Angola: Fiscal transparency to top agenda at donor conference, analysts

JOHANNESBURG, 3 February (IRIN) - Angolan authorities would have to show a greater commitment to financial transparency at an upcoming international donor conference if it is to succeed in securing the external support needed to kick-start its national reconstruction programme, analysts said on Monday.
Although an exact date for the UN-backed conference has yet to be announced, sources told IRIN that the appeal would likely take place at the end of March in Brussels, Belgium.

Given the devastating effects of almost three decades of civil war that virtually destroyed most basic infrastructure, the government is now faced with the monumental challenge of rebuilding the country, a task requiring significant international aid.

But analysts said that despite a broad international commitment to assist reconstruction efforts, donors were less likely to be as generous without clear signs of an improvement in transparency in public sector expenditure.

"Donors will be looking at the government's reconstruction plans very closely. Of course, the reintegration of ex-soldiers and the resettlement of IDPs [internally displaced persons] are important elements, but certain macroeconomic issues need to be addressed before donors are called to the table to discuss financial assistance. Also, donors would like to see some improvement in the relationship between the IMF [Interantional Monetary Fund] and the government before the conference," Roger Gartoft, Sweden's ambassador to Angola told IRIN.

Last year a leaked IMF document found that nearly US $1 billion disappeared from government coffers during 2002. The report added that there had been little progress in the areas of governance and fiscal transparency in Angola - especially over its oil accounts - despite encouragement and assistance from the IMF.

Jaoa Porto, a senior researcher at the Pretoria-based Institute for Security Studies agreed that the government would be assessed on its efforts to curtail alleged corruption and graft.

He told IRIN: "This time around the donors are likely to look at how much the government has contributed so far to its own economic recovery. On a macro-economic level, the donors will have to be satisfied with the government's commitment to transparency and good governance. Last year the reshuffling of key government posts perhaps signalled a shift in attitudes towards accountability."

One shortcoming, however, was the lack of a mechanism to monitor the implementation of the government's programmes.

"At present there does not exist any human rights framework in Angola to assess good governance. The best option right now is perhaps to leave it as the responsibility of parliamentary oversight. A closer engagement with parliament could serve as an effective monitoring mechanism," Porto added.

Together with the UN Development Programme (UNDP) in Angola and the World Bank, the government has been finalising its interim poverty reduction strategy programme which is expected to provide the overall framework for the conference.

"Donors will respond to well-planned programmes. At the last conference in 1995 donors responded very positively. So although it is difficult to predict, we could see more than just 50 percent of the requested funds being met," UNDP Assistant Resident Representative Francisco de Almeida told IRIN.

At the Brussels's donor conference in September 1995, the international community pledged over a billion dollars towards reconstruction. However, partly as a result of the country's return to war, donations were meagre.


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