文｜张梅 本刊记者 翻译｜苗佳雨
Endeavor to Enhance Resistance to External Impact
——Interview with Vera Daves, Angola’s Minister of Finance
By Zhang Mei
“We have a strong, ambitious reformist agenda, where the goal is to see sectors such as agriculture, fisheries, manufacturing, mines, textile industry, tourism and so many others contributing to the growth of the Angolan economy. ”On December 4, Ms. Vera Esperança Daves, the new Finance Minister of Angola who visited China, told a reporter from China Investment, “We are doing what has to be done to increase the resilience of the Angolan economy to external shocks. We are inviting the Chinese private sector to invest in Angola, There is a lot of potential in terms of road, rail and energy production infrastructure, and now we want the Chinese private sector to exploit this potential, and thus expand the scope of cooperation with mutually beneficial benefits for our two countries.”
China Investment: Recently, finance ministers and central bank governors of major global economies have issued serious warnings about the risk of a recession facing the world economy. What do you think of the current global economic trends? What impact will it have on Africa's economic development?
Vera Daves:This is a topic that causes us some apprehension in two aspects:
We have been following the trends of world economic growth, in which some world leaders are considering closing up their markets from multilateral trade by setting up the foundations for protectionism, and the increasing level of indebtedness of the African countries economies.
We, of course, will continue monitoring the situation closely because most of African countries are exposed to the trends of the world economic growth, in our case, Angola, even more so because our main source of income comes from just one product, which makes us very vulnerable to the shocks of the external market.
We are expecting that the worst will not happen and the multilateral cooperation and free trade will prevail.
But, we are also preparing ourselves internally in case things don't go the way we would like them to go; and we are doing so through a set of economic reforms meant to reduce the dependence of the Angolan economy in one product only.
We have a strong, ambitious reformist agenda, where the goal is to see sectors such as agriculture, fisheries, manufacturing, mines, textile industry, tourism and so many others contributing to the growth of the Angolan economy. We are doing what has to be done to increase the resilience of the Angolan economy to external shocks.
China Investment:Angola's "National Budget 2019" predicts a growth rate of 2.8% this year. The "Medium-term Debt Strategy (2019-2021)" recently released by the Ministry of Finance reduced the growth rate to 0.4%. What happened? What challenges does the Angolan economy?
Vera Daves:This is related to my previous answer, which is that, until now, the Angolan economy is dependent on a single product, which is crude oil, meaning that any change in the oil sector, either via price or by way of production has a strong impact on the performance of the Angolan economy.
Thus, in recent years we have been experiencing price impacts because the market has been very volatile, with negative consequences on our ability to earn enough revenue to implement our development agenda. Unfortunately, we have also been negatively affected by the fall in production of crude oil in the recent years.
The oil sector requires heavy investments in order to maintain or increase the production levels; and these investments have not been made in recent years, and as a result the production performance has not been as good as we would like it to be.
China Investment: Are you the first woman serving as minister of finances in Angola? How do you feel and what are the challenges?
Vera Daves:Yes, it’s true. I am the first woman to be minister of finances in Angola.
It is encouraging that every time I go out I am greeted by women who feel represented and I am thankful for this sign of hope. But it is also a big responsibility. I cannot defraud them, neither them nor His Excellency the President of the Republic who has entrusted to me this enormous responsibility which is to manage the public finances of an important country like Angola.
So I am aware of this responsibility; I sleep and wake up thinking about it; and I will do everything to serve in this post with dignity, integrity and respect for the highest values of the nation.
One of the top challenges is to improve the national public finances. Angola is facing challenging times from the point of view of public finances, from the point of view of economic conditions.
This is a challenging moment that has had a direct impact on the lives of our people, and this is a fact that makes us uncomfortable and we will not rest until we feel that all the efforts we have made in terms of economic reforms and measures to reorganize management of public finances, the conduct of monetary exchange policy and the improvement of the business environment are all reflected in people's living conditions.
This is a challenge that we have to overcome. We will endeavor and persevere until our goal comes to fruition. That is to see Angolans having the dignified life they deserve, and we will do everything to make it a reality as soon as possible. That is my commitment, which is why I accepted the post of finance minister.
