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On Cameroon IMF Report Cites Sports Stadia and Urges Improved Governance But Silent on Slaughter of Anglophones

By Matthew Russell Lee, New Platform

UNITED NATIONS GATE, July 24 – After Inner City Press repeatedly asked UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and his spokesman about Cameroon's Internet cut-off and abuses, the UN's answer after its Resident Coordinator was shown to block the Press and then left for the Central African Republic was that the UN Office on Central Africa (UNOCA) envoy Francois Lounceny Fall would be visiting in May. This turned out to be misleading like so much with today's UN system, which since July 5 and July 6, 2018 has banned Inner City Press for covering the UN's Budget Committee and the deal UNSG Antonio Guterres is said by sources close to him have made with Cameroon as chair of the committee (Fox News story here, GAP blogs I and II). Now on November 13 the International Monetary Fund published this blithe report on Cameroon: "An International Monetary Fund (IMF) team, led by Ms. Corinne Deléchat, visited Yaoundé during November 5-13, 2018 to conduct discussions on the third review of the program supported by the Extended Credit Facility (ECF) that was approved in June 2017.
At the end of this visit, Ms. Deléchat issued the following statement:
“The IMF team reached staff-level agreement with the authorities on economic and financial policies that could support approval of the third review of their three-year program under the ECF. The IMF Executive Board could consider the third review in mid-December 2018.
“Overall economic growth is projected to reach 3.8 percent in 2018, from 3.5 percent in 2017. This slight recovery in economic growth is mainly driven by construction activity related to public infrastructure projects and the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (CAN). Medium-term prospects remain positive, with growth expected to improve gradually to 4.4 percent in 2019. However, the outlook entails significant risks from heightened global uncertainty, insufficient adjustment at the regional level, and continued insecurity in the anglophone regions.
“Budget execution at end-September 2018 was broadly as envisaged under the program despite slightly lower-than-projected non-oil revenue mobilization and good progress continued to be made on structural reforms.
“The authorities identified revenue and spending measures to ensure that the end-2018 overall fiscal deficit target can be met. They committed to enhance non-oil revenue collection, re-prioritize domestically financed public investment to offset the higher-than-expected disbursements on foreign financed investment, and tighten control of current spending while protecting social sectors.
“The mission highlighted the importance of presenting to the National Assembly a draft budget law for 2019 that is in line with the objectives of the ECF-supported program and includes strong measures to boost non-oil revenue mobilization through an expansion of the tax base, tightens current expenditures, prioritizes capital spending, and limits exceptional budget procedures.
“The mission took note of the government’s efforts to preserve public debt sustainability, including by limiting non-concessional borrowing. The team welcomed the authorities’ commitment to adopt, in the coming days, a plan to validate and reduce balances on non-performing contracted-but-undisbursed loans. Ongoing efforts to strengthen monitoring of state-owned enterprises’ liabilities would help contain contingent liabilities. The mission however highlighted the risks posed by administered utility prices on the financial viability of key public enterprises and encouraged the authorities to liberalize these prices.
“Structural reforms should continue to strengthen public financial management and address key obstacles to boosting the private sector’s contribution to growth. This will require to effectively implement the new tax measures included in the 2019 draft budget law, accelerating the implementation of the reform agenda on expenditure management and taking actions to improve the business climate, governance, and financial inclusion.
“The mission welcomed the authorities’ commitment to implementing policies consistent with the stability of the region’s monetary arrangement, which requires in particular a recovery of BEAC’s foreign reserves. The authorities indicated that, to this end, they will support regional institutions’ efforts to strengthen compliance with foreign exchange regulations, notably regarding repatriation of export earnings including oil export proceeds.
