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Living the FATCA life in Africa: New U.S. tax regulations add to burden of compliance on financial institutions across Africa

Posted on 21 May 2013 by Eugene Skrynnyk

Eugene Skrynnyk

Eugene Skrynnyk (CIPM, MILE, BComm) is a senior manager and specialist for the asset management industry in the Africa Sub-Area at Ernst & Young in Cape Town, South Africa.

Eugene Skrynnyk is the Ernst & Young Senior Manager and specialist for the asset management industry in the Africa Sub-Area.

Eugene holds a Certificate in Investment Performance Measurement (CIPM), Master of International Law and Economics (MILE) and Bachelor of Commerce and Finance (B.Comm.).

 

When the U.S. Department of the Treasury (“Treasury”) and Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) issued final Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (“FATCA”) regulations in January of this year, there was a sigh of relief that the financial services industry in Africa could begin to digest FATCA’s obligations. However, achieving FATCA compliance remains a challenge for banks operating across Africa.

FATCA is already law in the U.S. but negotiations are under way to enshrine it in national law of countries around the world via intergovernmental agreements (“IGAs”) with the U.S. While a variety of African jurisdictions will each face unique obstacles with FATCA compliance, many in the industry share a general unease with FATCA’s scope, as well as scepticism that FATCA’s rewards (an estimated US$1 billion in additional tax revenue annually) justify its expenses. Generally, FATCA attempts to combat U.S. tax evasion by requiring that non-U.S. financial institutions report the identities of U.S. shareholders or customers, or otherwise face a 30% withholding tax on their U.S. source income. Overwhelmingly, FATCA compliance obligations apply even where there is very little risk of U.S. tax evasion and it impacts all payers, including foreign payers of “withholdable payments” made to any foreign entities affecting deposit accounts, custody and investments.

General issues in Africa

Concerns about privacy abound. FATCA requires financial institutions to report to the IRS certain information about U.S. persons. For this reason, IGAs are being put in place so that institutions could instead report information to their local tax authority rather than the IRS. In some jurisdictions, investment funds and insurance companies are permitted to disclose information with client consent. In other jurisdictions, such disclosure is prohibited without further changes to domestic law. The process to make necessary changes locally involves time and effort.

Cultural differences in Africa need to be considered. In certain situations FATCA requires that financial institutions ask a customer who was born in the United States to submit documents explaining why the customer abandoned U.S. citizenship or did not obtain it at birth. African financial institutions never pose such a delicate and private question to their customers. Even apparently straight-forward requirements may pose challenges; for example, FATCA requires that customers make representations about their identities “under penalty of perjury” in certain situations. Few countries have a custom of making legal oaths, so it would not be surprising if African customers will be reluctant to give them.

FATCA contains partial exemptions (i.e., “deemed compliance”) and also exceptions for certain financial institutions and products that are less likely to be used by U.S. tax evaders. It still has to be seen to what extent these exemptions have utility for financial institutions in Africa. For example, the regulations include an exemption for retirement funds and also partially exempt “restricted funds” — funds that prohibit investment by U.S. persons. Although many non-U.S. funds have long restricted investment by U.S. persons because of the U.S. federal securities laws, this exemption could be less useful than it first appears. It should be pointed out that the exemption also requires that funds be sold exclusively to limited categories of FATCA-compliant or exempt institutions and distributors. These categories are themselves difficult for African institutions to qualify for. For example, a restricted fund may sell to certain distributors who agree not to sell to U.S. persons (“restricted distributors”). But restricted distributors must operate solely in the country of their incorporation, a true obstacle in smaller markets where many distributors must operate regionally to attain scale.

Other permitted distribution channels for restricted funds are “local banks,” which are not allowed to have any operations outside of their jurisdiction of incorporation and may not advertise the availability of U.S. dollar denominated investments.

Challenges and lessons learned – the African perspective

Financial institutions will have to consider what steps to take to prepare for FATCA compliance and take into account other FATCA obligations, such as account due diligence and withholding against non-compliant U.S. accountholders and/or financial institutions.

The core of FATCA is the process of reviewing customer records to search for “U.S. indicia” — that is, evidence that a customer might be a U.S. taxpayer. Under certain circumstances, FATCA requires financial institutions to look through their customers and counterparties’ ownership to find “substantial U.S. owners” (generally, certain U.S. persons holding more than 10% of an entity). In many countries the existing anti-money laundering legislation generally requires that financial institutions look through entities only when there is a 20% or 25% owner, leaving a gap between information that may be needed for FATCA compliance and existing procedures. Even how to deal with non-FATCA compliant financial institutions and whether to completely disengage business ties with them, remains open.

The following is an outline of some of the lessons learned in approaching FATCA compliance and the considerations financial institutions should make:

Focus on reducing the problem

Reducing the problem through the analysis and filtering of legal entities, products, customer types, distribution channels and account values, which may be prudently de-scoped, can enable financial institutions to address their distinct challenges and to identify areas of significant impact across their businesses. This quickly scopes the problem areas and focuses the resource and budget effort to where it is most necessary.

Select the most optimal design solution

FATCA legislation is complex and comprehensive as it attempts to counter various potential approaches to evade taxes. Therefore, understanding the complexities of FATCA and distilling its key implications is crucial in formulating a well rounded, easily executable FATCA compliance programme in the limited time left.

Selecting an option for compliance is dependent on the nature of the business and the impact of FATCA on the financial institution. However, due to compliance time constraints and the number of changes required by financial institutions, the solution design may well require tactical solutions with minimal business impact and investment. This will allow financial institutions to achieve compliance by applying low cost ‘work arounds’ and process changes. Strategic and long-term solutions can be better planned and phased-in with less disruption to the financial institution thereafter.

