- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 26, 2004

Angola eyes reforms

After decades of communism, corruption and civil war, Angola is promising economic reforms to meet standards demanded by the International Monetary Fund.

Deputy Prime Minister Aguinaldo Jaime was in Washington this week for talks with the IMF over a formal agreement to help stabilize the economy of the southern African nation.

“I am pleased to announce that our negotiations went very well and will pave the way for the signing of a formal agreement very soon,” Mr. Jaime said in a statement.

Angola, one of Africa’s major Cold War battlegrounds, was devastated by 27 years of civil war and communism until 1992 when the ruling Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) rejected Marxism. During the war, the MPLA was backed by Cuban troops, while the rebels of the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola, or UNITA, was backed by the United States. A cease-fire has been holding since 2002.

Today Angola remains one of the world’s poorest nations but contains vast natural resources, including oil and diamonds. However, the nation is also crippled by corruption that concentrates wealth in the hands of a few.

Mr. Jaime said his government must prepare a “rigorous timetable” for economic reforms and that Angola is “ready to take these measures and move forward.”

He said the program will contain “a number of measures related to transparency and accountability that would dispel the incorrect perception that the Angolan government is not being forthcoming about its revenue and expenditures.”

Mr. Jaime said reforms already introduced have cut inflation to 76 percent from a high of 106 percent. He expects that rate to fall to 20 percent by the end of the year.

Angolan Ambassador Josefina Pitra Diakite added that the IMF agreement could lead to further foreign assistance.

“As a postconflict country, Angola’s reconstruction and reintegration needs are huge,” she said.

Israeli reforms work

Israel’s economic reforms got a boost this week from a U.S. delegation that promised to release $3 billion in aid, if the measures continue to bring the country out of its financial slump, according to Israeli Ambassador Daniel Ayalon.

The U.S.-Israel Joint Economic Development Group (JEDG) had “useful, in-depth” discussions on measures implemented by Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. When the 2003 figures are compiled, the economy is expected to show a growth rate of 0.8 percent, after two years of recession.

“I am extremely pleased with the successful completion of this round of talks of the JEDG,” Mr. Ayalon said yesterday. “These discussions are just one example of the continued cooperation that exists between Israel and the United States.”

The U.S. delegation was led by Alan Larson, undersecretary of state for economic, business and agricultural affairs, and John Taylor, undersecretary of the Treasury for international affairs.

More advice to Berlin

The U.S. ambassador to Germany continued to give advice to the German government this week, as German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder prepared for his Washington visit.

Ambassador Daniel Coats told the Berliner Zeitung newspaper yesterday that Germany needs to increase its defense spending above $30 billion. That amounts to about 1.4 percent of its gross domestic product.

“If Germany wants to have the necessary military capabilities, it must dedicate at least 2 percent of its gross domestic product to defense,” he said.

In a radio interview earlier this week, Mr. Coats urged Germany to become more involved in global affairs.

Mr. Schroeder is scheduled to meet with President Bush today.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-

7278 or e-mail [email protected]

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