General Discussion

Laura Wallace
Published Date:
January 1999
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Priorities for Reform

Edith Gasana of Rwanda opened the discussion by putting forward the case of countries recovering from disasters or other special difficulties; countries whose entire economic system had been destroyed. For them, designing, approving, and implementing a budget—a complex process in its own right—posed enormous hurdles. “We know about priorities. But we need the resources to be able to draw up programs and have some cash, and in our case, cash can only come from the outside.” Yet, defining our priorities, already quite difficult to do, was made even more complicated by the fact that donors’ priorities tended to prevail.

Mansour Cama of Senegal gave a private sector view, suggesting two priorities for African governments. First, governments needed to carry out public relations exercises to ensure that citizens understood the budget. This would help citizens to participate in the budget debate and assume responsibility for monitoring outcomes. Indeed, budgets needed to be drawn up more in line with a form of government that was in the service of its citizens. Second, governments should do more to promote the image of their countries—not leaving the task to donors. The world needed to know that African countries had undertaken reforms and that they were working.

As for priorities for the private sector, Cama remarked that in the end, everything was a priority because of all the interlinkages. Even so, he singled out the need for a better partnership between the government and the private sector; the need for foreign investors to see that local enterprises were successful, that there were profits to be made; and the need for better vocational training, if countries really hoped to tackle competition and productivity.

Michel Reveyrand of France supported the calls for better communication, noting that not enough was being done in Africa to spread the word about success stories. Moreover, there was a lot to be gained from an exchange of views and experiences between partners in the public and private sectors, and even within these sectors. Public sectors needed to be modernized, an area where donors could help. And private sectors needed to absorb the values of private entrepreneurship, an area where African governments could help.

Hak Kuk Joh of Korea wanted to go on record as supporting the basic policy framework being discussed for adjusting to the challenges of globalization—trade liberalization, deregulation, financial sector reform, privatization, and good governance. This framework was based on the belief that the market worked and did pay off. But he underscored that for the market to work properly, there needed to be many active and potential competitors, both in the input and output markets. Otherwise, the market would easily become more monopolistic. At present, African countries suffered from limited human resources, social infrastructure, savings, and investment. International development agencies could help by focusing on these areas.

Christophe Marchand of France stressed the need for improving the quality of expenditures, as opposed to focusing on their size. What could be done to improve the quality? Here he felt regional integration and neighbors adopting common policies—such as in trade, monetary policy, and foreign exchange—could play an important role by achieving economies of scale and limiting negative spillover effects.

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