Angola’s economy heads for the top

According to figures released by the government, the growth was the fastest in the history of the country since independence in 1975. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) had predicted growth of 18 percent for 2005 against a figure of 12,2 percent for the previous year. The IMF expects growth of over 27 percent for 2006, which would make Angola the fastest growing economy in the world. Angola is sub-Saharan Africa’s second largest oil producer. High oil prices and development in the sector have helped the country rebuild infrastructure following the end of a 27-years civil war in 2002. Angola produces 1,4 million barrels of oil per day, most of which is exported to China. Investments from BP, Chevron and Exxon Mobil are likely to take this figure over two million by the end of 2007. Angola has used some of its oil revenue to build up reserves of US$4,4 billion, however, oil investments have not translated into jobs, with over 80 percent of the population thought to be without employment. Although the government has built up reserves and is trying to diversify revenue ‘ oil accounts for over 80 percent of current fiscal receipts ‘ a dip in oil prices would severely hurt the economy, which makes current growth unsustainable. Meanwhile, Angola has been accused of responding slowly to a deadly cholera epidemic and has been advised to spend more of its oil and diamond wealth to fight disease and save lives, Medical Charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) has said. MSF said deaths from cholera were probably two to three times more than the 1 230 reported in Angola so far and it was not known whether an epidemic which has seen 35 000 people infected, has peaked. “Angola has enough money to deal with this type of thing. Global oil prices are high and it’s got diamonds. “The response to date has been very slow and we’d like to see a dramatic scaling up of the government’s efforts,” Richard Veerman, head of MSF in Angola, told a news conference in South Africa. Angola is sub-Saharan Africa’s second largest oil producer behind Nigeria. It also has significant mineral wealth centred around diamonds. “The reaction of the government has been far too slow. The reaction of others, such as the WHO (World Health Organisation) has been slow. We’ve felt alone for long spells. It is time to up the game,” Veerman said. David Weatherill, a MSF water and sanitation expert, said up to 5,5 million people now lived in Angolan capital Luanda ‘ the epicentre of the disease. The city was initially built for just 400 000 people. Fewer than half a million people had access to clean piped water in central Luanda while the rest of the population lived in “very deplorable conditions in slums, with no clean water, no sanitation, no basic facilities”. Weatherill, who said he saw garbage floating in people’s homes during a visit, said he was stunned: “In my eight years working in this type of situation for MSF, I’ve never seen anything like this.” Most of the city’s water was supplied by trucks from a river, and most of the water had not been treated ‘ meaning that those infected with cholera still had no access to the clean water required to help fight the disease. Water has also been turned into a lucrative business. It cost an average of 50 US cents to purchase 20 litres of water, the minimum amount the WHO says a person needs each day. Many Angolan families have an average of four members, that translates to US$2 in a country where three-quarters of the population live well below the World Bank’s poverty threshold of US$1 a day. It was the task of Angola’s government to provide cheap clean water, especially during a cholera outbreak, to save lives, Veerman said. But he added that a task force on cholera set up by Angola and the WHO was still at a planning stage 13 weeks after the disease was first reported.

June 2006
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