Artigos

Indications and Summer Forecasts for the Angolan Economy

Indications

The latest figures available from the National Institute of Statistics on the Angolan economy point to a decrease in GDP in the 1st quarter of 2021 in the order of -3.4%, an unemployment rate in the same quarter of 30.5%, and a annual inflation rate for the month of July 2021 of 25.72%[1]. None of these figures that reflect macroeconomic magnitudes are encouraging in the short term.

However, there are other economic and financial realities to consider in order to have a global view of the movement underway in the Angolan economy, and which allow for a more optimistic perspective.

To begin with, in terms of the budget balance and public debt, essential elements of the support program of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the expectation is that the 2021 budget balance will be positive, possibly above 2% of GDP (further on we will present our prediction). In relation to public debt, as we had predicted in previous reports, its sustainability is consolidated, as recognized by the IMF representative in Angola very recently (see our forecast below)[2].

In terms of exchange rate with reference to the month of July 2021, the Kwanza has already appreciated 1.8% against the dollar and 6.1% against the euro, since January 2021, breaking a strong period of strong devaluation started in 2018. Furthermore, 3.5 years after exchange rate flexibility, the gap between formal and informal market rates is below the 20% target announced by the central bank at the time of liberalization, between 7% and 8% for the dollar and euro respectively. Note that at the time prior to liberalization, the same gap was 159% and 167%.

Figure 1 – Kwanza Exchange Rate Variation against the Dollar and Euro (July 2021)

Currently, some sectors are already announcing an increase in the profitability of exports due to the favorable exchange rate policy. This is the case of cement, where Pedro Pinto CEO of Nova Cimangola assures that “To boost exports, the devaluation of the currency helped, because all the costs that the company has in national currency, in dollars, were lower and, in this way, the competitiveness of the company to place products on the international market. In other words, all those products that we continue to buy in Kzs and that have not suffered large price variations in dollars were lower and, therefore, allowed the company to have greater profitability with exports.[3]

Also a reference to PRODESI (Program to Support Production, Diversification of Exports and Substitution of Imports), which has generated more than USD 29 million since the beginning of the year. As the main exported products, emphasis is placed on cement, beer, glass packaging, bananas, juices and soft drinks and sugar[4].

These movements are reflected in the trade balance. Angola’s trade balance recorded, in the 1st half of 2021, a surplus of USD 8,381.9 million[5], an increase of 40.2 % compared to the results recorded in the 2nd half of 2020 (USD 5,978.8 million)[6]. Within this framework, there was an increase in exports of 25%, naturally still influenced by the increase in exports from the oil sector of 28.4%.

Figure 2 – Angola’s Trade Balance and Trade Relations with China

But there is also a significant increase in trade with one of Angola’s main trading partners, China. “Trade between Angola and China increased 23.9% in the first half of 2021, to US$10,550 million (€8,985 million), compared to the same period last year”[7]. According to Gong Tao, Chinese ambassador to Angola, despite the adverse effects caused by the covid-19 pandemic, Chinese companies remain interested in investing in Angola, highlighting the recent construction of factories, one dedicated to the production of tiles and another qualified for the production of energy and water meters.

2021 Summer Forecasts

In modeling the perspectives we present here, several factors are taken into account, among which we highlight the main ones. The first element is the calculation of the oil price (always a determining factor in the Angolan economy). We assume that the price of Brent will maintain a slight upward trend, standing at a level between USD 65 to USD 75 per barrel. A relative stabilization or possible appreciation of the Kwanza against the dollar and the euro is also part of our model, which makes it possible to reverse some of the falls in the past that were merely nominal due to the more flexible exchange rate. We anticipate that the post-Covid-19 world recovery will boost the Angolan economy’s exports, as is already happening with China. Finally, we anticipate that the environment for foreign investment will gradually improve as a result of legislative reforms and the commitment of political power. We have as a recent example the several advertisements coming from Turkey. At the end of July 2021, Angola and Turkey signed 10 cooperation agreements, in the fields of economy, trade, mineral resources and transport, having already announced an increase in the trade balance with Angola to a value of around USD 500 million[8].

From the point of view of obstacles, it is worth mentioning the immense lack of capital. This is the main element for any sustained recovery, and also the inexistence of economic diversification[9] and the persistence of administrative bureaucracy.

All things considered, our model predicts that by the year 2021 the Angolan economy will come out of recession, and GDP growth will reach between 1.4% and 1.75%.

Our model points to a budget surplus between 2.3% and 2.75%, depending on the evolution of the oil price until the end of the year. And considering the evolution of the Kwanza exchange rate, our forecast is that in 2022, the public debt/Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ratio will be below 100%, achieving greater consolidation.

Figure 3 – CEDESA Model – Forecasts for the Angolan Economy

Consequently, the initial period of strong adjustment and contraction of the Angolan economy is expected to come to an end this year, with no more shocks and global control of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The special case of Unemployment

We understand that unemployment is a special case that should be treated differently, both statistically and in terms of public policies. In terms of statistics, it should be better ascertained who is occupied with informal productive paid activities and who cannot effectively obtain any paid work they want. We should avoid statistical biases that disturb the proper understanding of reality.

On the other hand, it is clear that it will not be the market or the private economy that will solve the problem of lack of employment in the short term, especially for young people. To that extent, the authorities are urged to develop a Keynesian-type employment promotion program, if necessary using available capital from the fight against corruption, as we have advocated in other reports. The state has to spend money on job creation.


