Gabon has paid back more than US$ 700m in debt owed to private companies and plans to make another payment by the end of 2014, the Presidency said this week. Investors in the oil, timber and construction sectors have complained that the oil-rich Central African state is years behind in payments to local operators, though none were prepared to go on the record. The statement from the office of President Ali Bongo said it had committed to repaying the debts following an audit of public finances for 2013-2014. The International Monetary Fund also visited the country to discuss the arrears in November.
“Since the beginning of the year, 385.7bn Central African francs (US$ 732m) were disbursed and a new instalment will be paid by the end of 2014 subject to a repurchase agreement with banks,” the statement said. The findings of the audit have not yet been made public and the scale of the outstanding debt is unclear. It was not clear why the debts had accumulated, although investors have pointed to the country’s bloated civil service and a drop in oil production.
The Presidency was not immediately available for further comment on the statement. Gabon, once a major oil producer, has seen output drop from a peak of close to 400 000 barrels per day as fields mature, although it says revenues from gold and manganese have increased. The IMF says it expects growth to slow slightly from 5.6% in 2013 to 5.1% in 2014, following a drop in government spending.