Concentrate on critical activities for 2014

FATCA has phased timelines, which run from 2014 to 2017 and beyond. By focusing on the “must-do” activities, which require compliance as of 1 January 2014 – such as appointing a Responsible Officer, registering with the IRS, and addressing new client on-boarding processes and systems – financial institutions can dedicate the necessary resources more efficiently and effectively to meet immediate deadlines.

Clear ownership – both centrally and within local subsidiaries

FATCA is a strategic issue for the business, requiring significant and widespread change. Typically it starts as a ‘tax issue’ but execution has impacts across IT, AML/KYC, operations, sales, distribution and client relationship management. It is imperative to get the right stakeholders and support onboard to ensure that the operational changes are being coordinated, managed and implemented by the necessary multidisciplinary teams across the organization. These include business operations, IT, marketing, and legal and compliance, to name but a few. Early involvement and clear ownership is key from the start.

Understand your footprint in Africa

Many African financial institutions have operations in various African countries and even overseas, and have strategically chosen to make further investments throughout Africa. The degree to which these African countries have exposure to the FATCA regulations needs to be understood. It is best to quickly engage with appropriate stakeholders, understand how FATCA impacts these African countries and the financial institutions’ foreign subsidiaries, and find solutions that enable pragmatic compliance.

What next for financial institutions in Africa?

Negotiations with the U.S. are under way with over 60 countries to enshrine FATCA in national law of countries around the world via IGAs. Implementation of FATCA is approaching on 1 January 2014 and many local financial institutions have either not started or are just at the early stages of addressing the potential impact of FATCA. In South Africa, only few of the leading banks are completing impact assessments and already optimizing solutions. Other financial services groups and asset management institutions are in the process of tackling the impact assessment. Industry representative in Ghana, Kenya, Mauritius, Namibia, Nigeria and Zimbabwe have started engaging relevant government and industry stakeholders, but the awareness is seemingly oblivious to date. In the rest of Africa, FATCA is mainly unheard of.

Financial institutions choosing to comply with FATCA will first need to appoint a responsible officer for FATCA and register with the IRS, ensure proper new client on-boarding procedures are in place, then identify and categorize all customers, and eventually report U.S. persons to the IRS (or local tax authorities in IGA jurisdictions). Institutions will also need to consider implementing a host of other time-consuming operational tasks, including revamping certain electronic systems to capture applicable accountholder information and/or to accommodate the new reporting and withholding requirements, enhancing customer on-boarding processes, and educating both customers and staff on the new regulations. Where possible, institutions should seek to achieve these tasks through enhancing existing initiations so as to minimise the cost and disruption to the business.

Conclusion

Financial institutions in Africa face tight FATCA compliance timelines with limited budgets, resources, time, and expertise available. This is coupled with having to fulfil multiple other regulatory requirements. To add to the burden, FATCA has given stimulus to several countries in the European Union to start discussing a multilateral effort against tax evasion. The support of other countries in the IGA process indicates that some of these countries will follow with their own FATCA-equivalent legislation in an attempt to increase local tax revenues at a time when economies around the world are under unprecedented pressure. The best approach for African financial services industry groups is to engage their local governments in dialogue with the IRS and Treasury, while for African financial institutions to pro-actively assess their FATCA strategic and operational burdens as they inevitably prepare for compliance.

 

About Ernst & Young

Ernst & Young is a global leader in assurance, tax, transaction and advisory services. Worldwide, our 167,000 people are united by our shared values and an unwavering commitment to quality. We make a difference by helping our people, our clients and our wider communities achieve their potential.

The Ernst & Young Africa Sub-Area consists of practices in 28 countries across the African continent. We pride ourselves in our integrated operating model which enables us to serve our clients on a seamless basis across the continent, as well as across the world.

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Ernst & Young refers to the global organisation of member firms of Ernst & Young Global Limited, each of which is a separate legal entity. All Ernst & Young practices in the Africa Sub Area are members of Ernst & Young Africa Limited (NPC). Ernst & Young Africa Limited (NPC) in turn is a member firm of Ernst & Young Global Limited, a UK company limited by guarantee. Neither Ernst & Young Global Limited nor Ernst & Young Limited (NPC) provides services to clients.

For more information about our organisation, please visit www.ey.com/za

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Ozwald Boateng Steps in as Guest Editor for a Leading Issue of New African

Posted on 18 May 2013 by Africa Business

Made In Africa Foundation

The Made In Africa Foundation is a charitable organisation, established to support strategic infrastructure projects and create sustainable solutions to some of Africa’s most pressing problems. It works to support technical feasibility studies, to kick start key infrastructure developments and to engage the African diaspora in innovative fund-raising activities. The Foundation was founded in 2011 by international designer Ozwald Boateng OBE, and Nigerian businessman Kola Aluko, and is supported by Atlantic Energy.

 

The leading pan-African current affairs magazine, New African, has just published its May edition, guest edited by the internationally renowned Ghanaian designer Ozwald Boateng , a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader and founder of the Made in Africa Foundation.

This new issue looks at a Future Made in Africa and, in a 60 page supplement, celebrates the Organisation of African Unity’s (now the AU’s) golden jubilee. It has a strong focus on infrastructure, which reflects the work of the Made in Africa foundation – a $400m fund to finance feasibility studies to fast-track infrastructure investment throughout Africa.

Editorial contributors include Tony Blair , President Ellen Sirleaf-Johnson , Tony Elumelu, Mo Ibrahim , David Adjaye , Jay Naidoo , Omar Bongo Ondimba, Minna Salami, Swaady Martin-Leke, and Kandeh Yumkella and Babatunde Fashola .

