Somalia: Economy On Right Path, but Still Vulnerable - IMF

Growth in Somalia's economy is expected to strengthen to 3% in 2019 from 2.8% last year, but it is vulnerable to destabilizing factors including fragile security, climate change, and poverty, the International Monetary Fund said on Tuesday.

The Horn of Africa country has been in turmoil since 1991 when clan warlords overthrew President Siad Barre and then turned on each other. Over the past decade, it has been hit by famine and sporadic terror attacks by al Qaeda-linked militant group al Shabaab.

"Somalia's economy continues to recover, supported by vigorous activity in the construction, telecommunications, and financial services sector in 2018," Allison Holland, who led an IMF team there, said in a statement.

The upbeat review from the IMF, which also forecast inflation would this year ease to 3% from 3.2%, is a sign that the government's public finance reforms are on track, Finance Minister Abdirahman Duale Beileh said.

"No matter how hard these reforms are they are good for our country and we are moving forward with them," he told Reuters.

The government has broadened the tax base and strengthened tax administration, boosting domestic revenue almost 30% to $184 million in 2018, and to $54 million for the first quarter of 2019, Holland said.

The reforms are a key step toward accessing billions in international debt relief, and last year the World Bank approved $80 million in grants to fund financial reforms, the first disbursement to Somalia in 30 years.

Holland cautioned that the economic outlook remained "vulnerable to the still-fragile security situation, climate shocks, and the still-developing institutional capacity." More efforts were needed to "improve economic resilience, increase employment and reduce poverty," she said

The IMF team discussed Somalia's Article IV program, which scrutinizes a member state's economic, financial and exchange rate policies.

Minister Beileh said he expected Somalia to reach the "decision point" stage in the IMF and the World Bank's debt relief process by early 2020.

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