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On Gabon, IMF Issues Statement Praising "Reform," Even Transparency and Ali Bongo

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 27 – When UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres in the summer of 2017 did a photo op (Periscope here) and meeting with Gabon's Ali Bongo, who along with his father Omar have consecutively ruled Gabon since 1967, it began a full 15 minutes late. Not because Bongo was picking up another dubious award on the sidelines of the sometimes dubious Ocean Conference (see here), but because Guterres had another, unlisted visitor. It was, Inner City Press saw, Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the UN. Now on March 27 with the Saudi Crown Prince slated to meet Guterres, the International Monetary Fund issued this about Gabon, specifically thanking Bongo: "Mr. Abebe Aemro Selassie, Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) African Department, issued the following statement in Libreville at the conclusion of his visit to Gabon, which took place on 25-26 March 2018: 'It was a pleasure to visit Gabon as the Director of the IMF’s African Department. Gabon has made substantial progress implementing its Economic Recovery Plan (Plan de Relance Economique) (PRE). I congratulated the authorities on the progress made so far and encouraged them to sustain their reform efforts, especially in areas critical to ensure that the program remains on-track. This includes measures to boost non-oil tax revenues. Also critical will be public finance reforms to curtail non-essential spending, ensure greater transparency in expenditures, and protect spending on social programs. A credible plan to settle domestic and external arrears is also necessary. The first review of Gabon’s program with the Fund was completed in December 2017. Discussions on the second review will start in April. I would like to thank President Ali Bongo Ondimba, Prime Minister M. Emmanuel Issoze-Ngondet, Economy Minister M. Régis Immongault, and Budget Minister M. Jean Fidèle Otandault for their warm hospitality and for the opportunity to learn more about Gabon’s reform program.” Gabon? Reform?  Transparency? At the UN in the Summer of 20187 Bongo stayed upstairs for 45 minutes and then left with the media he'd brought in, in a caravan of vehicles with a police escort. Periscope viewers told Inner City Press Gabonese were protesting Bongo, who they call a killer, in front of the Peninsula Hotel. Now Jean Ping is calling for UN action, saying pointedly that he "cancelled plans to visit the United Nations and meet with U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres. 'I don’t need to be just received. But I have the impression that (anything beyond that) is a long way off because of the system.'" Reuters neglects to note that Ping was not only a chair of the African Union, but a President of the UN General Assembly. Then again, Reuters is barely reporting on the UN bribery trial of one of Ping's successors as PGA, John Ashe. We'll have more on this. Ali Bongo, fresh off this award(s) in New York, unilaterally suspended the media Echos du Nord, here. The UN itself evicted (audio) and still restricts Inner City Press, and when Inner City Press asked Guterres' spokesman Stephane Dujarric, who did it, about Gabon including as relates to the closed door briefing of Francois Fall of UNOCA set up in Gabon, Dujarric's response was about the sports team the New York Mets. This is today's UN.
Watch this site.  Guterres' holdover spokesman Stephane Dujarric declined to offer any explanation of the differences. As noted, under Ban Ki-moon he had Inner City Press thrown out of the UN Press Briefing Room and UN, where it is still restricted even as the Ng Lap Seng / John Ashe UN bribery case it was covering is coming to trial. Is the UN reforming? Watch this site.



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