IMF says transparency key to $1.4 bln Angola loan

Wed Nov 25, 2009 6:38pm GMT

By Henrique Almeida

LUANDA (Reuters) - The International Monetary Fund (IMF) said on Wednesday Angola's commitment to increasing transparency, especially in the oil sector, was key to this week's approval of a $1.4 billion loan to the African nation.

Angola, which rivals Nigeria as Africa's biggest oil producer, has for years failed to agree a loan programme with the IMF because of a refusal to open the books of state-owned oil firm Sonangol.

Sonangol acts as both a player and a regulator of Angola's booming oil sector, and also invests some of Angola's oil money abroad by buying stakes in listed companies in Portugal.

IMF mission chief Lamin Leigh said the government was committed to increasing transparency and would soon publish Sonangol's recently-audited financial accounts. Angola has said there were no pre-conditions for the loan.

"Meeting those targets is what justifies the 27-month programme," Leigh said, adding that a balanced budget, increased social spending and a stable exchange rate were also needed.

His remarks signalled the IMF could stop or delay disbursements if the targets were not met.

In its 2009 index, global corruption watchdog Transparency International ranked Angola among the 18 most graft-ridden countries, placed in Africa below Zimbabwe and Democratic Republic of Congo.

Billions in oil revenues and Chinese loans have helped rebuild infrastructure devastated by a 27-year civil war that ended in 2002. But the spending has done little to improve life for ordinary people, two-thirds of whom live on $2 a day or less, according to the World Bank.   Continued...

<p>The International Monetary Fund (IMF) logo is seen during a news conference in Bucharest March 25, 2009. REUTERS/Bogdan Cristel</p>
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