Angola says its external debt stands at $9.5 bln

By Christopher Thompson

LUANDA – Angola’s external debt stands at $9.5 billion, of which around $2 billion is owed to Paris Club debtors, Finance Ministry spokesman Bastos de Almeida said on Wednesday.

The government of the oil-rich southern African cou

ntry is due to meet with its Paris Club sovereign country debtors next week in order to reschedule debt payments, many of which are in arrears, and speculation had swirled about how much it owed.

De Almeida, who was confirming media reports, also said that oil revenues were no longer the sole method of paying Angola’s debts as the economy strengthened. However, De Morais said oil was still used to guarantee government loans.

Angola is sub-Saharan Africa’s second largest oil exporter after Nigeria, pumping 1.3 million barrels a day (b/d) – a figure which the government expects will rise to 2 million b/d by 2008. The country is currently in a petrodollar funded reconstruction boom after the end of a devastating 27 year civil war ended in 2002.

Angola’s growth for 2006 is predicted at 27.6 percent, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) – the fastest rate of economic growth in the world – compared with 14.7 percent in 2005, principally on the back of high oil prices.

Earlier in the week Angola’s Vice Minister of Finance Severim de Morais said the country’s inflation rate would fall to 10 percent in 2006, the lowest level in the country’s history, down from 18 percent the previous year and 116 percent in 2002.

Government coffers have seen a huge rise in foreign credit recently. Finance from foreign credit lines will rise from $800 million in 2005 to more than US$5 billion in 2006, according to the government’s 2006 budget, including US$3 billion in oil-backed credit lines from China’s Eximbank and a new 300 million euro loan from Portugal announced last week.

But Angola’s past loans have attracted criticism. According to UK-based NGO Global Witness oil-backed credit has allowed the government to avoid borrowing from the IMF and thus shun demands for greater financial transparency. — Reuter