“The team met with Prime Minister Philemon Yang, State Minister of Justice Laurent Esso, Minister Secretary General at the Presidency Ferdinand Ngoh Ngoh, Minister of Finance Louis Paul Motaze, Minister of Economy, Planning, and Regional Development Alamine Ousmane Mey, BEAC Governor Mahamat Abbas Tolli, BEAC National Director Jean-Marie Benoit Mani, and other senior officials. The mission also met representatives of the diplomatic and donor communities.
“The team wishes to thank the Cameroonian authorities for their hospitality, cooperation, and the constructive dialogue.” UNreal. On July 23 the IMF published a report on Cameroon, including touching on the economic impact of the "anglophone crisis." The IMF report states: "The current anglophone crisis takes its roots in Cameroon’s unification in 1961. The 1972 constitution replaced federalism with a unitary state. Throughout the years, the anglophone population, which resides mostly in the north-west and south-west regions and account for 20 percent of Cameroon’s total population of 25 million, has demanded more autonomy and rights, while the state has become increasingly centralized. They founded the largest opposition party (Social Democratic Front) in the 1990s.
The crisis has escalated to an armed separation movement with rising humanitarian costs. The crisis started in October 2016 with strikes by lawyers and teachers and was followed by a boycott of schools, protests and ghost towns. It subsequently morphed into an armed movement for independence marked by violence on both sides, which escalated in recent months to killings and detentions, burning and looting of villages, and kidnappings of government officials and civilians. Despite a heavy military presence, the insecurity has spread leading to rising humanitarian costs. The United Nations’ Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimated that more than 20,000 people have fled to Nigeria, and 160,000 have become internally displaced persons (IDPs). This adds to the burden from 340,000 refugees from Nigeria and the Central African Republic. The United Nations High Commission for Refugees estimates that the cost of assisting refugees and IDPs in Cameroon has risen to US$87 million, of which only US$15 million are funded. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the anglophone crisis is taking a toll on the economy. A rigorous quantification is difficult because of lack of adequate data. However, real exports of coffee and cocoa, grown mostly in the anglophone areas, have decreased by about 10 percent in 2017. Coffee export volumes further declined by 72 percent in the first quarter of 2018 (y/y). Tax revenues decreased by 8–9 percent in both regions in 2017 compared with 2016, due to lower economic activity and difficulties to collect taxes. Additional security expenses amounted to 0.4 percent of GDP in 2017 and at least 0.2 percent of GDP in 2018." Inner City Press was informed, not by the IMF, that on July 10 the IMF held a conference call with NGOs, while continuing as recently at July 6 to dole out funds to the Paul Biya government. In late June a group of lawyers and human rights organizations wrote to the IMF's Christine Lagarde to flag a possible breach of IMF loan terms by the government of Cameroon. The loan, which was approved in June 2017, “aims to restore the country’s fiscal and external sustainability and unlock job-rich, private sector-driven growth.” Under its terms, Cameroon agreed to a recurring obligation to report, within two weeks, “[a]ny decision, decree, law, order or circular having economic or financial implications, from its publication date or effective date.” It seems clear however that Cameroon did not report at least two instances when the government shut or slowed down internet services in certain regions of the country, which experts say would have cost millions to the country’s economy. A conservative estimate of the economic harm done places it at $3.2 million, while others estimate that the costs may have been as high as $38.8 million. “The result is that the government’s unlawful interference with internet freedom has had a debilitating effect on the economy, affecting not only media companies but also businesses, as they are dependent upon internet for transactions and operations,” reads the letter. Then there was a call. We hope to have more on this - there is an IMF press briefing on July 12. On July 6, 2018 the IMF announced: "IMF Executive Board Concludes 2018 Article IV Consultation, Completes Second Review Under Extended Credit Facility Arrangement, and Approves US$77.8 Million Disbursement for Cameroon. Growth is estimated to have decelerated to 3.2 percent in 2017 mainly due to a steep decline in oil production despite the gradual rebound in international prices.
 
