By Tikum Mbah Azonga
This paper is an adaptation of an earlier one I delivered on the Cameroon National Radio Station on the 27th of November 2002, in reaction to a visit to Cameroon by officials from the International Monetary Fund (IMF and the World Bank. The paper was one of the daily political commentaries I delivered on the 6.30 a.m. prime time national and world news on Cameroon Radio Television (CRTV), Yaoundé, between 2002 and 2005.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank are two United Nations financial institutions which are well known the world over. Basically their job is to help prop world ailing economies by working in close collaboration with national governments in terms of assistance in diagnosis, strategic planning, funding and continuous guidance.
When the organizations work with a country, they do so in a carefully planned manner that involves work being paced out according to clear cut phases and a definite time table and so from time to time, and in conformity with the time table they make trips to the country in question and hand-in-hand with the country’s authorities, they assess progress made, point or weaknesses and agree on what has to be done next. It is within such a context that the just ended mission to Cameroon led by the now only too familiar Edward Maciejewski should be placed.
During the two-day visit, the officials met with Cameroon`s Prime Minister Head of Government, the Secretary General at the Presidency of the Republic, the Minister of Finance and the Budget, as well as the Minister of Economic Affairs, Programming and Regional Development. As usual, the visitors received the active participation of the Cameroon Country Office of their organizations, as well as the other related organs of the United Nations based here in Cameroon.
Discussions centered around progress being made on the Poverty Reduction Strategy Document which covers a wider sphere than the Facility for the Reduction of Poverty and Growth. It emerged that the government must work harder towards integrating the new fiscal year that now runs from January to December, instead of the former one that ran from July to June, while ensuring that the first year of the Poverty Reduction Strategy corresponds to the last year of the Facility for Poverty Reduction one.
The head of the visiting delegation felt that at the macroeconomic level, the Cameroonian economy was moving in the right direction, nut thought some catching up needed to be done at the level of structural reforms. He noted that although considerable effort had been made in terms of governance, the gains needed to be consolidated and a lot more ground covered. There was concern that attainment of the Finishing Point for the HIPC would experience some delay.
The IMF and World Bank are institutions that should be taken seriously and their recommendations implemented. Implementation, of course, calls for enormous, perhaps incredible, self sacrifice on the part of the people in the countries concerned. Even so, the conditions are so tedious that some countries have found their draconian nature too heavy to bear and so have called off the whole deal and backed out of policy implementation. Former Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda did just that by pulling his country out of the donor institutions on the grounds that no country in the world had been taken to court for not paying debts.
Right now though, our country Cameroon is in the good books of both institutions and is regarded as a model pupil within its circles. For our national economy to stage a full recovery, Cameroonians must continue to tough it out. But perhaps the government should do more to sensitize Cameroonians about the role of the donor organizations and the implications of implementing lending conditionality on their daily lives. It is a question of give and take.