In its “Trailblazers under 50” feature, New African presents its selection of 50 Africans under the age of 50, who are breaking ground and raising hopes for Africa’s future.  The list includes Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Alex Wek , Didier Drogba, Hadeel Ibrahim , David Rudisha, Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu, Juliana Totich, P-Square, Dambisa Moyo and its very own readers.

In his introductory article “Why our future should be made in Africa“. Boateng insists “If the world is to get beyond boom and bust, it requires African creators, farmers, workers, industrialists and leaders to be given the tools and opportunities to play their part for the good of all”.

Omar Ben Yedder , publisher of New African magazine, commented: “ Ozwald Boateng has done a fantastic job and this really is a collector’s item – one which we hope will be read and studied in schools and universities across Africa. It was a true learning experience working on this issue”.

The May 2013 issue is available on newsstands and local vendors now.

SOURCE Made in Africa Foundation

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Morningstar Announces Findings from Third Global Fund Investor Experience Report; United States Scores the Best and South Africa the Worst

Posted on 15 May 2013 by Africa Business

About Morningstar, Inc.
Morningstar, Inc. is a leading provider of independent investment research in North America, Europe, Australia, and Asia. The company offers an extensive line of products and services for individuals, financial advisors, and institutions.

 

CHICAGO, May 15, 2013 /PRNewswire/ — Morningstar, Inc. (NASDAQ: MORN), a leading provider of independent investment research, today released its Global Fund Investor Experience report, which assesses the experiences of mutual fund investors in 24 countries across North America, Europe, Asia, and Africa. Morningstar’s evaluation of investor-friendly practices in fund markets worldwide identified the United States as the best market for fund investors based on criteria such as investor protection, transparency, fees, taxation, and investment distribution, while South Africa scored the worst. This year’s report also includes first-time reviews of fund investor experiences in Korea and Denmark.

“We launched the first Global Fund Investor Experience report in 2009 to examine the treatment of mutual fund shareholders in 16 countries with the goal of advancing a dialogue about best practices worldwide. Since that time we’ve had numerous conversations with regulators and investment companies in multiple countries about their existing policies and ways to improve,” John Rekenthaler , vice president of research for Morningstar, said. “Working with our analysts around the world, we expanded our survey to 24 countries this year. We hope our survey findings will help investment companies, distributors, and regulatory bodies around the globe continue to focus on improving the environment for investors.”

Morningstar researchers evaluated countries in four categories: Regulation and Taxation, Disclosure, Fees and Expenses, and Sales and Media. Morningstar weighted the questions and answers to give greater importance to factual, empirical answers as well as the high-priority issues of fees, taxes, and transparency. Morningstar assigned countries a letter grade for each category and then added the category scores to produce an overall country grade. The report’s authors gathered information from available public data and from Morningstar analysts. Below are the overall country grades, from highest to lowest scores and then in alphabetical order:

United States:  A

Sweden: B-

Korea:  B+

Switzerland: B-

Netherlands:  B

United Kingdom: B-

Singapore:  B

Australia: C+

Taiwan:  B

Belgium: C+

Thailand:  B

Canada: C+

China:  B-

France: C+

Denmark:  B-

Italy: C+

Germany:  B-

Japan: C

India:  B-

Hong Kong: C-

Norway:  B-

New Zealand: C-

Spain:  B-

South Africa: D

The United States garnered the highest score for the third time with a top grade of A. While the United States is not a leader in the area of Regulation and Taxes, it has the world’s best disclosure and lowest expenses. South Africa, in contrast, received the lowest grade largely because of poor disclosure practices. The new countries reviewed in this year’s report—Korea and Denmark—earned grades of B+ and B-, respectively.

New Zealand showed the largest improvement from the 2011 study rising to a C- from a D- because of positive regulatory changes and an encouraging expansion of disclosure requirements. Morningstar anticipates that the New Zealand government’s ongoing review of all fund regulations will result in even more improvements and investor-friendly practices in the years to come.

Among the key findings of the study:

  • Bans on advisor commissions are spreading around the world. In the UK, the Retail Distribution Review (RDR) has already brought such a ban into effect, while similar moves are underway in Australia and the Netherlands.
  • While the U.S. and European fund markets are roughly similar in size, U.S. investors pay significantly lower fees than European investors.
  • Fund companies in most countries continue to treat the names of portfolio managers as trade secrets, leaving investors no way to determine who is responsible for a fund’s success or failure.
  • Australia and New Zealand do not require funds to publicly disclose full portfolio holdings, while France, South Africa, Korea, and the UK only disclose holdings to current owners.

To read Morningstar’s complete Global Fund Investor Experience report, click here.

SOURCE Morningstar, Inc.

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African Development Fund: Governors support a successful ADF replenishment

Posted on 15 May 2013 by Africa Business

ABIDJAN, Côte d’Ivoire, May 15, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ We, the African Development Fund’s Governors, Planning and Finance Ministers from Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Senegal and Sierra Leone attended the ADF-13 Presentation Workshop on the Fund’s Priorities and Operational Strategies, in Abidjan, May 14, 2013.

During this important meeting, many issues were raised concerning the impact the ADF is having in our countries and its role in the transformation of our economies. The Bank (http://www.afdb.org) for instance, has delivered rapid budget supports to maintain and restore core basic services to the people in the region, at a time when some countries needed it most.

We noted that the ADF is indeed a relevant channel of development financing. The Bank Group also plays an important role as the convener and voice of Africa. The ADF strategic orientation and operational priorities are aligned with the Continent’s development agenda and countries’ needs. Successive institutional reforms have strengthened the Bank Group’s Delivery capacity, Responsiveness and Results-focus.

The Bank’s work in the field of infrastructure is very important, given Africa’s huge infrastructure potential. We appreciate the establishment and augmenting of the ADF Regional Operations envelope, which is critical in supporting the Bank’s ambitious regional integration agenda. For many African countries, regional solutions to the provision of public services, such as regional power grids and transportation networks, are more cost effective and provide better services and complement national programs.

