The economic shock associated with the COVID-19 pandemic is set to have long-lasting effects on the economic outlook for CEMAC. The pandemic itself seems to be now broadly under control in the region, and the policy response from national and regional authorities, supported by significant emergency financing by the Fund, helped mitigate the initial economic fallout. With lower medium-term oil prices, the outlook projects that CEMAC’s fiscal and external adjustments will be slower than previously envisaged, entailing large external financing needs (around €6.6 billion for 2021–23). Gross international reserves will now reach the equivalent of 5 months of imports by 2025 vs. 2022 pre-pandemic, while net foreign assets (NFA) will be below previous expectations. Public debt would remain at elevated levels, albeit on a declining trend after the increase in 2020. This outlook is highly uncertain and contingent on the evolution of the pandemic and its impact on oil prices. Other significant risks include: delayed implementation of the ongoing or a second phase of new Fund-supported programs, difficulties in filling large external financing needs, and a deterioration in the security situation.
Tighter macroeconomic and financial policies helped to avert a deeper crisis, and gross external reserves increased more rapidly in recent months, largely exceeding the mid-2019 target. However, reserves are still below the level appropriate for commodityexporting economies (5 months of imports) to absorb terms of trade shocks. Fiscal consolidation has been tilted towards cuts in public investment. This, together with a lack of significant progress in structural reforms, has weighed on growth which remains too low. The outlook for 2019 and beyond foresees further improvement in regional reserves assuming CEMAC countries remain committed to their program objectives and new programs with CAR and Equatorial Guinea could start around end-2019. This outlook is subject to potentially significant risks, including: a significant slowdown in global growth and associated decline in oil prices; a deterioration in the security situation in some countries; and weaker implementation of IMF-supported programs.
This paper highlights annual discussions on Central African Economic and Monetary Community’s (CEMAC) Common Policies in Support of Member Countries Reform Programs. Tighter macroeconomic and financial policies helped to avert a deeper crisis, and gross external reserves increased more rapidly in recent months, also helped by a stronger implementation of CEMAC foreign exchange regulations. Reforms to support a more diversified and inclusive growth, including by improving governance and the business climate, should gain momentum to make current efforts to buttress the external position of the region sustainable. The outlook for 2019 and beyond foresees further improvement in regional reserves assuming CEMAC countries remain committed to their program objectives and new programs with Cameroon, Central African Republic and Equatorial Guinea could start around end-2019.
The regional strategy has helped stabilize the regional economic position thanks to large fiscal consolidation efforts, a tighter monetary policy, and external financial assistance. The external position improved, and external reserves picked up. However, the region remains dependent on oil revenues, with little progress in economic diversification, under-performing budget non-oil revenues and weaknesses in the financial sector. The policy assurances included in BEAC’s letter of December 2018 were implemented as planned and the CEMAC authorities reiterated their full commitment to the strategy and their readiness to implement additional corrective measures if needed. Progress was made towards new IMF-supported program in Congo and Equatorial Guinea.
The regional strategy has helped to avert an immediate crisis but continues to face headwinds: two countries have yet to enter financing arrangements with the Fund: regional reserves have underperformed despite higher-than-projected oil prices; the projected recovery of non-oil growth has still to materialize; and the security, social, and political context remains challenging. Consistent with the policy assurances it had provided, the BEAC has taken corrective actions, including an increase in its policy rate, to address the NFA underperformance and has made substantial progress toward finalizing by end-year the modernization of the monetary policy operational framework and the drafting of new foreign exchange regulations. A follow-up letter of support provides updated policy assurances on the NFA path. The medium-term outlook continues to see a gradual improvement in the economic and financial situation but is subject to substantial downside risks, including further delays in the approval of financial arrangements with Congo and Equatorial Guinea, lower oil prices, and tighter global financial conditions. The region continues to face daunting challenges to diversify its economy, with a poor business environment and high perception of corruption.
While improving, CEMAC’s economic situation remains fragile. Growth picked up slightly but remains well below potential. Governments’ fiscal consolidation efforts, along with BEAC’s tighter monetary policy and stricter enforcement of foreign exchange regulations, have contributed to a significant reduction in the region’s fiscal and external imbalances. All CEMAC countries are committed to macroeconomic policies agreed with IMF staff to support the economic recovery and financial sustainability of each country and of the region. The regional central bank and banking supervisor continue to implement policies in support of the IMF-supported programs with CEMAC members. However, fiscal slippages in some countries contributed to the underperformance of international reserve accumulation in early 2018. Looking ahead, a further improvement in the economic and financial situation is projected, assuming full implementation of policy commitments by CEMAC member states and regional institutions. This outlook remains subject to substantial risks from possible weaker program implementation, lower oil prices, and insufficient external financing.
This paper discusses the common policies needed for the member countries of the Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC). CEMAC growth was subdued in 2015. It slowed to 1.6 percent, from 4.9 percent in 2014, because of reduced public investment and lower oil production. Policies to counter the oil-price shock need to focus on fiscal consolidation and real-economy reforms. In the wake of the oil-price shock, monetary financing has been the primary response tool. Fiscal policy coordination among members should be strengthened, and fiscal discipline enforcement is needed. Real-economy reforms, focusing on improving the business climate and boosting private investment, are also needed to preserve macroeconomic stability.
We propose a toolkit for the assessment of systemic risk buildup in low income countries. We show that, due to non-linearity in the relationship between credit and financial stability, the assessment should be conducted with different tools at different stages of financial development. In particular, when the level of financial depth is low, traditional leading indicators of banking crises have poor predictive performance and the analysis should be based on indicators that account for financial deepening while taking into consideration countries’ structural limits. By using this framework, we provide a preliminary assessment of systemic risk buildup in individual SSA countries.