December 18, 2018 / 7:33 AM / a year ago

Gambia names international advisers to tackle debt, ministry says

LONDON (Reuters) - Gambia’s finance ministry has appointed advisers to help put its debt on a “sustainable path”, the finance ministry said on Monday.

Gambia has been facing a heavy debt burden with the International Monetary Fund warning the country against any new borrowing after its debt reached 130 percent of gross domestic product at the end of last year.

“The Ministry ... has appointed Potomac Group as the international financial adviser, working with Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe as international legal adviser, to assist with the development and implementation of a strategy to put the country’s external debt on a sustainable path,” the ministry said in an emailed statement.

Gambian President Adama Barrow, who won elections in December 2016, has vowed to revive the country’s faltering economy with sweeping reforms as he sought to draw a line under the erratic 22-year rule of his predecessor Yahya Jammeh.

Born of British and French colonial rivalry in the 19th century and surrounded by francophone Senegal, Gambia has suffered from grinding poverty, in part because of Jammeh’s volatile rule, during which thousands of dissenters were jailed and scores of businesses expropriated.

Most of Gambia’s debt was contracted under Jammeh, either through borrowing or the government’s taking on the liabilities of state-owned enterprises.

Ebrima Darboe, director of debt management at the ministry, said the appointments were part of the government’s reform agenda and was expected to boost growth,

“It is the government’s expectation that this initiative

will be supported by a broad base of creditors, including creditors that have not provided the debt relief they

committed in the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries process,” he said in the statement.

Washington-based Potomac Group is a financial advisory firm specialising in helping governments on sovereign balance sheet issues. Thomas Laryea at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe has advised a group of bond holders of defaulted Mozambique sovereign debt in the ongoing debt restructuring.

Reporting by Karin Strohecker, editing by Larry King

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