We support the building of capacity in the fields of public procurement, internal and external audits, managing revenues from natural resources, and enhancing domestic resource mobilization as they are important for resource rich countries in the region. We, therefore, are appreciative of the Bank’s work and interventions in these areas.

However, we do believe that the Bank Group could do more to support economic diversification and job creation, for the Youth especially, by helping to improve the productivity of private enterprises and micro, small and medium-sized agribusinesses as well as supporting economic and structural reforms with the highest impact on improving the business environment.

Finally, we recognize that there are major challenges for the Bank and the Fund to mobilize resources at a time when many donor countries are facing some economic constraints. Nevertheless, we think that we need to keep the momentum and focus on the big picture, which is to help the Bank’s Regional Member Countries transform their economies, create jobs, and reduce poverty. We hope the ADF-13′s replenishment will meet our needs.

Signed in Abidjan: 14 may, 2013

Monsieur Albert TOIKEUSSE MABRI

Gouverneur du Groupe de la BAD et Ministre du Plan et du Développement de la République de Côte d’Ivoire.

Mr. Mohammed M. SHEIRF

Chief economist, Ministry of Finance of the Republic of Liberia


HON. Seth TERKPER

Governor for the AfDB Group and Minister of Finance and Economic Planning of the Republic of Ghana

Mr. Ngouda Fall Kane

Secrétaire général du Ministère de l’Économie et des Finances, Représentant le Gouverneur Amadou Kane, Ministre de l’Economie et des Finances du Sénégal


Monsieur Kerfalla YANSANE

Gouverneur du Groupe de la BAD et Ministre d’Etat chargé de l’Economie et des Finances de la République de Guinée

Mr. Foday MANSARAY

Temporary Governor for the AfDB Group and Minister of State, Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, Republic of Sierra Leone


Distributed by the African Press Organization on behalf of the African Development Bank (AfDB).

SOURCE

African Development Bank (AfDB)

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IMF Concludes Article IV Mission to Cameroon

Posted on 15 May 2013 by Africa Business

YAOUNDE, Cameroon, May 15, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ An International Monetary Fund (IMF) mission, led by Mr. Mario de Zamaróczy, visited Cameroon during April 29–May 14, 2013 to conduct the 2013 Article IV Consultation. The mission met with Prime Minister Philémon Yang, Minister Secretary General at the Presidency Ferdinand Ngoh Ngoh, Minister of Finance Alamine Ousmane Mey, Minister of Economy, Planning, and Territorial Development Emmanuel Nganou Djoumessi, several other ministers, the Vice Governor and the National Director of the Bank of Central African States (BEAC), other senior officials, and representatives of the private sector, labor unions, civil society organizations, and development partners. The discussions focused on recent economic and financial developments, the 2013 budget, and the economic outlook for 2013 and beyond. At the end of the mission, Mr. de Zamaróczy issued the following statement:

“Recent macroeconomic developments were broadly in line with the projections made at the time of the previous mission in fall 2012. Growth reached 4.4 percent in 2012 (from 4.1 percent in 2011), thanks to a rebound in oil production. Inflation has been moderate, with a 2.4 percent consumer price increase in 2012. Credit to the economy remained subdued and rose by about 2.6 percent.

“Looking ahead, gross domestic product (GDP) growth is projected to accelerate to about 4.8 percent in 2013 and to rise to 5.5 percent a year in the medium term, fuelled by an expected rise in oil production and projected increases in public investment in infrastructure. However, growth would need to be sustained at a higher level for Cameroon to reach its objective of becoming an upper-middle income country by 2035.

“The discussions between the authorities and the mission focused on efforts to spur reforms and set Cameroon on a higher growth path, while mitigating risks to macroeconomic and financial sector stability. The mission recommended closely monitoring public investment in infrastructure to improve its effectiveness and governance. At the same time, the business climate needs to be improved to promote private sector involvement. The mission was encouraged by steps taken to set up the National Public Debt Committee to oversee the financing strategy of public investment plans.

“The mission recommended better allocation of public spending to help close the financing gap in 2013, and improved public finance management to preserve medium-term sustainability and rebuild fiscal space.

“The mission expressed its concern regarding fuel price subsidies. The mission believes that those subsidies are excessively costly and hard to justify, given that only a small share of these subsidies actually benefits the poor. Consequently, the mission encouraged the authorities to phase out these subsidies and replace them with better-targeted social transfer programs.

“The Cameroonian financial sector is saddled with some smaller-size banks that require prompt resolution. The mission encouraged the authorities to move swiftly in cooperation with the regional supervisor, the Commission Bancaire d’Afrique Centrale (COBAC), to protect depositors while minimizing the fiscal cost. The mission encouraged the authorities to accelerate reforms to improve the lending climate. The mission was heartened by the creation of a credit assessment database that will be available in June.

“The IMF’s Executive Board is expected to examine the report on the 2013 Article IV Consultation with Cameroon in June 2013. The mission would like to thank the authorities for their warm hospitality, excellent cooperation, and constructive dialogue.”

 

SOURCE

International Monetary Fund (IMF)

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IMF Executive Board Concludes 2013 Article IV Consultation with Seychelles

Posted on 15 May 2013 by Africa Business

VICTORIA, Mahé, May 15, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ On May 8, 2013, the Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) concluded the Article IV consultation with Seychelles. 1

Background

In the few years since the 2008 debt crisis, Seychelles has made remarkable strides, quickly restoring macroeconomic stability and creating room for private-sector activity. Macroeconomic developments in the tourism-based island economy have been favorable, despite the challenging global environment. Notably, growth held up as the tourism industry successfully attracted arrivals from non-traditional markets as European arrivals slumped, while a surge in foreign direct investment (FDI) supported construction in recent years. For the most part, inflation remained contained, and the external position improved markedly following liberalization of the exchange rate in 2008 and debt restructuring started in 2009.

