As international donors gather this week in Brussels to mobilize resources for Guinea-Bissau, the government and people of this West African nation appear ready for a fresh start.
The year 2015 marks a year of hope for Guinea-Bissau, a nation of 1.7 million people and one of the poorest countries in the world. The country faces an historic opportunity to break with the past of fragility and conflict and turn the page on anemic growth and poverty. The signs are promising. General elections, held in April and May 2014, were described by observers as the freest and fairest in the country’s history and a new, democratic government was inaugurated in June 2014, ending the transitional period.
With support from the World Bank, Guinea-Bissau averted the cancellation of the 2014 school year by paying off the arrears owed to teachers, an issue which has given rise to numerous strikes over the year. The government also took emergency measures to address the sharp deterioration of an already poor supply of electricity and water which had constituted an increasing threat to public health. It suspended a tax on cashew exports—which a World Bank study assessed as highly regressive—and cracked down on the plundering of the country’s timber resources.
To support the government as it faces the economic and development challenges it needs to tackle, the World Bank Group recently presented the 2015 Country Economic Memorandum (CEM) for Guinea Bissau to key policy makers and government leaders in Rubane. Led by the Bank’s Global Practice for Macroeconomics and Fiscal Management, the diagnostic report analyzes key development constraints in an array of sectors, including energy, transport, telecommunications, private and financial sector development, public sector reform and governance, and offers sector-specific policy recommendations, designed to pave the way toward poverty reduction and shared prosperity. A summary version of the CEM is available, and highlights four key priority areas for immediate action:
- Priority #1: Strengthen the Public Sector
- Priority #2: Improve the Provision of Basic Public Services
- Priority #3: Support the Revival of the Productive Sectors
- Priority #4: Foster Private Enterprise
As the donor roundtable is being held, we hope that additional financing, as well as technical support, will be truly transformational and lead to real change for the people of Guinea-Bissau.