My Gabonese authorities would like to thank the staff for a very comprehensive report on the Gabonese economy. The report describes well the challenges that the economy faces, the efforts being undertaken by the authorities and the policy requirements for the medium term. My authorities highly appreciate the cordial atmosphere in which the discussions have taken place, and which have been ongoing over the past year, and the advice provided by the staff, as well as their assistance in putting in place a comprehensive medium-term program of economic and structural policies to address the many challenges facing the economy, including the declining oil production and the high external debt.
The previous Fund-supported program went off track in 2001 due to implementation weaknesses. However, since January 2002 the government strengthened its efforts and committed itself to undertake major reforms and to implement polices aimed at addressing those challenges.
As a first step, and with staffs assistance, my authorities took measures to address the main causes of the slippages in the past. These efforts were focused on improving governance, reforming tax and customs administrations, strengthening the Budget and Treasury Departments, restructuring public enterprises, and creating an environment conducive to private sector development. The government also adopted an austerity Budget for 2003. In consultation with staff, and in order to establish a track record, budgetary targets were set and observed for the first part of 2003. This included the repayment of all external debt-service arrears to multilateral institutions, as well as arrears to post-cut off date debt and debt service under the last Paris Club rescheduling owed to bilateral creditors. The authorities’ efforts were further strengthened in mid-2003 in the context of a Staff Monitored Program. All the prior actions measures have been implemented, and these actions are consistent with the medium-term framework that has been established. At the same time the authorities have been taking actions to build consensus at the national level for the reform program, and my authorities are hoping that they can receive the full support of the international community, including the Fund in its implementation.