In 2012, despite robust tourist arrivals, growth moderated to 2.9 percent as large investment projects were completed. Inflation spiked in July 2012 to 8.9 percent fueled by global as well as domestic developments, but has since abated as a result of successful monetary tightening. The external position continued to improve, albeit modestly. In particular, the current account deficit declined slightly, but remained high at around 22 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), but was fully financed by FDI and external borrowing, leading to a modest rise in reserves. Debt restructuring is nearly complete, with only one loan agreement awaiting signature.

Fiscal policy in 2012 continued to support debt sustainability. The primary surplus is projected to have risen to 6.2 percent of GDP, in part due to sizable windfall revenues which were partly saved. Buoyant revenue and grants paved the way for needed capital expenditure. Notwithstanding, public debt increased by over 3 percentage points of GDP due mostly to currency depreciation and the government assuming liabilities of Air Seychelles.

Monetary policy was tightened sharply in 2012 in response to rising inflation and an unhinging of the exchange rate, and has since been relaxed. Starting in late-2011, rising global food and fuel prices coupled with adjustments in administered prices pushed prices higher. This was reinforced by current account pressures resulting from lower exports of transportation services in the wake of the restructuring of Air Seychelles. The looming inflation-depreciation spiral was broken in mid-2012 by two small foreign exchange market interventions by the Central Bank of Seychelles and a tightening of monetary policy. By end-2012, inflation had fallen to 5.8 percent and the exchange rate had strengthened beyond its end-2011 level.

Broad-based structural reform over the past five years has worked to improve financial performance of the public sector and increase private sector participation in economic activity. Statistical capacity continues to be strengthened. Seychelles subscribes to the IMF’s General Data Dissemination Standard (GDDS) and is making progress at compiling higher frequency economic data which will support strengthened macroeconomic oversight and analysis.

Executive Board Assessment

Executive Directors commended the authorities for their strong policy implementation. Macroeconomic stability has been restored and growth has remained resilient. While the outlook is favorable, the economy is vulnerable to an uncertain global environment and domestic risks. Directors called for continued commitment to sound policies and structural reforms to preserve macroeconomic and financial stability, build policy buffers, and foster strong and inclusive growth.

Directors welcomed the steps to improve financial discipline at the central government level and the recent introduction of the VAT. They agreed that strengthening the oversight and financial position of parastatals, including through adequate price mechanisms, and further progress in public financial management will be key to ensuring fiscal sustainability. For the medium term, Directors supported the authorities’ fiscal policy stance which aims at targeting a primary fiscal surplus and reducing public debt to 50 percent of GDP. They welcomed that the debt restructuring is nearly complete and encouraged the authorities to exercise caution when contracting new external debt.

Directors called for continued efforts to improve the monetary framework in order to stabilize inflation expectations and policy interest rates. Absorbing excess liquidity over time will be important to strengthen the monetary anchor and monetary transmission mechanism. Directors considered that a further increase in international reserves, as market conditions permit, would provide a stronger buffer against shocks. Directors noted that the financial system is sound and welcomed the steps being taken to improve the functioning of the credit market.

Directors commended the efforts towards improving the business and investment climate, which is key to avoid a potential middle-income trap and to support broad-based growth. They encouraged the authorities to foster private sector-led growth by addressing infrastructure gaps, engendering lower cost and improved access to credit, correcting data weaknesses, and moving ahead with plans for greater workforce education and capacity building.

 

Seychelles: Selected Economic and Financial Indicators, 2010–14

 

2010    2011    2012    2013    2014

Actual    Actual    Est.    Proj.    Proj.

 

(Percentage change, unless otherwise indicated)

National income and prices

 

Nominal GDP (millions of Seychelles rupees)

11,746    13,119    14,145    15,292    16,461

Real GDP

5.6    5.0    2.9    3.3    3.9

CPI (annual average)

-2.4    2.6    7.1    4.5    3.4

CPI (end-of-period)

0.4    5.5    5.8    4.3    3.1

GDP deflator average

-3.6    6.4    4.8    4.6    3.6

(Percentage change, unless otherwise indicated)

Money and credit

 

Credit to the economy

21.4    6.2    2.5    13.0    …

Broad money

13.5    4.5    -2.3    0.1    …

Reserve money

34.7    -2.7    6.9    12.3    …

Velocity (GDP/broad money)

1.6    1.7    1.9    2.1    …

Money multiplier (broad money/reserve money)

4.2    4.5    4.1    3.6    …

(Percent of GDP)

Savings-Investment balance

 

External savings

23.0    22.7    21.7    23.2    18.4

Gross national savings

13.6    12.4    17.3    15.1    15.5

Of which: government savings

7.8    10.6    14.3    12.1    11.0

Gross investment

36.6    35.1    39.0    38.2    33.8

Of which: government investment

8.6    8.1    12.0    9.2    7.8


Government budget


Total revenue, excluding grants

34.1    35.8    37.6    36.4    35.6

Expenditure and net lending

32.5    35.7    40.2    38.5    36.0

Current expenditure

27.2    27.6    28.8    28.8    27.3

Capital expenditure and net lending

5.3    8.1    11.4    9.8    8.7

Overall balance, including grants

2.5    2.5    2.4    1.8    2.0

Primary balance

8.6    5.4    6.2    5.1    4.4

Total public debt

81.6    74.3    77.3    72.0    65.3

Domestic1

32.5    28.0    27.7    25.7    18.6

External

49.1    46.2    49.6    46.3    46.7

(Percent of GDP, unless otherwise indicated)

External sector

 

Current account balance including official transfers

-23.0    -22.7    -21.7    -23.2    -18.4

Total stock of arrears (millions of U.S. dollars)

30.3    9.0    2.7    …    …

Total public external debt outstanding (millions of U.S. dollars)

478    490    512    558    597

(percent of GDP)

49.1    46.2    49.6    46.3    46.7

Terms of trade (= – deterioration)

-6.7    -6.4    -0.4    0.6    1.2

Real effective exchange rate (average, percent change)

4.4    -7.4    …    …    …

Gross official reserves (end of year, millions of U.S. dollars)

254    277    305    317    326

Months of imports, c.i.f.

