Public finances have had a rough year. A new reality is emerging. Against this backdrop, countries need to act now to boost growth and build resilience. They must also be prepared to act together to fend off global risks.
When meeting with people outside Africa, I’m often asked whether Africa’s growth takeoff since the mid-1990s has been simply a “commodity story”—a ride fueled by windfall gains from high commodity prices. But finance ministers and other policymakers in the region, and I was one of them, know that the story is richer than that.
In this spirit, in our latest Regional Economic Outlook: Sub-Saharan Africa a team of economists from the IMF’s African Department show that Africa’s continued success is more than a commodity story. In fact, quite a few economies in the region have become high performers without basing their success on natural resources—thanks in no small part to sound policymaking.
Central Banks, Financial Regulators, and the Quest for Financial Stability: 2011 IMF Annual Research Conference
When it comes to the crisis, most of the media attention is focused on advanced and emerging market countries. But low-income countries have been badly hit too, reflecting their growing integration in the world economy. We can see sharp declines in exports, FDI, tourism, and remittances. Output growth in 2009 will be less than half of the pre-crisis rate of over 5 percent. Sub-Saharan Africa is the worst affected, with a contraction of real per capita GDP of almost 1 percent.
This is the bad news. But there is some good news in all of this. Low-income countries have been able to use fiscal policy as a countercyclical tool this time around, far more than in the past. Fiscal deficits are expected to increase in three-quarters of low-income countries in 2009, with an average expansion of 3 percent of GDP. Revenues have grown slower than GDP, reflecting the disproportionate impact of the crisis on trade and commodity revenues, as well as weakening tax compliance. Expenditures are expected to increase by about 2 percentage points of GDP.