Coming to power on November 6, 1982, Paul Biya promised not to take Cameroon to the International Monetary Fund for any loans , a promise not respected .
Cameroon has been signing loan agreements with foreign organisations for several years to keep its economy on its feet. However, about three years after coming to power, when rumours of joining the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to provide assistance to Cameroon’s ailing economy surfaced, Head of State Paul Biya intervened. He wrote in the Cameroon Tribune of March 22, 1986: “Cameroon will not go to the IMF“.
This promise was short-lived. Since only a few months after this oath, Paul Biya’s country entered into an era of adjustment through countless loan agreements with international organisations with the aim of developing the economy in a competitive manner. However, the results of the management of these loans are highly debated among the public.
Between 1998 and 2020, for example, the debt budget in Cameroon varied between 1.5 billion and 12.6 billion euros per year. In 2020, the last year evaluated, the amount of 12.57 billion euros was the highest in the last 22 years.
In relation to the number of inhabitants, this corresponds to a debt of 474 euros (about 311,250 FCFA) per person. By comparison, the average debt per capita in the EU was €26,964 in the same year, according to datamondiales.com.
Indeed, Cameroon’s debt has passed the symbolic milestone of about 12,000 billion CFA francs, the same amount that triggered structural adjustment in 1987.
The Caisse Autonome d’Amortissement (CAA), which manages Cameroon’s public debt, indicates that as at 31 March 2022, the outstanding debt of the Cameroonian public sector stood at CFAF 11,456 billion, representing 45% of GDP. This stock is up by 7.4% year-on-year, and is made up of 92.5% of the direct debt of the central government and 7.4% of the debt of public enterprises.
“If we look at the external debt, its annual growth is 14% per year, while the export earnings that pay for it are only growing by 3%. This is an extremely serious indication of an increasingly uncontrollable debt“, insists the Coordination of the Platform for Information and Action on Debt (Pfiad).
Faced with this over-indebtedness, Cameroon signed a three-year Economic and Financial Programme (2021-2024) with the IMF, which was presented as a framework for collaboration aimed at redressing the situation of Cameroon and other CEMAC countries.
“But clearly, this collaboration is not going as planned. During the first review of the programme, which took place from 2 to 16 December 2021, the IMF criticised the government for having implemented only three of the eight structural reforms expected between July and December 2021,” notes Pfiad.