2.3    2.5    2.6    2.7    2.7

Exchange rate


Seychelles rupees per US$1 (end-of-period)

12.1    13.7    13.0    …    …

Seychelles rupees per US$1 (period average)

12.1    12.4    13.7    …    …

 

Sources: Central Bank of Seychelles; Ministry of Finance; and IMF staff estimates and projections.

1 Excludes debt issued in 2012 for monetary purposes (5.4 percent of GDP), as proceeds are kept in a blocked account with the Central Bank.

1 Under Article IV of the IMF’s Articles of Agreement, the IMF holds bilateral discussions with members, usually every year. A staff team visits the country, collects economic and financial information, and discusses with officials the country’s economic developments and policies. On return to headquarters, the staff prepares a report, which forms the basis for discussion by the Executive Board. At the conclusion of the discussion, the Managing Director, as Chairman of the Board, summarizes the views of Executive Directors, and this summary is transmitted to the country’s authorities. An explanation of any qualifiers used in summings up can be found here: http://www.imf.org/external/np/sec/misc/qualifiers.htm

 

SOURCE

International Monetary Fund (IMF)

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SA tooling and Manufacturing tackle revival challenge

Posted on 14 May 2013 by Africa Business

South Africa’s tooling and manufacturing sectors are aggressively tackling skills challenges, and modernising and growing their operations, with a view to taking on global manufacturing giants.

AfriMold, is the 4th annual manufacturing trade fair and conference for the design, precision engineering & machining, automotive component, tooling, tool making, production and application development sectors, and is taking place 4 – 6 June at the NASREC Expo Centre in Johannesburg.


Speaking ahead of this year’s AfriMold manufacturing trade fair from 4 – 6 June at the NASREC Expo Centre in Johannesburg, key industry players said South Africa’s manufacturing sector is experiencing a new spirit of revival, on the back of an aggressively modernising and growing tooling sector.

Dirk van Dyk, CEO of the National Tooling Initiative Programme, and representative of the Tooling Association of South Africa (TASA), noted that statistics released by ISTMA (International Specialized Tooling and Machining Association at the recent World Tooling Conference in Toronto, Canada, indicate that up to 50% of any manufactured component’s cost competiveness is governed by Tooling. However, the local TDM sector only provides approximately 20% of the local manufacturing sector’s tooling requirements. “The opportunity is there for the local TDM sector to increase this percentage significantly,” he said.

“There are more than 500 local Tool, Die and Mould manufacturing companies involved in local support of the manufacturing value chain ranging from 1st to 4th tier suppliers. The local tooling sector is gearing up for growth, presenting a positive outlook for manufacturing, and with it – job creation.”

Skills development is a key component of the tooling and manufacturing industry’s growth plans, says industry heads.

Van Dyk said the TDM Powered Pilot project, which started in 2010 as part of the turnaround strategy for the distressed tooling industry, has entered its 4th year of piloting with 408 students on Level II and Level III of the Apprenticeship Programme at 12 FET institutions in the country.

The National Skills Fund has allocated funding to Instimbi through the dti to fund another apprenticeship programme with 650 students at 12 FET institutions in the country.  It is envisaged that these students should be placed by May 2013.

In addition, enterprise development is reaching companies country wide through benchmarking exercises (based on international best practice and comparison to peers) to guide local Tool, Die and Mould manufacturing companies towards increased competiveness. Intervention projects are launched to aid companies on this journey.  A new round of benchmarking will start with 30 companies in April 2013.

Coenraad Bezuidenhout, Executive Director of Manufacturing Circle, says the Manufacturing Circle is launching two important initiatives to support government’s local procurement initiative and set an important example to the private sector, and to broaden its membership. The organisation plans to rapidly increase the approximately 200 000 manufacturing jobs that the Circle membership gives direct representation to today, and to include many more smaller and medium-sized manufacturers in the Manufacturing Circle. On 16 May, the Manufacturing Circle will launch its 2013 Q1 Manufacturing Circle Quarterly Survey on manufacturing business conditions, with a new component that will provide an indicator of the measure to which manufacturers procure locally, as well as the degree to which government’s local procurement impacts on manufacturers.

Meanwhile, the automotive sector, seen as a potentially promising growth area for local manufacturing, is seeking greater engagement with local organisations.

Roger Pitot, Executive Director of the National Association of Automotive Components and Allied Manufacturers (NAACAM) says: “We must double vehicle production volumes to over a million, and we must significantly increase local content from the present dismal 35%.”

Pitot says NAACAM members employ almost 50,000 people with a turnover last year of R57 billion. The total automotive sector, including vehicle assemblers, employs over 100,000 in manufacturing and 200,000 in sales and service operations.

“Unfortunately, the automotive trade deficit has been growing and reached an all-time high of R49 billion in 2012, mainly due to a record 72% of all cars sold in South Africa being imported. Exports in 2012 at R87 billion almost recovered to the record achieved in 2008, but the outlook for the future depends largely on the global economic situation, particularly in Europe, our biggest market.  The local auto industry has to compete globally, therefore our focus is on improving our competitiveness through efficiencies and cost reductions.”

