Angola: Confronting the COVID-19 pandemic and the oil price shock

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Street vendors in front of the National Bank of Angola. The Angolan government has introduced comprehensive fiscal and monetary measures to support economic activities and help the most vulnerable. (photo: rosn123/iStockphoto)

LUANDA, Angola – The COVID-19 pandemic and the shock from the falling price of oil have put severe pressure on Angola since the country’s second review under the Extended Fund Facility (EFF) in December 2019.

Only months after the conclusion of the second review in December 2019, the COVID-19 pandemic reached Angola, ushering in economic and health crises. The decline in oil prices further strained the economy, which is heavily reliant on oil exports. The economic downturn and social distancing to contain the spread of the virus have been damaging, especially given the large informal sector.

A swift response to the crisis

The Angolan authorities adopted timely measures to tackle the challenges arising from the COVID-19 shock. Measures to protect public health included quarantine, social distancing, closing of borders with limited exceptions, closures of schools, restaurants, and public events, and limited transportation. The government recently approved a prudent supplementary budget for 2020 using a conservative oil reference price. It has also introduced a comprehensive set of fiscal and monetary measures to support economic activities.

Fiscal measures

On relief to help vulnerable people:

  • Tax exemptions of value-added tax (VAT) and customs duties on goods imported under humanitarian aid and donations;
  • VAT tax credit for imported capital goods and raw materials for producing essential consumption goods;
  • Interest-free, deferred payment option for social security contributions;
  • Regulation of prices for a list of medical goods.

On government spending:

  • Freeze of 30 percent of purchases on nonessential goods and services;
  • Reduction in the number of ministries from 28 to 21;
  • Suspension of selected, nonessential capital expenditures;
  • Decrease in travel and real estate investments.

Monetary measures

  • Additional liquidity support to banks and a liquidity line to buy government securities from nonfinancial corporations;
  • A credit-stimulus program;
  • Temporary suspension for debt service payments;
  • Requirement for banks to provide credit to importers of essential goods.

A proactive external debt management

The government needs to safeguard its ability to continue to service its debt on schedule, even under the current trying circumstances. The government has therefore availed itself of the G20 Debt Service Suspension Initiative. They have also secured selected debt reprofiling operations with some of their large creditors.

Financial support from the IMF

On September 16, 2020, the IMF’s executive board approved the third review under the EFF and additional financial support to Angola to help mitigate the impact of the crises. Accordingly, the IMF has provided $1 billion to Angola, bringing its total expected financial support to about $4.5 billion under the three-year program. The authorities are strengthening their public financial management to improve accountability for the funds received from the IMF and debt relief from creditors.

The path to recovery

It is important for Angola to continue to stabilize the economy, control inflation, keep the reform momentum, and safeguard financial stability. It is also crucial to persevere with structural reforms, such as privatization, improvement in governance in state-owned enterprises, and strengthened legal frameworks.

These reforms will help improve the business environment and pave the way for foreign direct investment and growth-enhancing economic diversification.

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