By Omar Bah
A meeting of finance, trade and foreign ministers and governors of Central Banks of the West African Monetary zone on enhancing economic welfare of the citizens of the zone is currently underway in Banjul.
The 9-day economic forum, which is currently underway at the Kairaba Beach Hotel, is themed: 2017 End-Of-Year Statutory Meetings of West African Monetary Institutions.
The WAMZ convergence council meeting is held twice a year to discuss progress towards the launching of a Monetary Union and a common currency. The long term ambition is to merge the CFA Franc zone with the WAMZ to form a single monetary zone for West Africa.
In his keynote address, the Governor, Central Bank of The Gambia, Bakary Jammeh reminded the meeting that the sub-region is facing challenges of varying degrees in recent past.
“These include the decline in commodity prices, weather related causes and security. These factors did not only put pressure on exchange rates and prices but also hampered public finance and economic growth,” he said.
That, he added, resulted to decline in performance of member countries in terms of achieving convergence.
“But in spite of the challenges, our countries are making significant progress. We are cognisant that majority of our member States have acceded to most of the ECOWAS protocols, pertaining especially to the free movement of people. We have continued to make huge investments in the integration process,” he stressed.
The firming of global economy, Mr Jammeh said, has started to signal new hope, reflecting broad-based economic improvement in the advanced economies as well as the emerging and developing economies.
“Economies in ECOWAS have exhibited modest upswing movements. The growth rate for the ECOWAS region was estimated at 2.2 percent in 2017 compared to a marginal growth of 0.2 percent in 2016,” he added.
This performance, the award winning governor, added remained significantly below potential and also not broadly inclusive, “Therefore deep reforms are needed to remove bottlenecks.”
On the Gambian economy, Governor Jammeh said the country is undergoing recovery with projected growth of 3% and 3.8% in 2017 and 2018, respectively.
Moses K. Tule, Director, Monetary Policy Department Central Bank of Nigeria said the meeting provides an opportunity to brainstorm and exchange ideas and afford delegates the opportunity to consider important issues, such as performance of member states in terms of implementation of the roadmap activities in the ECOWAS Monetary Integration Programme (EMCP).
Meanwhile, the Director General of WAMA, Momodou Bamba Saho said assessment of the progress made in the implementation of the ECOWAS Monetary Cooperation Program (EMCP), joint WAMA/WAMI/ECOWAS Commission multilateral surveillance missions were carried out in April and September 2017 to review performance as at end December 2016 and June 2017.
“Our latest assessment which will be presented in detail at these meetings shows that the level of performance deteriorated, particularly with respect to the criterion on inflation. As in the past, controlling budget deficits remained a widely shared problem, owing mainly to low tax revenue mobilisation, coupled with expenditure over-runs and higher public investment in infrastructure,” he concluded.