Pitot adds: “Areas of uncompetitiveness include certain materials such as steel, wages, logistics and, increasingly, electricity. So opportunities lie in improving our efficiencies and our technological capabilities. These include manufacture of higher-level tooling, more local R&D and developing capabilities to produce the lighter and greener components that will form part of vehicles in future.”

The challenges and potential growth areas for design, precision engineering & machining, automotive component, tooling, tool making, production and application development sectors will come under the spotlight at the 4th annual AfriMold conference and trade fair. The event, a partner of the highly successful EuroMold trade fair, is endorsed by major industry bodies, as well as by the Department of Trade and Industry.

Ron MacLarty, Managing Director of AfriMold, says: “AfriMold 2013 will continue to innovate and push boundaries for the manufacturing industries’ continued growth and improved competitiveness as we strive for collaboration and cohesion on the home front.”

Bob Bond, Chairman of the Plastics Institute of South Africa (PISA) Northern Branch and AfriMold Conference Convenor, says the event’s theme, ‘Enabling For Tomorrow with a focus on precision engineering and tooling as a key enabler for the South African manufacturing sector, was chosen in light of the renewed drive for competitiveness.

Among the issues to be addressed at the conference are:

· What the SA Automotive sector expects from the local tooling industry

· Industrial Design: The Competitive Edge for Tooling and Manufacture

· Solutions for super profitable tool rooms

· How to fund equipment with IDC money

· Initiatives to boost Toolmaking Enterprises Development.

The AfriMold Trade Fair and Conference will also include the PISA/ AfriMold Student Design Presentations and PISA Member Awards.

For more information about AfriMold, visit www.afrimold.co.za or contact Terri Bernstein at Tel: +27 83 635 3539 or terri@afrimold.co.za

 

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Denmark to launch new development programme for Zimbabwe

Posted on 14 May 2013 by Wallace Mawire

Denmark is planning to launch a new development programme in mid 2013 with substantial increase in budget  support for Zimbabwe, according to State Secretary of the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mr L.B.Petersen who recently visited the southern African country.

Petersen’s visit which marked the highest ranking visit from Denmark in years was meant to facilitate high-level consultations covering a range of issues.  “The visit is also an opportunity to launch the first case of direct support from a traditional donor to the government of Zimbabwe.Denmark will on a pilot basis launch direct support to the Judicial Service Commission in their rehabilitation of magistrates courts,” Petersen said.

Denmark is one of the major bilateral donors in Zimbabwe with a long history in the country going way back to the Nordic solidarity during the struggle for independence.

Petersen said that his government plans to spend approximately $40 million a year to support the government of Zimbabwe in various areas.

“We are currently in the process of formulating a new Denmark-Zimbabwe partnership programme for 2013-2015. The increased size and budget of the new partnership programme is a testament of our continued support to development in this country,” he said.

He added that a key priority in the programme is to contribute to the reduction of gender based violence in Zimbabwe.

“We do this through support to projects and programmes which address specific needs and concerns of women exposed to gender based violence,” Petersen said.

Some of the support will be channeled towards the agricultural smallholder sector,employment creation,value chain creation,promotion of good governance,rule of law and support to civil society.

According to Petersen, the Danish government has previously supported the government of Zimbabwe with $15,2 million for infrastructure rehabilitation under the Zimbabwe Multi-Donor Trust Fund (ZMDTF).

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IMF Mission Concludes the 2013 Article IV Mission to the Republic of Congo

Posted on 14 May 2013 by Africa Business

BRAZZAVILLE, Republic of the Congo, May 14, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ An International Monetary Fund (IMF) mission led by Mr. Mbuyamu Matungulu visited Brazzaville during April 29–May 13, 2013, to conduct discussions for the 2013 Article IV consultations. The mission met with the Honorable Obami Itou, President of the Senate; the Honorable Koumba, Speaker of Parliament; State and Finance Minister Ondongo, Special Presidential Advisor Gokana, National Director of the BEAC Ondaye Ebauh, and other senior officials. It held discussions with development partners and representatives of the private sector, including members of the banking profession.

At the end of the mission, Mr. Matungulu issued the following statement:

“In 2012, real GDP growth rebounded to about 4 percent despite a marked decline in oil production. Activity in the non-oil sectors was robust, driven by a surge in public spending in response to the ammunitions depot explosion of March 2012. The brisk increase in spending put pressures on prices, bringing end-year inflation to 7.5 percent as domestic supply response was limited. Reflecting the high import content of increased government outlays, the external current account turned negative in 2012. Credit growth remained robust. The basic non-oil primary budget deficit increased considerably, stemming from the expansion of government spending. However, the deficit was smaller than projected, with domestically-funded investment outlays somewhat lower than anticipated.

“Real GDP growth is expected to strengthen to 5.8 percent in 2013 despite a further decline of oil production, underpinned by continuing strong activity in construction and public works, telecommunications, as well as a timid start of iron ore production. Inflation eased to a monthly average of -0.1 percent in January-February 2013, and is projected to remain subdued during the remainder of the year as pressures from the 2012 ammunitions explosions fallout gradually recede. While the current account is expected to improve, the country remains vulnerable to adverse changes in external conditions, particularly on terms of trade. Compared to the initial budget, the mission’s current fiscal projections for 2013 reflect a shortfall in oil revenue equivalent to 4.8 percent of non-oil GDP, a reduction in government spending, as well as much higher-than-anticipated payments on arrears to social sectors. While the basic non-oil primary budget deficit should be contained below the projected level, the build-up of government deposits with the central bank would likely be much lower than targeted under the 2013 budget. The mission urged stronger treasury management and discussed quarterly fiscal targets for the remainder of the year to minimize slippages.

