TRALAC - Trade Law Centre

Country Info: Congo

Economic Background

The economy is a mixture of subsistence hunting and agriculture, an industrial sector based largely on oil and support services, and government spending. Oil has supplanted forestry as the mainstay of the economy, providing a major share of government revenues and exports. Natural gas is increasingly being converted to electricity rather than being flared, greatly improving energy prospects.

New mining projects, particularly iron ore, that may enter production as early as late 2013 may add as much as $1 billion to annual government revenue. Economic reform efforts have been undertaken with the support of international organizations, notably the World Bank and the IMF, including recently concluded Article IV consultations.

Denis SASSOU-Nguesso, who returned to power when the war ended in October 1997, publicly expressed interest in moving forward on economic reforms and privatization and in renewing cooperation with international financial institutions.

Economic progress was badly hurt by slumping oil prices and the resumption of armed conflict in December 1998, which worsened the republic's budget deficit. The current administration faces difficult economic challenges of stimulating recovery and reducing poverty.

The drop in oil prices during the global crisis reduced oil revenue by about 30%, but the subsequent recovery of oil prices boosted the economy's GDP from 2009-12. In March 2006, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) approved Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) treatment for Congo, which received $1.9 billion in debt relief under the program in 2010. Congo also restructured old defaulted London Club debt in 2007, which effectively cancelled 80% of its private debt.

Contracts with China have increased Congo''s publicly held debt. Officially the country became a net external creditor as of 2011, with external debt representing less than 22% of GDP and debt servicing less than 3% of government revenue. (Source: World Factbook, 2013)

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