The Need for a Genuine Marshall Plan: A Newfound Confidence Shared by Government and International Donors Alike Should Enable the Country to Pursue Its Ambitious Economic Development Programme, Says the DR Congo's Minister of Planning, Olivier Kamitatu, in This Interview with African Business

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African Business: In this period of reconstruction, what are the main priorities of the DR Congo's economic and social development plan?

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Olivier Kamitatu: The new government is committed to reconstructing the country and has drawn up an ambitious programme, 'Horizon 2011', which is proceeding through the legislative stage. The overall objective of Horizon 2011 is to speed up economic growth and reduce poverty in our country. The UNDP rank us as the 180th most heavily indebted country in the world and with a per capita GDP of just $100.

In order to win this battle to secure economic development and defeat poverty, the government intends to restore the rule of law throughout the country and give our people access to essential social services. We need to promote the necessary conditions for the creation of greater wealth and a fairer distribution of it. We believe that a precondition for this is the consolidation of peace and national unity and the restoration of good governance and the authority of the state across the whole country.

We also need to fight corruption, to initiate administrative reforms and decentralisation, strengthen international co-operation, and consolidate growth and macroeconomic stability as well as work towards the rehabilitation and reconstruction of the country's infrastructure. Should we be able to achieve all these objectives we believe we will attain our projected annual growth rate of 7.7%.

AB: What are the main challenges the country is currently facing?

OK: In this post-conflict scenario, the challenges are enormous. The relationship between the previous governments and the World Bank and the IMF was awful and that has resulted in the international lending institutions still not being prepared to offer desperately needed budgetary support to the new government. This is very regrettable. The new government won the first democratic elections to be held in the country for 40 years, and our government needs the support of these institutions to ensure democracy takes root--support such as was offered, post-conflict, to the Balkans.

It is clear that what the DR Congo really requires is a genuine Marshall Plan to enable the government to reconstruct the country. But we are not getting the support we need and, I would argue, we deserve. Consequently, the people are getting impatient.

What can any government achieve with an investment budget of $50m? That, for the DR Congo, represents a per capita budget of only $1, yet we have bridges to build, roads, schools and hospitals to construct, an electricity grid to maintain and manufacturing equipment to renovate. I must admit that I am frustrated. I feel just a great sense of injustice ...

AB: You are co-ordinating several interdepartmental development projects. What is your assessment of the progress of these programmes?

OK: The transitional government has a dozen ongoing programmes, the majority of which come to an end later this year [2008]. These programmes have various objectives--the rehabilitation of infrastructure such as bridges, roads, schools, hospitals and the fight against HIV/Aids for example. …