The macroeconomic outlook for 2018 remains positive, with growth expected to rebound to 4 percent, driven by the onset of gas production, construction activities for the 2019 African Cup of Nations (CAN).
 
The Cameroonian authorities have adopted a comprehensive economic reform program to restore fiscal and external sustainability and buttress private sector-led and inclusive growth, supported by the IMF’s ECF arrangement.
 
On July 6, 2018, the Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) concluded the Article IV consultation[1] and completed the second review under the Extended Credit Facility (ECF) arrangement for the Republic of Cameroon. Completion of this review enables the disbursement of SDR 55.2 million (about US$77.8 million).

The three-year ECF arrangement with a total access of SDR 483 million (about US$680.7 million or 175 percent of Cameroon’s quota) was approved by the IMF Executive Board on June 26, 2017.

Following the Board discussion of the ECF review, Mr. Mitsuhiro Furusawa, Deputy Managing Director, and Acting Chair, made the statement below:

“Cameroon’s performance under its ECF-supported program has been mixed against the backdrop of slower economic activity and security concerns. End-year spending overruns offset strong non-oil revenue collection, resulting in a higher-than-envisaged fiscal deficit. Nonetheless, structural reform implementation has been broadly satisfactory and net foreign assets accumulated faster than anticipated owing to a narrowing of the current account deficit.

“The authorities have reiterated their commitment to the program and have implemented corrective measures to bring the fiscal adjustment back on track in 2018, including preparing a revised 2018 budget and tightening expenditure controls. Strict implementation of the 2018 revised fiscal targets will be essential to support the buildup of fiscal and external buffers for Cameroon and the region. With significant spending pressures associated with the 2018 elections, a worsening security situation, and the 2019 African Soccer Cup, any additional oil revenue should be saved.

“Public debt has risen in 2017 owing to faster-than-envisaged execution of investment projects. Strictly limiting new borrowing and tilting its composition toward concessional borrowing would be key to maintaining public debt sustainability. The stock of contracted but undisbursed debt should also be reduced. Financial sector and structural reforms would reduce vulnerabilities and address remaining competitiveness bottlenecks.

Cameroon’s program is supported by the implementation of supportive policies and reforms by the regional institutions in the areas of foreign exchange regulations and monetary policy framework and to support an increase in regional net foreign assets, which are critical to the program’s success." After the IMF told Inner City Press is viewed Yaounde's policies toward the Anglophone areas as a fiscal risk, on June 26 the IMF board handed the Biya government $171 million. Now on December 20, as Biya ratchet up his killing in Mamfe and elsewhere in Ambazonia, the IMF is disbursing more money, $117 million: "The Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) today completed the first review of the arrangement under the Extended Credit Facility (ECF) Arrangement for Cameroon. The completion of the review enables the disbursement of SDR 82.8 million (about US$ 117.2 million), bringing total disbursements under the arrangement to SDR 207 million (about US$ 292.9 million). Cameroon’s three-year arrangement for SDR 483 million (about US$ about US$683.5 million, or 175 percent of Cameroon’s quota), was approved on June 26, 2017 (see Press Release No.17/248). It aims at supporting the country’s efforts to restore external and fiscal sustainability and lay the foundations for sustainable, inclusive and private sector-led growth. Following the Executive Board discussion, Mr. Mitsuhiro Furusawa, Deputy Managing Director and Acting Chair, made the following statement: “Fiscal and external adjustment in Cameroon and other CEMAC countries, combined with external financing, have led to a gradual buildup in CEMAC reserves. However, the region’s recovery remains fragile, and Cameroon’s continued leadership of the regional effort will be essential to sustainability. “Cameroon’s performance under the ECF-supported arrangement has been broadly satisfactory. The authorities remain fully committed to fiscal consolidation and the 2018 budget is in line with program objectives. However, meeting the deficit targets may be challenging in the context of weaker-than-envisaged revenue, and spending pressures in 2018 and 2019. “To meet program objectives, stepped-up efforts to expand the non-oil revenue base and better prioritizing spending will be essential while preserving social spending." Like in Ambazonia? Did they get a golden statue like Antonio Guterres took from Paul Biya on October 27? Back on October 13 after Inner City Press asked the IMF during its Africa press conference during its Annual meeting, about the rising crisis in Southern Cameroon, the IMF's Abebe Aemro Selassie Director of the IMF's African Department, said on camera that it is hard to assess the impacts but the IMF tries to pay heed to "situations like the one you refer to." Really? (He was upbeat on Gabon, too, with no reference to the protests.)

