IMF Executive Board Completes First Review Under Extended Credit Facility Arrangement, Approves US$3.9 Million Disbursement, and Concludes 2014 Article IV Consultation with Burkina Faso

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Press Release No. 14/330
July 3, 2014

On July 3, 2014, the Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund completed the first review of Burkina Faso’s economic performance under a three-year program supported by the IMF’s Extended Credit Facility (ECF) arrangement, and also concluded the 2014 Article IV Consultation1 with Burkina Faso. The completion of the first review enables the immediate release of an amount equivalent to SDR 2.55 million (about US$3.9 million), bringing total disbursements under the arrangement to an amount equivalent to SDR 5.1 million (about US$7.9 million).

In completing the first review, the Executive Board also approved the authorities’ requests for a waiver for nonobservance of the end-December 2013 performance criterion on net domestic financing, and for modification of the continuous performance criterion on non-concessional external debt and modification of the performance criterion on net domestic financing for the end-June and end-December 2014 periods. The 36-month ECF arrangement in the amount equivalent to SDR 27.09 million (about US$41.9 million, or 45 percent of Burkina Faso’s quota at the IMF) was approved by the Executive Board on December 27, 2013 (see Press Release 13/542).

Following the Executive Board's discussion on Burkina Faso, Mr. David Lipton, First Deputy Managing Director and Acting Chair issued the following statement:

“Burkina Faso has a long track record of strong macroeconomic policy management, supported by IMF programs. Structural reforms to improve productivity and resilience in agriculture and increased spending for poverty reduction and food security have resulted in robust growth rates and progress toward the Millennium Development Goals.

“Burkina Faso’s performance under the new ECF-supported program has been satisfactory, with all structural reforms implemented and most quantitative targets reached. Growth has remained robust and the fiscal deficit has been contained. While the outlook for growth remains strong, there are challenges arising from unfavorable terms of trade in the near term. However, fiscal deficits should remain contained around 3 percent of GDP, due to spending adjustment and increased grants. As gold prices recover over the medium term, external balances should improve. The risk of debt distress remains classified as “moderate”.

“The authorities have reaffirmed their strong commitment to the program against the backdrop of a more challenging policy environment. Three macroeconomic challenges have been identified to set the foundation for progress over the longer term. First, ensuring that the quality and composition of spending allows scaling up critical investment, both in infrastructure and people, needed to support private sector-led growth. Second, accelerating investments for increased and more reliable electricity supplies to meet growing demand, while putting the energy sector on a more financially-sustainable footing and scaling down untargeted subsidies. Finally, updating the mining code to harness natural resource revenues, and creating mechanisms, such as a fiscal rule, to direct them toward growth-enhancing spending over a multi-year horizon.”

The Executive Board also completed the 2014 Article IV consultation with Burkina Faso.

Over the past two decades, Burkina Faso has experienced sustained stable and higher growth, with progress toward achieving the Millennium Development Goals. The country has a long track record of strong macroeconomic policy management, supported by consecutive IMF-supported economic programs. The authorities have taken a number of measures to improve productivity and resilience in agriculture, boost revenue collection, and increase spending for poverty reduction and food security.

Growth remained robust in 2013 at 6.6 percent, although slightly lower than average due to the impact of erratic rain on agricultural yield and weaker terms of trade. Inflation hovered around zero, reflecting low food prices. The fiscal deficit was 3.5 percent, slightly higher than expected, mainly due to revenue shortfalls. The current account deficit worsened, due to lower gold prices and sustained imports.

For this year, the authorities have submitted a supplemental budget reflecting an increase in the wage bill (0.6 percent of GDP) and increased social transfers (0.6 percent of GDP). However, to maintain an unchanged fiscal deficit, the new spending will be financed by additional grants and reduced non-priority spending, mainly in investment, also reflecting a reprioritization in favor of energy projects and more “shovel-ready” projects.

Going forward, growth is expected to remain around 7 percent, inflation around 2 percent, and the fiscal deficit (including grants) at around 3 percent of GDP. The current account deficit is expected to stabilize at 7 per cent of GDP as terms of trade improve over the medium term. Risks to the outlook are weather, further terms of trade deterioration, pressure to spend more on untargeted subsidies and public wage increases, and political transition.

Executive Board Assessment2:

Executive Directors commended the authorities for their long track record of sound macroeconomic management and structural reforms that have led to robust growth. Good progress has been made towards achieving the development goals, supported by increased investment and poverty-reducing spending. Performance under the Fund-supported program has been satisfactory. While the medium-term outlook is favorable, significant challenges are posed by public spending pressures, energy constraints, and liabilities associated with public enterprises. Directors emphasized that continued strong ownership and commitment to prudent policies and structural reforms will safeguard the macroeconomic gains and foster long-term sustainable and inclusive growth.

Directors underscored the need to contain fiscal expenditure, including by bringing the wage bill back in line with WAEMU rules, while maintaining priority spending in the areas of infrastructure, health, and education. Directors supported plans to continue improving revenue collection through new administrative measures. While welcoming the planned audit of key public enterprises, Directors encouraged the authorities to give consideration to gradual adjustments of retail fuel prices. At the same time, and recognizing the complexity of this issue, they also called for addressing energy supply constraints through planned acceleration of projects to increase power generation and operational efficiency which are critical to alleviating growth constraints. Noting that energy supply shortages are an issue throughout the region, Directors encouraged more focus on regional approaches to help address the problem.

Directors stressed the importance of harnessing natural resource revenues to finance development. They welcomed Burkina Faso’s EITI compliance, and looked forward to an updated mining tax code that is aligned with best international practice, since these revenues will be critical for financing the country’s development needs. To help manage the use of natural resource revenues in the face of volatile commodity prices and investment capacity constraints, they encouraged consideration of a fiscal rule, consistent with WAEMU rules. To ensure debt sustainability, Directors recommended that the authorities limit non-concessional borrowing to high-return projects, and continue to improve debt management capacity.

Directors welcomed the authorities’ commitment to enhance spending in key priority areas, as outlined in their development program. In scaling up investment spending for human and infrastructure capital, Directors encouraged a strong focus on the quality of spending, through careful project selection and results-monitoring. In particular, they called for more attention to higher education and job training programs. Directors supported the authorities’ efforts to expand access to financial services.

Directors encouraged the authorities to continue efforts to update the base year for national accounts statistics, in order to better assess evolving sources of economic growth and structural transformation.

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