from PEDRO AGOSTO in Luanda, Angola
LUANDA, (CAJ News) – THE downsizing of a bloated cabinet represents a breakthrough in the pledge by the government of President Joao Lourenco to address inherent corruption and safeguard Angola state coffers.
This merger of some ministerial portfolios is also timely and necessary, coming on the back of the upheavals in the global oil industry, which is having a negative impact on government revenues and the economy in general.
The merger of some cabinet departments, a process that the government started in March, has reduced the ministerial portfolios to 21, down from 28.
Lourenco’s government envisages saving up to Kz 1 billion (US$1,745 million) with the reduction by seven departments.
The new-look government has the Ministry of Agriculture merged with Fisheries.
Ministries of Defense and Former Combatants have been combined as are the Culture, Hotels and Tourism portfolio.
The Ministries of Telecommunications and Information Technologies have been merged with Social Communication.
Trade with Industry ministries are now under one portfolio.
Similarly, the ministries of Public Works and Spatial Planning have been merged.
The trimming of the cabinet, following the realisation that government was spending unnecessarily owing to some ministerial portfolios duplicating each other, has conversely culminated in the reduction of national directors and heads of departments from 559 to 313.
“The public administration staff are not exempted as a result of the merger process,” Adão de Almeida, the Minister of State and Chief of Staff of the President, said in the capital Luanda.
Almeida said besides safeguarding state coffers, savings from the exercise would enable government channel financial resources to critical sectors such as education, and health in the country of over 30 million.
Former defense minister Lourenco, was elected in 2017 to succeed longtime leader, Jose Eduardo dos Santos.
Upon his election on a campaign based on fighting corruption and reducing lavish spending, Lourenco promised his fellow nationals an economic miracle.
“As soon as the government won the elections in September 2017, it emphasised that fighting corruption would be a cornerstone of its policies,” Mario de Zamaróczy, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) mission chief for Angola, stated.
While the Lourenco administration has received global praise for fulfilling these pledges, the volatility in the oil sector globally has scuttled progress.
The outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19) across the globe and subsequent measures to curb the spread of the pandemic has set the prices of oil tumbling.
Africa’s second-largest producer of the commodity (after Nigeria) and the continent’s seventh-largest economy, Angola was always going to bear the brunt.
Angolan crude exports are scheduled to fall to 1,18 million bpd, down from the average of 1,25 million bpd.
The southern African country depends mainly on the off-shore petroleum industry for 37 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP =$92,1 billion) and 75 percent of government revenues plus 90 percent of exports.
IMF noted Angola in recent years initiated programmes to reduce its excessive dependency on oil and begun diversifying its economy.
“Steps to achieve this include addressing fiscal imbalances, and in particular, increasing the revenue from non-oil sources, as well as liberalizing the exchange rate regime, and managing debt carefully,” de Zamaróczy said.
– CAJ News