BY Omoh Gabriel, in Washington
Managing Director, International Monetary Fund, IMF, Mrs Christine Lagarde, yesterday, said that if there are proven cases of corruption against any country not just Nigeria, it will not enter into any monitoring programme with it.
She said that there were instances when the Fund insisted on documentary evidence relating to contracts before entering into programme discussion with such countries.
Answering reporters’ question at a briefing on the situation in Nigeria where government is alleged to be victimising whistleblowers, Lagarde said: “It is a very important question.
“I can assure you that there are cases when countries, and I would not single out African countries, come for negotiations for a monitoring programme, whether with or without funding, where we have that dialogue with the authorities about the authenticity, the evidence relating to contracts, to licenses, the ways in which business has been conducted.
“There has been instances under my watch where we have said, sorry, but unless and until we have documented informa-tion about the circumstances under which such contract, such mining rights were granted, unfortunately we cannot work together.
“I can assure you that it is efficient. And I applaud any instances when authorities, in Africa or elsewhere, actually have the courage to step up and identify when there are shaky, if not shady, circumstances under which those rights are granted.
Meanwhile, IMF has said member countries must embark on government spending reforms, stating that in many countries, public finances remain on edge as economies struggle to return to pre-crisis levels of economic growth.
At the ongoing Spring Meeting it highlighted the need for governments to embark on growth supporting fiscal reforms that will bring socio-economic benefits to their citizenry.
It said that ensuring the sustainability of public finances requires difficult choices on both the taxation and spending sides of the budget.
The Fund said: “While tax reform can help boost potential growth through the removal of distortions, spending reforms help strengthen public service delivery.
“Coupled with the projected increase in age-related expenditures resulting from an aging population, pressures on government spending in the future will only increase.”
The fiscal monitor sets out the main elements needed for meaningful spending reform: ensuring the sustainability of social spending and public sector wages, noting that health care systems in many countries have room to improve efficiency without drastically cutting services.
It said that for public pension systems, raising the retirement age and adjusting contributions and benefits are the key options.
It further said that containing the growth of the public sector wage bill in a lasting way would require replacing the across-the-board wage and hiring freezes with deeper, efficiency-enhancing structural reforms supported by social dialogue.
It added that fiscal reforms by governments require achieving efficiency gains, while aiming to reduce inequality and that large gains can be made in some countries by improving the efficiency of spending on education.