Congo Targets 60% Budget Increase for 2020 to Fight Poverty

Michael J. Kavanagh

(Bloomberg) -- Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi said his government wants to boost the country’s budget for next year by almost 60% to $10 billion, even though it isn’t clear how he would fund the increase.

The increase is meant to fight poverty, Tshisekedi, who assumed office in January, said in a speech on the outskirts of the capital, Kinshasa. A $10 billion budget is still “meager for the great Congo, but we will get there progressively,” he said.

The largest and one of the least-developed nations in sub-Saharan Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo relies almost entirely on mining for its earnings. Tshisekedi has pledged to lift millions of people out of poverty over the next five years through investments in water, electricity, and infrastructure. More than three-quarters of the population of 81 million people make do with less than $1.90 per day, according to the United Nations.

The announcement comes after the International Monetary Fund criticized Congo’s budgeting process and said the country needs to increase the efficacy of its revenue collection. Congo and the IMF are discussing the possibility of a loan program.

“Budget execution bears little relation to the approved budget because revenue projects -- driven mainly by political pressures to accommodate higher spending -- and expenditure projections have been overly optimistic,” the IMF said in August.

The amount is roughly $3 billion higher than what Budget Minister Jean-Baudouin Mayo proposed last month, which was already 15% higher than Congo’s official budget of 10.4 trillion francs ($6.29 billion) for this year. The Council of Ministers will need to approve a budget before submitting it to parliament.

The IMF halted its last program in 2012 over concerns about corruption in the mining sector. Congo is the world’s largest producer of cobalt and Africa’s biggest producer of copper, but its mineral riches have done little to alleviate poverty, Tshisekedi said. The poverty rate in the main copper-mining region, Katanga, is falling much slower than the national average, he said.

The government will be further hampered by a weak cobalt price, which has dropped more than 60% since March 2018.

To contact the reporter on this story: Michael J. Kavanagh in Kinshasa at mkavanagh9@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Gordon Bell at gbell16@bloomberg.net, Pauline Bax, Andre Janse van Vuuren

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