Cameroon's UN Ambassador Tommo Monthe, who told Inner City Press that Paul Biya stands ready to cut the Internet again, and partied with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres' Deputy SG and chief of staff while singing songs for Chantal Biya, is already at the meeting Fall will attend. Tommo Monthe is quoted, "We need to exchange views on all these insecurity situations before we bring it back to the UN during its forthcoming general assembly session." On May 29 Fall issued this canned quote: "We will continue to support efforts of the subregion in its determination to prevent, to combat and to bring an end to the uncontrolled flow of arms in Central Africa. This would strengthen confidence among states and reassure the population, the main victims of this phenomenon, which is also a hindrance to the sustainable development of Central Africa." This is the focus on Lonseny Fall's much-hyped visit to Yaounde, while Guterres' Deputy SG and chief of staff party with Paul Biya's representative amid songs for Chantal Biya and French champagne. We'll have more on this. Well over a week ago, Inner City Press asked UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres' holdover spokesman Stephane Dujarric about Cameroon administering in areas to which it cut off the Internet for 94 days a General Certificate of Education test, specifically citing UNESCO. Dujarric said he would look into it. Having received no answer even as Guterres' Deputy and Chief of Staff appeared at Cameroon's (boycotted) national day, on May 23 Inner City Press asked again about this, and Amnesty International's press conference on 10 year sentences to students (whose jokes included the GCEs) being shut down.
Inner City Press:  Did you ever look into the testing thing?  I'd asked you about administering a test…

Spokesman:  Yes, I think… we were given some guidance by UNESCO...

Now here it is: "Your question on the Cameroon tests: Regarding a previous query on a test being administered in the Anglophone regions of Cameroon despite the regions being affected by school closures and a internet blackout, while this is not an issue covered by UNOCA, but rather UNESCO, UNOCA has informed that there have been reports of abstentions from the examinations in the North West and South-West regions of the country. We are not aware of any reports of these tests being taken at gunpoint.  Nonetheless it is of concern that these examinations [General Certificate of Education] were held, despite school closures and the internet blackout for over three months, which disrupted normal activities. However that is an issue for the relevant national authorities to respond to. UNOCA, in close cooperation with the Acting Resident Coordinator, is monitoring the situation in the North West and South West regions of Cameroon and will continue to liaise with the authorities to promote a peaceful resolution to the grievances of the Anglophone population."

While the UN Security Council visited Cameroon during the 94 day Internet cut off and said nothing publicly about it (but see below), Inner City Press has obtained and has exclusively published on Patreon and now Scribd, here Cameroon's "Urgent and Confidential" letter to the UN Security Council, about weapons. On May 23, Inner City Press went to the New York event for Cameroon's "National" Day, which was boycotted in the Anglophone regions of the country. In New York, however, UN Deputy Secretary General Amina J. Mohammad and Antonio Guterres' Chef de Cabinet Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti attended, along with French Permanent Representative to the UN Francois Delattre, Burundi's Albert Shingiro and others. Video here.


 Periscope inside was not possible due, ironically, to a lack of Internet. There were toasts in French for Chantalle Biya and for the UN officials; on the way out UN staffers told Inner City Press it was sure to criticize them. What matters, as always, is what happens going forward. Italy is a member of the Security Council this year, and on the morning of May 18 including in light of Italian President Mattarella's meetings this year with Cameroon's 34 year president Paul Biya, Inner City Press asked Italy's Mission to the UN: "your Mission was part of the Security Council's trip including to Cameroon earlier this year, during the country's 94-day Internet shut off to millions of people in the Northwest and Southwest (or Anglophone) regions. The IMF, for what it's worth, told Inner City Press the government's Internet cut off is among other things a financial risk in 2017. Could you comment on your Mission's aware of the issue, during the Security Council visit to Cameroon and since, and on whether you believe the Secretary General and DPA, as a matter of prevention of conflict, may have a greater role to play in this long-standing, UN-related conflict or dispute?" Eight hours later, the Italian Mission's spokesperson Giovanni Davoli replied on Cameroon that "the situation you are mentioning was not in the agenda of the UNSC visit." To his credit, Swedish diplomat Carl Skau tells Inner City Press, "I can confirm that the issue was raised by the delegation in meetings." Now Italy's spokesman insists, "I confirm: it was not in the agenda of the visit. Whether it was raised, it is another matter on which I have no elements." Meanwhile, party in interest France has yet to respond, while Emmanuel Macron is in Mali. We'll have more on this. On May 17, Inner City Press asked UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres' spokesman Stephane Dujuarric what if anything Guterres is doing about Cameroon. From the UN transcript: Inner City Press: there are people saying that António Guterres' strategy of being Secretary-General is to sort of downplay the peacemaking powers of it and engage in quiet diplomacy.  And I guess the reason I'm asking you is just objectively speaking, compared to the previous administration, there are many fewer readouts, there's less… there's less being said.  Maybe it's to the good.  But, does he believe that… that this approach is bearing fruit, and if so, what fruit can you point to?

