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By Ernest Sumelong

CameroonPostline.com — The living standard of average Cameroonians has continued to plummet in spite of an International Monetary Fund report that shows the country has sustained moderate economic growth rate.

The IMF report, which was released July 19, 2012, under its Public Information Notices, PINs, further suggests that the country’s Gross Domestic Product, GDP, will increase from 4.2 percent in 2011 to 5.5 percent in 2016.

However, the report comes at a time fears are rife that Cameroonians will face harsher living conditions and further hike in basic commodities owing to the envisaged hike in fuel prices. This will only add to the misery of citizens who are facing uphill situations to eke a living.

The Government of Cameroon succeeded over the long term, according to the IMF report, to maintain macroeconomic stability and debt relief under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) and Multilateral Debt Relief Initiatives (MDRI) considerably reduced the debt burden.

IMF, nonetheless, points out that there has been almost no growth in per capita income during the last five years, despite a relatively diversified productive base.

This is the paradox of Cameroon where the Government rejoices over reports of economic growth or stability, while the living conditions of Cameroonians still remain dire. While the Government is making efforts at stemming corruption, the vice is still considered the bane of the economy, coupled with unrestricted spending and impunity in public management.

This is why, while outlining Cameroon’s strong points and areas for further growth, the IMF points out that, “there is continuing concern regarding public financial management performance.”

It further notes that, “Economic growth is now expected to increase moderately under current policies which would imply positive per capita growth of over two percent in 2012. Staff projects real GDP to increase gradually from 4.2 percent in 2011 to 5.5 percent in 2016. Non-oil growth is to be supported by ongoing efforts to boost agricultural productivity and competitiveness; major public investment projects; and measures to improve the business environment. The oil sector is expected to boost real GDP growth in 2012-17, reflecting the coming on-stream of ongoing investments, following successful exploration efforts. Inflation is expected to remain below the regional convergence criterion of three percent.”

On the other hand, the banking sector, which is considered the vehicle for growth and development of a country, instead helped to pull back the country’s economy.

“Conditions in the banking system remained worrisome. This reflected financial distress in four (and possibly five) of the country’s 13 commercial banks, excessive concentration in bank credit, inadequate resources for the regional supervisory agency, and weaknesses in the current framework for dealing with distressed banks,” further states the report.

From the look of things, the banking sector will continue to be a factor of grief to both government and average Cameroonians. This is coupled with the instability and sudden closure of many micro-finance institutions that have brought untold misery to customers who often lose their savings without real compensation.

Meanwhile, in order for the country to accelerate its moderate economic growth and its citizens feeling the impact, the IMF recommends full implementation of a major programme of public investment and improving the business climate.

“A key policy priority for Cameroon is achieving higher and more inclusive growth through addressing the significant infrastructure gaps and improving the business climate. Competitiveness in Cameroon remains challenged by structural factors. Improving the business climate will require that the authorities tackle governance issues, deepen dialogue with private sector interests, take measures to increase the level of financial intermediation, and improve access to credit,” IMF recommends.

First published in The Post print edition no. 01361

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