroeconomics.