Gabon: Protecting the Poor Despite Slower Growth

December 17, 2015

LIBREVILLE, December 17, 2015 – Entitled “Protecting the Poor Despite Slower Growth,” the first issue of the Gabon Economic Update assesses the country’s macroeconomic situation and proposes solutions to help reduce poverty.

After posting rates of 4.3% in 2014 and 5.6% in 2013, growth in Gabon slowed to approximately 4.1% in 2015, owing primarily to the fall in commodity prices that led to a sharp contraction in public investment. Nevertheless, the impact on the labor market has been contained.

Negative growth in the construction and public works sector has been offset in part by a better-than-anticipated performance of the extractive industries. Oil and manganese production increased by 6.6% and 6%, respectively, at the end of the first half of 2015, boosting trade by 2.3%.

“Despite the decline in oil prices and the country’s dependence on oil revenues, growth prospects in the years ahead remain favorable. And despite weak growth in 2014 and 2015, non-oil sectors such as services, agribusiness or the mining sector will continue to be the main engines of growth,” noted Souleymane Coulibaly, World Bank Lead Economist for Central Africa and the report’s supervisor.

Sylvie Dossou, World Bank Country Manager for Gabon, points to the impact that economic volatility is having on the Gabonese people. “The poor are the most vulnerable to these fluctuations, which are mainly due to a heavy reliance on oil exports. This segment of the population would significantly benefit from the implementation of a modern and effective social protection system that is accessible to all.”

The implementation of its human investment strategy in December 2013 attests to the Gabonese government’s desire to introduce this type of social protection system for the most vulnerable population groups. This system will provide assistance to over 95,000 households through the use of two components: cash transfers and income-generating activities.

In rolling out a program of this nature, five major challenges will, however, have to be addressed: the absence of data; the lack of coordination of the system; the budget sustainability of the system, targeting of beneficiaries and the incorporation of lessons learned from the social policy experience of other countries. In order to address these challenges, it will be important to focus on the following actions: provide a more in-depth poverty and vulnerability analysis, conduct an institutional audit of the system, and prepare a rollout plan.

The Gabon Economic Update aims to help improve the country’s economic management and unleash its potential by sharing knowledge and promoting discussion. It analyzes trends and challenges facing the Gabonese economy and is published annually by the World Bank Country Office in Gabon.

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