Spokesman:  I think the Secretary-General is a believer in the need for discreet contacts to be had in order to resolve crisis.  And I think it's something I… well, I think we've all observed since he's come into office.  And I think it's an important tool and not the only tool, but it's an important tool in the tools available to the world's top diplomat.

Inner City Press:  I want to ask this very specifically because I've asked you this a couple of times.  I keep hearing from people at various high floors that, in fact, the UN is concerned about Cameroon and not just the Internet, but what seems to be a case of preventive diplomacy.  So, I wanted to ask you, is there anything actually being done?  Am I missing some secret work that the UN…?

Spokesman:  I think if… well, if it's secret, it's secret.  Mr. [Francois Lonceny] Fall has been following and is the point person for the UN on this issue.

  Fall is failing. Or, Fall is the fall guy for Guterres. Now there is the use of what residents call another weapon: the devaluation and even destruction of the GCE education system, by purporting to administer the test after a period where no instruction or learning took place. UNESCO has said nothing, just as the UN stayed quiet during the Internet cut off. On May 15, Inner City Press asked the UN's holdover spokesman Stephane Dujarric, video here, UN transcript here: Inner City Press: In hearing UNESCO [United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization], I've been meaning to ask you this.  There's a controversy in Cameroon where a school… a test is being administered today in the areas that didn't have internet for 94 days and the schools were closed.  And a lot of people are saying the test… it's basically to destroy the Anglophone education system, and people are taking a test at gunpoint.  And many people there said UNESCO said nothing.  I don't know whose role it is.  Is it [Francois] Loncény Fall?  Is there anyone in the UN system that's looking at what's taking place there…?

Spokesman:  I'll take a look that report.  Okay. Thank you.

  We'll see. Some in UN headquarters approach Inner City Press where they can, since the UN Department of Public Information still restricts the Press, and say there's concern "upstairs" about events in Cameroon. But despite the claimed focus on preventative diplomacy, where is there UN action on this? Despite the restrictions, Inner City Press will be pushing forward with the story. Watch this site and this one, where it is reported that France blocked any European Union action on Cameroon and Paul Biya's 94-day cut off of the Internet in the Anglophone regions, in part to keep its hand in to compete economically with China in "its" FrancAfrique. When the EU's Federica Mogherini came to the UN Security Council stakeout on May 9 for questions, no Press questions on Cameroon were allowed, similar to Antonio Guterres' spokesman disallowing the question three times at the recent joint African Union stakeout. Nor was the Cameroon question Inner City Press submitted to Guterres' paid-entrance, not livestreamed London Q&A posed. We'll have more on this.

Exclusive: From Cameroon to UNSC, "Urgent & Confidential" Memo About Weapons, Copter, Here by Matthew Russell Lee on Scribd

This comes amid reports that armaments Cameroon got ostensibly to fight Boko Haram have been spotted in the Anglophone regions. On May 2 when Inner City Press told the UN's spokesman Stephane Dujarric that it had a question on Cameroon, he walked off the podium, as he has done before. He and the UN Department of Public Information, whose Cameroon mis-information is profiled below, worked together to evict and still restrict Inner City Press.

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