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Burundi's Top Leadership Pledges Decisive Action to Combat Corruption, Accelerate Reforms

November 7, 2010

BUJUMBURA, November 7, 2010 – Burundi's head of state has promised to rigorously pursue reforms to combat corruption, consolidate peace, promote good governance, and improve the business climate in order for the private sector to prosper, expand government revenues and create jobs.

Speaking to reporters on Saturday following a meeting with visiting World Bank Vice President for the Africa Region, Obiageli Ezekwesili, President Pierre Nkurunziza agreed on the need to send a strong signal on governance and to help bring to a close cases of alleged corruption among officials.

President Nkurunziza said these reforms are consistent with his country’s recently unveiled development roadmap, known as Vision 2025, which calls for decisive action to improve the business climate in order to attract domestic and foreign investors.

" The World Bank Vice President confirmed that her discussions with the Burundian leader touched on “the challenges of improving governance and the business climate, as well as the need to tackle the very difficult problem of corruption.” "

Obiageli Ezekwesili

World Bank Vice President for the Africa Region

It is important, said Ms. Ezekwesili, that President Nkurunziza’s declaration of “zero tolerance” is backed by “decisive” action. She added that prosecution needs to be taken “to send the right signal to society that change has happened” and that “bad conduct” will not be tolerated.

“I received confirmation from the president that action will be taken in those important areas that we talked about,” Ms. Ezekwesili told reporters, standing alongside President Nkurunziza on the doorsteps of his private residence on the flank of one of the hills overlooking the lakeside capital of Bujumbura.

President Nkurunziza said he received useful advice from his World Bank partners and would provide the leadership required for his government to adopt right policies and make the investments needed to accelerate growth, reduce poverty, and set an agenda that will help Burundi fully take advantage of the opportunities offered by its recent membership in the five-nation East African Community.

To that effect, Ms. Ezekwesili encouraged Burundi to make the process of updating its poverty reduction strategy consultative and inclusive, with emphasis on the role of the private sector.

Two strategic forums are being considered for deepening stakeholder participation in, and government ownership of, the more aggressive reform agenda President Nkurunziza announced.

These are likely to include a resumption of the public-private sector dialogue that is needed to sharpen the understanding of the challenges faced by Burundi's private sector and facilitate the identification of mutually agreed solutions. The second forum is likely to be a gathering of the government to formulate a strategy on how to deliver on the reinvigorated vision, including how to remain realistic about expectations of support from development partners.

“This is a moment of opportunity for Burundi,” Ms. Ezekwesili said. She added that the country’s poor ranking on Transparency International’s perception of corruption index, as well as its low performance on the World Bank’s Doing Business Report should, in fact, be seen as an opportunity.

This is the time, Ms. Ezekwesili said, to mobilize all Burundians for the reforms that will enable their country to generate economic growth at a greater rate than the pace of its population growth, estimated at three percent.

Underscoring Burundi's potential, Ms. Ezekwesili said that implementation of “decisive and comprehensive reforms” could yield results within a year, which would set the foundation for economic prosperity.

“We, at the World Bank, will continue to support Burundi in important areas of policy, in building institutions, and in making the necessary investments in key sectors such as agriculture, transportation, health and education,” said Ms. Ezekwesili. “Ultimately, building Burundi is the responsibility of Burundians and everybody needs to be part of that leadership process.”