China Investment:In order to cope with economic development difficulties, what national plans have been issued by Angola? What are trying to achieve? What are Angola's hopes for cooperation with China in order to achieve the development goals?
Vera Daves:The relationship between Angola and China is very friendly and very pragmatic. China has taken the lead in providing financial and material support to the post-war process of rebuilding the Angolan economy after we achieved peace in 2002. From that time, Chinese financial institutions and construction companies have helped us rebuild the country.
The country was all broken, the people separated by the difficulty of moving from one place to another and thanks to the support that we received from the Chinese authorities we were able to rebuild the country and make the process of national reconciliation possible and faster. This is a gratitude that we will always express.
In this regard, the Chinese government and its financial institutions have become our biggest creditor. About 50% of our foreign debt is concentrated on Chinese financial institutions and this highlights the weight it has on our public finances and on the commitments we have to honor with our creditors.
As we continue to honor these commitments, we hope to expand the state to state cooperation to the private sector.
Of course, we will always continue our commitments, honoring this assistance we received from the Chinese authorities, and as we honor those commitments we want to move to another step in cooperation between the two countries, which is the inclusion of the private sector.
We are inviting the Chinese private sector to invest in Angola, to take advantage of the opportunities that exist in Angola and to optimize this effort and the investment that has already been made with the support of China in building a set of infrastructures.
There is a lot of potential in terms of road, rail and energy production infrastructure, and now we want the Chinese private sector to exploit this potential, and thus expand the scope of cooperation with mutually beneficial benefits for our two countries.
China Investment:What is the current status of cooperation between Angola and China in the financial field? What cooperation opportunities are there? What challenges are facing? What are the expectations of Angola in terms of the financial cooperation model?
Vera Daves:We are reviewing the regulatory framework of various sectors which include the transport sector, oil sector and mining sector. We are also in the process of revising the land law and the legal framework associated with the Angolan tax system. We have already revised the private investment law but it is still open to further improvement. As you can see, we are undertaking a number of legislative initiatives to attract foreign direct investment.
In line with this vision, we recently have released a list of 195 public companies to be privatized from now up to 2022 in order to help us boost the economic activity. The privatization can be executed through public tender or initial public offer (IPO) or auction at the Stock Exchange.
But our policies to attract more investors are not only limited in changing regulatory and legal framework. We are also working within the public institutions to make them more efficient. We are betting on giving skills to people, simplifying the procedures and modernizing the system in order to make the whole process of opening and operating business in Angola easier.
We are also working to optimize macroeconomic conditions. We understand that investors would feel more comfortable investing if there is macroeconomic stability in our country; That is why we are, on the public finance side, maintaining the discipline of fiscal surpluses so that we can service the existing debt and progressively reduce the level of public debt.
We are working on monetary policy in order to have price stability and ensure that we do not have high inflation rates, and we are working on exchange rate policy to have a more flexible exchange rate and thus more compatible with encouraging national production. We are also implementing tax reforms, in line with the revision of the private investment law.
Additionally, we also are working on the process of easing the capital account so that the inflows and outflows of financial resources happen more expeditiously and thus give peace of mind to those who invest in Angola and want to repatriate their dividends.
So there are several fronts to ensuring the right environment for investment to take place and to welcome investors to contribute to the economic growth of Angola.
China Investment:In the future, what are the prospects of the two countries in terms of financial cooperation? What innovation models will there be?
Vera Daves:We will continue working and cooperating with China. The Chinese financial institutions are advising us to be cautious when asking for new loans, taking always to account our current level of indebtedness.
We also want to broaden the scope of cooperation between the two countries to private entrepreneurs and to areas other than financing and financial sources.
There is tremendous potential in various sectors of activity in Angola and there is valuable knowledge and experience on Chinese side taking to consideration that in the 1980’s China itself implemented economic reforms similar to those happening in Angola.
So, China has a lot to teach us about what went well, what went wrong, what we should anticipate and correct before we implement.
China is firmly taking the lead in the technology sector and plays a very important role in the fourth industrial revolution and we can rely on China to provide us with valuable know-how and technological means to advance our economy.
⬆AEROPORTO DO LUAU (Photo by China Railway 20 Bureau Group Corporation Angola International Co.Ltd)
编辑 | 张梅