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Angola

Sekondi Accra

In 2010, Angola hosted the Africa Cup of Nations football tournament, acquired its first sovereign credit rating and enjoyed a return to positive economic growth after stagnating in 2009. The government states that it expects GDP to increase by 6.7% in 2010 and by 8.4% in 2011. Angola has continued to receive strong non-oil foreign direct investment, which rose to $1.8 billion dollars in 2009, from $1.2 billion dollars in 2008. The newly acquired credit rating of B (plus) gives Angola permission to sell treasury bonds on international markets. The long awaited stock exchange is set to open this in 2011 with more than 30 companies expected to participate.

Oil production was approximately 1.8 barrels per day (bpd) during 2010 but is likely to increase to about 2 million bpd in 2011, with several new projects in the works. Pre-salt blocks are already under negotiation and there is some confusion as to whether the bidding round which was cancelled in 2007 will occur in 2011. In the downstream sector, construction is set to begin on the country's second refinery. Work continues on a liquefied natural gas plant which is expected to open in late 2012.

The government has made significant efforts to improve both its economic and fiscal policies, motivated in part by conditions set by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) under the $1.4 billion dollar standby agreement signed in late 2009, but also following reports of money laundering uncovered during a United States Senate investigation. In an attempt to circumvent this bad publicity and Angola's poor ranking in Transparency International surveys, there is a new high profile campaign against corruption, supported by legislation on probity and money laundering along with plans for a restructuring of the antiquated and malfunctioning tax system. New laws on public tendering are also going to be enacted in 2011.

Critics dismiss the anti-corruption agenda as simply a ruse to punish menial offenders and allow high-ranking officials to operate with impunity. Civil society activists are disappointed that ministerial declarations required under the new probity law are to be kept private.

The effects of several events in 2010 will have implications into 2011. The government created a new constitution, replacing the interim law which was instituted in 1992. The new charter gives more power to the president, as well as abolishing direct presidential elections: the head of state is now be chosen from the top ranking members of the political party that procures the majority of votes.

The new legislative elections are scheduled for 2012, by which time President Jose' Eduard dos Santos (68) will have been in power for for 33 years. He is expected to run again and, under the new constitution, could remain in office until 2022. Since there is no immediate successor on the political horizon, many believe that the president will attempt to remain in power ad infinitum. As of this writing, there is no established plan for a presidential succession.

The primary political party, Uniao Nacional para a Independencia Total de Angola (UNITA) reacted angrily to the new constitution, describing it as the "death of democracy in Angola". However, UNITA MPs were easily out-voted by Dos Santos' Movimento Popular de Libertacao de Angola (MPLA) because the party holds an 82% majority in parliament.

Critics of the government posit, despite the achievements of the peaceful 2008 elections, the first held in 16 years, Angola is regressing towards a one-party state because the MPLA has complete control on the media along with increasing financial/political influence. A new private television station which opened to much anticipation in 2010 is under direct control of presidential allies. Furthermore, several news agencies have been purchased by businessmen with close ties to the government.

Heated media exchanges between the MPLA and Isaias Samakuva's UNITA have signaled the unofficial start of the 2012 election campaign, and the coming election year should prove interesting.

In spite of Angola's economic advances, nearly 10 years after the end of the 27-year civil war, the country still remains behind its neighbors in terms of education and healthcare. One in five children die before the age of five, maternal mortality is 600 in every 100,000, only 42% of the population has access to drinking water, even fewer to electricity, and 91% of urban dwellers live in 'substandard' conditions.

The government made a 2008 election pledge to construct 1m new homes by 2012, and it has delegated a large part of the building to the private sector, with only a small percentage in the affordable and social housing category. The capital, Luanda, remains seriously overcrowded, with an estimated population of 8 million people, many of whom live in slum-like conditions without electricity or water. Rural poverty is notable. according to the Maplecroft Food Security Risk Index 2010, Angola is the seventh most food-insecure country out of the 50 countries assessed.

The government is committed to spending $18 billion dollars on energy projects in the next six years and strives to be self-sufficient in electricity by 2016. Investing in energy is crucial if the country wants to develop its manufacturing base, an idea may prove to be prohibitively due to a reliance on generators. Many construction projects are, however, seriously delayed since the government fell behind in payments to the mostly Brazilian and Portuguese companies contracting the work. When Portuguese President Anibal Cavaco Silva's visited in July 2010, President Dos Santos admitted to journalists that his government was close to $7 billion dollars in debt to foreign firms, although the finance ministry later said in a statement that this could be as high as $9 billion dollars. The government has convened a special task force and claimed that it has already repaid 60% of what is owed as of August 2010.

The high levels of debt are clearly linked to Angola's liquidity crisis from 2009, when the oil price halved in a matter of months and the rush on US dollars caused the kwanza to depreciate by 25% in a matter of weeks. However, critics blame the crisis on corrupt officials and weak management.

Diversification of the economy remains a major issue because the country still relies on oil for 90% of export revenue. Foreign firms are investing in agriculture and manufacturing, but a weak private sector and cumbersome bureaucracy is impeding the process. An additional economic challenge for 2011 includes the handling of bad debt in the commercial banking system. Plans for a rescue package were included in the budget submitted to the National Assembly. When queried, Banco National de Angola has refrained to explain the extent of the problem.

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Angola maintains an embassy in the United States at 2100-2108 16th St., NW, Washington, DC 20009 (tel. 202-785-1156; fax 202-822-9049; web: www.angola.org). Angola also maintains consulates in New York City (attached to its Permanent Mission to the United Nations) at 866 UN Plaza, 48th St., Suite 552, New York, NY 10017 (tel. 212-233-3588, ext. 15; fax 212-980-9606; web: http://www.un.int/wcm/content/site/angola/) and in Houston at 3040 Post Oak Blvd., Suite 708, Houston, TX 77056 (tel. 713-212-3840; fax 713-212-3841.
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