The Angolan state budget for 2015 was strongly affected by the drop in the price of crude oil in international markets. How can Angola minimise losses in the near future?
The fall in oil prices, which began during the first quarter of 2014, has once again raised challenges within the national macroeconomic framework. Although some thought it would be short-term and only temporary, it is proving to be longer and more structural, especially for economies that are highly dependent on this natural resource. Minimising losses requires that, through selective and calibrated macroeconomic policy measures, combined with structural adjustment measures, we try to prevent, on the one hand, that the framework of macroeconomic stability is too greatly affected and, on the other, prepare a new phase for boosting the economy. We should make the very most of the less positive moment to get the national economy ready, and the country, for a new period of growth, more prosperity and sustainability.
Has this crisis highlighted Angola's dire need to find ways of making its economy less dependent on oil?
The importance of this sector is nothing new, it is something that concerns us all and will not be changed in the short term. What matters is managing to ensure that the careful and effective management of resources from the largest sector of the economy, for the time being, can make up the macroeconomic safeguards necessary for times of crisis, as well as supporting the growth and modernisation of the non oil sector. Conditions should be created to make the economy more resilient to the volatility of oil prices, while stimulating efforts for growth in the non oil sector, favouring food self-sufficiency and boosting the export sector, which at least manages to add value to export resources, such as, for example, mineral, forestry, fishery, tourism and cultural industries.
Does the Angolan economy urgently need to be restructured?
During the last 13 years the Angolan economy has gone through major transformations. Whether in terms of its gross domestic product and its structure, or in terms of income per capita, fiscal expenditure, boosting public investment projects and expenditure arising out of the public administration's expansion across the entire national territory. All these gains, rooted in the National Reconstruction Plan, ensured unquestionable benefits for the national economy and for the nation's citizens. But, even so, given the persistent vulnerability of our economy, and the structural challenges we still face, we need to embark on a new cycle. It involves us having a lesser burden of the state, but with greater quality in its intervention, and more of the private sector, whether national or foreign. It's important not to forget that, over the years, sectors in which there were once 10 companies now have 200; sectors with 1500 workers now have 5000; sectors with tens of thousands of customers, now have millions.
But hasn't this led to increasing gaps in knowledge and skills?
The growth may have been exponential in some cases. One of the main challenges facing the country is, also, executive training and incorporating skills, even when they come from other places. The state successfully launched the National Executive Training Plan (PNFQ), rising to this challenge, but the private sector should and could also do more in the area of training and skill improvement in executive staff. The education system should take into account the knowledge requirements of executives of tomorrow. Recent studies show that, by 2050, 56% of the world population under the age of 25 will live in Africa.
Many foreign investors are facing difficulties and considering cooling investment in Angola?
Angola is still a country offering great opportunities. Looking at the global context and as Africa is currently the focus of attention of major international investors, Angola certainly occupies one of the top spots of countries within the continent that are interesting in terms of investment. Angola, without a shadow of a doubt, is a prime investment destination for the next 15 years. The global world is going through challenges, the answers to which, many of them that is, can be found in Africa. Although the road to travel is long, some areas have been developed, while other fundamental ones are still worthy of our special attention, in particular in the creation of human capital. Without wanting to find justifications, for some areas that could have been better, it is vital we don't forget that, when the war was over and during the last two parliamentary terms, Angola went through two cycles of crisis due to the fall in oil prices.
With uncertainty in the world's oil market, will 2016 be a year of many issues?
It will certainly be a challenging year, as the prolongation of dips in oil prices only adds to financial challenges, whether these involve tackling internal spending or the payment of commitments and requirements from abroad. I see it as a good year to reflect and strive to enable other opportunities. A model of external dependency needs to be redesigned, to domestic dependency, striving to find the essential abroad, and which is truly differentiating and necessary. The Angolan people are very creative; we need to take advantage of this spontaneity and verve, to overturn these less positive moments.