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For Africa , Good Policies Bring Good Prospects | A Finance Article Once again, the latest review of growth prospects for sub-Saharan Africa shows that the region economy is in strong health. Growth in the region is set to pick up to 5 percent in 2014 compared to 4.9 percent last year (see Chart 1). My view is that this growth momentum will continue over the medium term if countries rise to new challenges and manage their economies as dexterously as they have over the past decade or so. So what explains this continued strong growth performance? Apart from good macroeconomic policies in the region, the growth has been underpinned by investment in infrastructure, mining, and strong agricultural output. And favorable global tailwinds?high demand for commodities and low interest rates?have played a major supporting role. That said, I do worry about the global shifts that are taking place and what they mean for the region. Unless countries navigate the new environment adroitly, the current growth momentum will slow down considerably. So what are the downside risks to the otherwise favorable outlook? Let me mention four. Export demand First, growth in emerging markets could prove less supportive. If growth in these economies slows down considerably, then export demand will decline, especially for some base metals such as copper and iron ore. Countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, and Zambia would be particularly hit. At the same time , tighter financial conditions in China could reduce the appetite for Chinese companies investing abroad. China has been a major source of foreign direct investment and infrastructure financing for Africa. Second, as advanced economies unwind their highly accommodative monetary policies, global financial conditions will become tighter and countries in sub-Saharan Africa could experience a hike in interest rates and a slowdown, or even a reversal, of private capital flows. But the risks to the growth momentum are not all external. Security conditions remain difficult in some countries. The conflicts in the Central African Republic and South Sudan are exacting a heavy human and economic toll. At the same time, they are having negative spillover effects for the neighboring countries in terms of lower trade flows and higher security outlays. I also worry about high fiscal deficits in some countries. Four years after the global crisis, fiscal policy has remained on an expansionary footing despite a recovery in both growth and revenue. Il go back to this theme shortly. Warning signs The issue of rising fiscal imbalances is worth dwelling on. A number of economic observers have asked the question: are countries heading back to the bad old days of rapid debt accumulation that may need to be forgiven down the line? Are these fears well grounded? We all applauded when many countries in sub-Saharan Africa in 2009 were able to mitigate the worst effects of the global crisis by actively deploying countercyclical fiscal policy, or at least avoiding fiscal procyclicality. When revenue tanked in the wake of decelerating growth, many countries kept spending up and hence maintained growth. This was quite remarkable as, in all previous global recessions, countries had no option but to do the opposite: cut spending as revenue declined, and hence deepen the impact of the recession. One concern now is that , five years on, many countries continue to show relatively high deficits despite the fact that growth and revenue have recovered rapidly. To illustrate the point, in the years preceding the crisis (that is, in 2004?8), the region saw a fiscal surplus that averaged about 2 percent of GDP (see Chart 2). Between 2010 and 2013, the average fiscal deficit amounts to some 3 percent of GDP, a deterioration of 5 percentage points compared with pre-crisis levels. So, what explains the lack of adjustment despite the recovery in growth and revenue? Why has spending kept on growing so fast? Higher-quality spending In many cases, increased spending is the result of boosts to public investment and pro-poor spending. And this is exactly what we and others have often been arguing for. After all, the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative was precisely designed to give countries the necessary fiscal space to undertake socially useful spending in health and education, and rebuild decaying public infrastructure. And, over the long run , higher investment in human capital and infrastructure should raise potential growth sufficiently to pay off the debt, assuming that the quality of spending is high. The solution to every protruding nail is not to hit it down with a sledgehammer. So deficits of the order of 2They had lowered their deficits and slashed their debt-to-GDP ratios in the preceding years. Now is the t.

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