20 November 2012

Cameroon: More And More Efforts Needed


Again, an umpteenth mission of the International Monetary Fund which has been in the country since Monday November 12 left yesterday with their trademark "encouraging results" which by no means, indicates that our country is doing business well enough to put us on a safe sail to a strong economic status come 2035.

The mission said economic growth was in the threshold of five percent, but not quite an affirmative five percent. Our growth rate was set at 4.2 percent in 2011 and projections for 2012 were set at 4.7. For 2013, just around the corner, the IMF believes the rate will go up to five percent.

This performance is on the positive side but far from fulfilling the conditions that will enable Cameroon join the exclusive club of emerging economies. Among its findings, the mission observed that the current growth rates are not such that ordinary people can have the feel that things are changing. The poor are still very poor and the talk of growth can only be taken suspiciously by those groaning under the burden of poverty which manifests itself in several ways, least of which are not the difficulty of acquiring basic commodities, accessing school and medical services as well as having access to electricity or clean running water for drinking or for use in other essential chores.

The other recommendations of the IMF mission are rather classical. They called for amore equitable distribution of wealth so as to ensure that income per capita increases and suggested that subsidies on petroleum products be reduced just as they also called for the correction of difficulties observed in the functioning of certain banks. This obviously smacks of a déjà-vu or a déjà entendu kind of situation. Some of the recommendations of the IMF mission are starkly against poverty alleviation. Take the issue of petroleum subsidies. Government's decision to subsidise petroleum costs has, to a very large extent helped in the attenuation of the effects poverty by holding down transportation costs, especially in the transportation of badly-needed food from the main production zones, generally located in difficult-to-access rural zones to the cities where demand from an escalating urban population is on an exponential rise.

So the IMF potion is not going to be a single dose therapy; neither will it be a one-size-fits-all situation. A possible solution to the present situation where there is growth without noticeable development is going to come about by engaging all the stakeholders. Government, for instance, is already doing a lot by holding down inflation and subsidies. But it also has to look for innovative measures of reducing the gap between the haves who are very many in government with generous emoluments and the have-nots who are growing in numbers in cities and the countryside. In as much as government's role is not to distribute poverty, bridging this gap will not only vindicate its desire to fight poverty but promote a spirit of solidarity.

But the governments' biggest worksite is the private sector which is the veritable producer of wealth, necessary to fuel all developmental initiatives. Taxes obviously help government to carry out other poverty-alleviation initiatives such as the provision of essential services, but it is also in its purview to ensure that the private sector thrives because it is here that huge investments capable of producing wealth and providing jobs are necessary. The sector is begging for incentives which could range from tax clemency to a business -friendly environment. The foregoing indicates that much has been done. Yet to have palpable results, we need to do a lot more.

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