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IMF Says Ivory Coast Loan Provisions Will Improve Transparency


International Monetary Fund officials say they are optimistic provisions for a new loan to Ivory Coast will help increase transparency in the West African country, as it continues its recovery from civil war.

The IMF insisted on provisions increasing the transparency of government spending when they agreed to extend $570 million in new loans to the Ivorian government and forgive $3 billion worth of previous debt.

The main objectives of the new pact include offering fiscal consolidation and achieving sustainability, says IMF Ivory Coast mission chief Arend Kouwenaar.

"There is a particular emphasis on budget transparency and increasing poverty reduction and pro-poor and pro-growth spending," he said. "There is a lot of emphasis on monitoring of that spending to ensure that the budgeted amounts get really spent in the way the budget lines foresee, and that the population, the council of ministers, Parliament, and then the population see how that money has been spent."

Kouwenaar says extra budgetary spending has been a concern in Ivory Coast in recent years. He says large-scale works such as a presidential palace, a senate building, and monuments have been undertaken with revenues from Ivory Coast's booming oil sector.

"Last year about 0.7 percent of the budget was spent on large scale works outside the budget, which would maybe have a return in the very far future, and the example is the senate," he said. "The senate is being built, or was going to be built - had started to be built - but there is no senate in the constitution of Ivory Coast."

Kouwenaar says the government will now publish an annual budget, and give quarterly updates verifying that spending matches the budgeted amounts.

Kouwenaar says government spending will shift toward growth-oriented initiatives that benefit the broader population.

"The focus in coming years will be on spending for rehabilitation of infrastructure, social services, and some other crisis exit, rehabilitation needs," he explained.

Ivory Coast suffered through a civil war beginning in 2002. Fighting ended in 2003 and the country has been moving slowly towards unity.

A power-sharing agreement between rebel forces and the government led to progress toward presidential polls, which had been scheduled for last November. But the elections were delayed indefinitely when the voter identification and registration process failed to move forward at the projected pace. Observers hope the polls will take place this year.


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