August 16, 2005

Opposition protester jailed / Prospects for deal with IMF receding

A senior member of an Angolan opposition party has been jailed for 45 days for staging an unauthorised protest outside parliament. Carlos Almeida from the Party to Support Democracy and Progress in Angola was sentenced for protesting against his party’s exclusion from a poll body set up to supervise Angola’s first post-war elections in 2006. Approved by parliament, the National Electoral Commission consists of eleven members — three appointed by the ruling party, three by the opposition, two by nongovernmental organisation, one by magistrates and two by the government. Opposition parties claim that its composition was skewed. They also criticize a plan by the government to recruit and train poll officials — a task the commission should have undertaken, according to electoral law.
In the meantime, prospects for a deal between Angola and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that could pave the way for development funds had receded after the oil-rich state signalled it wanted to create its own programme. Peter Gakunu, the IMF's alternate executive director, said Angola was moving away from the idea of a more prescriptive economic reform programme devised by the IMF. Instead, it favoured creating "home-grown policies" which it would then ask the Fund to approve. "The Angolan authorities don't feel that a Staff Monitored Programme (SMP) would be appropriate for them at this time," Gakunu said. He also said they had agreed that Angola would create its own programme based on its Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP) now being developed before seeking the IMF's seal of approval. He denied that the IMF would deem the Angolan government's decision to go it alone a setback. "If the government of Angola was not comfortable with what was being discussed by the Fund, you could not expect them to go ahead with it," he said. The IMF has objected to Angola's penchant for costly oil-backed loans but Gakunu said he understood the need for it to use its resources as collateral to fund the "daunting challenges" of reconstructing the country.
Deputy Prime Minister Jaime told the Jornal de Angola newspaper that Angola would favour a Policy Support Instrument (PSI) which was better-adjusted to the realities of the country and that the practicalities of such an instrument would be discussed at an IMF meeting in September. (Sapa / Rts)

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