“The authorities’ medium-term development agenda seeks to foster private sector development, facilitate economic diversification, and secure growth inclusiveness. It appropriately emphasizes preservation of macroeconomic stability, improvements in governance and transparency and in business conditions, as well as a scaling up of investment to begin closing large infrastructure and skills gaps, while seeking further gains in budget consolidation. The mission encouraged the authorities to expedite reforms to improve the quality of spending; and welcomed World Bank involvement in the efforts to improve the management of the public investment program and enhance the productivity of the development budget. It underscored accelerated implementation of World Bank-supported reforms to improve the business environment, including in financial sector; and to roll out envisaged social protection systems. Regarding the management of oil resources, the mission reiterated calls for early adoption by Parliament of the draft law on budget transparency and accountability, following the achievement last February of compliant status under the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI). As Congo moves ahead with the establishment of Special Economic Zones, the staff team urged caution. In particular, the mission encouraged the authorities to refrain from extending special fiscal incentives, and to focus instead on revamping infrastructure, including the inadequate electricity network, and advancing administrative facilitation. The staff team favored implementation of economy-wide reforms that improve the business environment for all so as to prevent abuses. It confirmed Congo’s low risk of debt distress but noted the need for continuing prudent borrowing policies to maintain long-term debt sustainability in the post-HIPC era.

“The mission discussed a medium- and long-term fiscal framework aimed at protecting spending from oil revenue volatility and ensuring budget and debt sustainability while supporting growth and guarding against the risks in the face of declining oil reserves. The framework makes provisions for scaled up investment and a buildup of net wealth that would sustain expenditures when oil resources are depleted. Under the agreed framework, nearly 65 percent of projected total oil revenue for 2013–2019 would be spent (two thirds of which on capital goods), and 35 percent saved; and the basic non-oil primary budget deficit would be limited to 36.1 percent of non-oil GDP by 2015.

“The authorities concurred with the need to improve coordination of economic policy management through development of appropriate reform-monitoring mechanisms. In this context, staff welcomed the government’s support to the ongoing review of the Economic and Monetary Community of Central African States (CEMAC)’s reserves pooling framework. Finally, the mission reminded the authorities of Congo’s legal obligations under Article VIII, Section 5, including the obligation to provide data to Fund staff on official holdings of foreign exchange.

“The mission wishes to express gratitude to the authorities for their hospitality. Upon its return to Washington D.C., the team will prepare a staff report to be discussed by the IMF’s Executive Board.”

 

SOURCE

International Monetary Fund (IMF)

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ZIMFUND launches first phase of Zimbabwe’s water supply and sanitation rehab project

Posted on 14 May 2013 by Wallace Mawire

by Wallace Mawire

The Zimbabwe Multi-Donor Trust Fund (ZimFund) urgent Water Supply and Sanitation Rehabilitation Project phase one expected to increase the reliability, quality and availability of water, restore wastewater treatment capacity and reduce the incidence of cholera and other water related diseases has been launched, according to the Zimfund Manager,  Engineer Emmanuel Nzabanita.

The ZimFund Manager reports that Zimfund has handed-over the site of Mutare water and sanitation works to the contractor. This project, valued at  $9.04 million, is the first to be implemented under the Fund’s overall $29.65 million Urgent Water Supply and Sanitation Rehabilitation Project (UWSSRP), which will also see developments in the municipalities of Chegutu, Chitungwiza, Harare, Kwekwe and Masvingo.


The UWSSR project has been designed to improve the health and social well-being of the residents of the beneficiary cities, through the equitable provision of adequate water supply and sanitation services.

The ZimFund grant will enable the provision of urgent support for the restoration and stabilization of water supply and sanitation services in the six municipalities, by undertaking emergency rehabilitation to the systems and reducing pollution of the water sources.

In Mutare, the project comprises of  the partial rehabilitation of Odzani Water Treatment works, the completion of the Chikanga Reservoir, the completion of the Mutare Trunk Sewer, the rehabilitation of Gimboki Sewerage Treatment Works and  the supply of laboratory and other equipment for maintenance.

ZimFund Manager, Eng. Emmanuel Nzabanita said, “I am delighted that this project that is expected to have a major impact on the people living in Mutare has commenced.”

The rehabilitation of Chikanga Water Reservoir, the Gimboki BNR Sewage treatment plant and the pipeline for the outfall sewer is expected to improve the water and sanitation services considerably.

The restoration of some wastewater treatment capacity in the project areas will reduce pollution to the fresh water sources and the immediate environment.

In addition to the water and sanitation projects, ZimFund is also supporting the Emergency Power Infrastructure Rehabilitation Project (EPIRP) to the tune of $35 million, benefitting the electricity consuming public in Zimbabwe – especially the poor.

The second project is expected to help rehabilitate the Ash Plant at Hwange Power Station (HPS), in addition to sub-transmission and distribution facilities in Atlanta (Murehwa), Criterion (Bulawayo), Gweru, Kadoma, Marvel (Bulawayo), Mazowe, Mpopoma (Bulawayo), Norton, Pomona (Harare), Redcliff, Sherwood (Kwe Kwe), Victoria Falls, Zisco (Redcliff), Zvishavane and electricity distribution facilities throughout the country.

Once complete, these refurbishments and reinforcements of the sub-transmission and distribution networks are expected to  improve system reliability and allow the restoration of supply services to about 22,000 customers in various neighbourhoods across the country that presently have no access to electricity services.

The EPIR Project is linked to UWSSR Project, in that it will also improve the electricity supply to the water treatment plant of the Harare city water supply as well as the other five urban water supply systems, with a possible contribution to the reduction in the incidence of cholera and other water related diseases, according to the Zimfund Mamager.

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