March 11, 2010 / 5:01 PM / in 8 years

Congo customs snag will not affect debt review -IMF

KINSHASA, Mar 11 (Reuters) - The suspension of a contract with a U.S. firm advising Democratic Republic of Congo on how to maximise its customs revenues will not affect the country’s access to credit, the IMF said on Thursday.

Customs and Tax Consultancy LLC (CTC) was hired to increase Congo’s tax revenues over a five-year period in 2008, but last month suspended its activities over non-payment of its contract.

Congolese customs and excise receipts were worth about $634 million in 2009, up from $540 million in 2007 but well short of CTC’s target of $1.15-2 billion for 2008.

Congo joined a three-year programme with the IMF late last year, lending it $550 million conditional on meeting benchmarks regarding boosting revenues, improving management of public spending and the business climate.

“Clearly, revenue mobilisation, including that from the customs administration, is a key pilar of the authorities’ economic reform program,” Brian Ames, the IMF’s mission chief for Congo, told Reuters late on Wednesday during a review visit.

“The work that was being done needs to be done, if not by them then by someone else ... However, this is a matter between the two parties and it does not affect the completion of our review,” he added.

The government’s budget forecast shows customs and excise revenues are projected to reach $1 billion in 2010, accounting for a sixth of its budget.

The IMF mission to Congo, which is making its first review of its three-year programme with the country, will announce its findings next week.

Congo also hopes it is on track to receive debt relief under the Highly Indebted Poor Countries Initiative in June this year, which could knock off more than $9 billion in debt stock and servicing arrears.

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