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After a bitter fight between the World Bank's board of directors and Bank President Paul Wolfowitz, Congo-Brazzaville was allowed to reach decision point in the HIPC program on March 9. The deal was almost held up after reports that Congo’s President Denis Sassou-Ngueso spent $300k at a New York hotel, but this scandal wasn’t enough to convince debt relief diehards that Congo wasn’t perhaps the most worthy recipient. But the IMF still seems to be of two minds. Its press release opens by declaring that Congo: "Must address serious concerns about governance and financial transparency."
This reflects the extra demands from the Bank that Congo’s oil accounts be properly audited and other anti-corruption safeguards be put in place if the country is ever to reach HIPC completion point (when the debt relief becomes irrevocable). But two paragraphs later the Fund, which has just indicated that the government is still deeply corrupt, inexplicably justifies letting Congo through because: "Interim debt relief will increase resources available to the government to….fight corruption."
So, which is it? Is the government so corrupt that it needs unprecedented international oversight? Or does Sassou really deep-down want to fight corruption but (despite over $1 billion in annual oil revenues), he just needs a bit more money from HIPC to finally tackle corruption within?
CGD blog posts reflect the views of the authors, drawing on prior research and experience in their areas of expertise. CGD is a nonpartisan, independent organization and does not take institutional positions.
From the article:
"El CLAAF, Comité Latinoamericano de Asuntos Financieros, sostuvo un encuentro en el que expresó preocupación por la disminución del crecimiento del ingreso per cápita, asuntos fiscales y monetarios de México, al tiempo que la integración financiera y comercial del país con el sistema internacional..."
Center for Global Development
WASHINGTON (July 2, 2019) -- The Latin American Committee on Macroeconomic and Financial Issues (CLAAF by its Spanish acronym) met in Washington today to discuss ‘Mexico’s financial risks: Solving Pemex for a Solvent Mexico.’ The CLAAF explored some of the major macroeconomic issues facing President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO), the new leader of Mexico, such as declining per-capita income growth, fiscal and monetary issues, and the country’s finance and trade integration with the US and larger international system, and made a series of related reform recommendations in a policy statement.
The CLAAF is a group of prominent economists and academics who have served as government ministers, central bank governors, and/or senior officials at multilateral institutions like the Inter-American Development Bank, International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. Twice a year, the group convenes to analyze major national or regional macroeconomic issues and then release a series of policy recommendations to change course and advance greater economic and financial stabilization.
Cognizant of and analyzing some of the major domestic and international pressures on the AMLO administration (such as NAFTA legacy and the manufacturing sector, the new USMCA, US Federal Reserve activity, rule of law and corruption issues, and more) the CLAAF centers in on Pemex, the state-owned oil company, “by far the single most important fiscal problem faced by the AMLO administration. Lack of investments in exploration and extraction have led to a steady reduction in oil production, while the company has issued a large stock of debt in international markets. Investors have become increasingly weary of holding Pemex bonds,” the group states.
To avoid a sovereign rating downgrade or an additional deterioration of Pemex, either of which could severely curtail capital inflows to Mexico, and improve the country’s economic outlook, the CLAAF believes that:
the paramount task for the government is to address the critical situation at Pemex:
a corporate restructuring of Pemex is required, and should be complemented by a number of additional actions, including attracting new private funding for investments in exploration and extraction;
a comprehensive corporate restructuring plan can also help avert Pemex’s debt crisis. Currently, Pemex is on a collision course that may lead to a debt restructuring; and
while rationalization of current expenditures is needed, the success of the government’s plan of using primary surpluses to finance public expenditure projects requires well-developed and substantive feasibility studies.
“The first priority for the Mexican government should be the prompt resolution of Pemex’s deep financial problems,” said Liliana Rojas-Suarez, president of the CLAAF and director of the Latin American Initiative at the Center for Global Development. “If this issue is not addressed in time, a downgrade of Mexico´s sovereign debt is likely. This, combined with the current external challenges arising mainly from US policies, could further curtail Mexico’s economic growth prospects and performance.”
CLAAF members participating in the June-July 2019 session:
Laura Alfaro, Warren Albert Professor, Harvard Business School, Former Minister of National Planning and Economic Policy, Costa Rica
Augusto De La Torre, Former Chief Economist for Latin America and the Caribbean, The World Bank. Former Governor, Central Bank of Ecuador.
Guillermo Calvo, Professor, University of Columbia; former Chief Economist, Inter-American Development Bank
Roque Fernandez, Economics Professor, UCEMA University; former Minister of Finance, Argentina
Pablo Guidotti, Professor of the Government School, University of Torcuato di Tella; former Vice minister of Economy, Argentina
Paulo Leme, Executive in Residence Professor of Finance, Miami Business School, University of Miami.
Enrique Mendoza, Presidential Professor of Economics, University of Pennsylvania. Director, Penn Institute for Economic Research.
Guillermo Perry, Non-Resident Fellow, Center for Global Development. Former Chief Economist of the Latin America and Caribbean Region, World Bank
Carmen Reinhart, Minos A. Zombanakis Professor of the International Financial System at the Harvard Kennedy School.
Liliana Rojas-Suarez, president, CLAAF; Senior Fellow and Director of the Latin American Initiative, Center for Global Development; former Chief Economist for Latin America, Deutsche Bank
Full Statement Here
Video of Findings and Discussion Here