[1] Cfr. https://www.ine.gov.ao/

[2] Cfr. https://www.sapo.pt/noticias/atualidade/representante-do-fmi-em-angola-afirma-que_611bf099d1bccf29fd83b48c

[3] https://mercado.co.ao/grandes-entrevistas/a-desvalorizacao-da-moeda-permitiu-que-a-empresa-tivesse-maior-rentabilidade-com-as-exportacoes-XJ1038347

[4] https://www.angonoticias.com/Artigos/item/68811/prodesi-rende-mais-de-usd-29-milhoes-em-exportacoe

[5] https://www.bna.ao/Conteudos/Artigos/lista_artigos_medias.aspx?idc=15419&idsc=15428&idl=1

[6] https://www.angonoticias.com/Artigos/item/68824/balanca-comercial-regista-superavit-de-usd-83819-milhoes

[7] https://www.rtp.pt/noticias/economia/comercio-entre-china-e-angola-recupera-24-no-1o-semestre-apos-forte-quebra-em-2020_n1343994

[8] https://www.angop.ao/noticias/economia/angola-e-turquia-reforcam-balanca-comercial/

[9] Cfr, the most recent elements on the sectoral participation in the GDP that demonstrate the immense and reinforced weight of the oil sector. https://www.bna.ao/Conteudos/Artigos/lista_artigos_medias.aspx?idc=15907&idsc=15909&idl=1

Proposal for a pilot job guarantee design in Angola

Introduction: the magnitude of the unemployment problem and the need for a systematic government response

In Angola, in the third quarter of 2020, the unemployment rate stood at 34%[1]. This number corresponds to a chain increase (i.e., compared to the previous quarter) of 9.9% and homologous (referring to the same period in 2019) in the order of 22%[2]. In view of these data, whatever the perspective adopted, it is easy to see that unemployment is a fundamental and serious problem facing the Angolan economy and societies.

Fig. Nº 1- Recent evolution of the unemployment rate in Angola (2017-2020). Source: INE-Angola

So far, the government recognizes this problem, but is betting on the recovery of the economy at the private sector level, to resolve the issue, believing that the State can do little to face the situation. The solution lies in economic growth and business dynamism, says the executive. The President of the Republic, João Lourenço, was clear in the last speech of the State of the Nation when he stated: “priority of our agenda [is): to work for the resuscitation and diversification of the economy, to increase the national production of goods and basic services, to increase the range of exportable products and increase the supply of jobs. ” João Lourenço makes an indelible link between the diversification of the economy and the increase in national production and the decrease in unemployment.

Basically, the government relies on the traditional postulate stated by the American economist Arthur Okun, according to which there would be a linear relationship between changes in the unemployment rate and the growth of the gross national product: with each real GDP growth in two percent would correspond to a one percent decrease in unemployment[3]. The truth is that several empirical studies do not confirm this empirical relationship at all, and in recent years in several countries around the world, an increase in GDP has not led to a sharp decrease in unemployment, while in other cases it has, therefore, it is difficult establish a permanent relationship between unemployment and GDP. In addition, the magnitude of unemployment in Angola would imply that in order to decrease the rate for the still frightening 24%, GDP would have to grow 15% …

The fundamental issue is that the problem of unemployment in Angola is not cyclical, but structural, this means that it is closely connected to the permanent deficiencies of the Angolan economy and does not have a mere dependence on the economic cycle.

The fact that the problem of unemployment is structural and of an economic recovery for the years 2021 and onwards is only between 2% and 4% of GDP[4], according to the current IMF projections, imply that such economic animation will have little impact on employment.

In this sense, it is essential to understand that the solution to the problem of unemployment does not depend only on the market and the economic recovery, it requires, at least in the short term, the muscular intervention of the State. It is in this context that this proposal for a pilot experience arises.

Fig. No. 2- GDP growth projections Angola (2021-2024). Source: IMF

A pilot job guarantee experiment in Angola

Starting from the first experience of universal employment guarantee in the world, designed by researchers at the University of Oxford and administered by the Austrian Public Employment Service, which takes place in the Austrian city of Marienthal[5], the same methodology would apply to a specific location in Angola, possibly, to a specific municipality in Luanda.

According to this regime to be implemented on an experimental basis in a municipality in Luanda, a universal guarantee of a properly paid job would be offered to all residents who have been unemployed for more than 12 months.

In addition to receiving training and assistance to find work, the participants would have guaranteed paid work, with the State subsidizing 100% of the salary in a private company or employing participants in the public sector or even supporting the creation of a microenterprise. All participants would receive at least one minimum wage set in accordance with the Presidential Decree that regulates the matter appropriate to a life with dignity.

The pilot Design would work as follows:

i) All residents of the chosen Luanda municipality, who have been unemployed for a year or more, will be unconditionally invited to participate in the pilot design.

ii) Participants begin with a two-month preparatory course, which includes individual training and counseling.

iii) Subsequently, participants will be helped to find suitable and subsidized employment in the private sector or supported to create a job based on their skills and knowledge of the needs of their community or will still be employed by the State.

iv) The job guarantee ensures three years of work for all long-term unemployed, although participants may choose to work part-time.

Fig. No. 3- Brief description of the pilot employment design

In addition to eliminating long-term unemployment in the region, the program aims to offer all participants useful work, be it in paving streets, in small community repairs, in a day care center, in the creation of a community cafe, in access to water and energy , basic sanitation, in the reconstruction of a house, or in some other field.

The pilot project is designed to test the policy’s results and effectiveness and then be extended to more areas of the country.

Financing

“As part of the asset recovery process, the State has already recovered real estate and money in the amount of USD 4,904,007,841.82, of which USD 2,709,007,842.82 in cash and USD 2,194,999,999.00 in real estate, factories, port terminals, office buildings, residential buildings, radio and television stations, graphic units, commercial establishments and others. ”

Thus, the President of the Republic spoke in the most recent speech by the State of the Nation mentioned above.

Now, nothing better than to allocate part of these recovered funds to the promotion of employment. Consequently, an amount withdrawn from there would be used to create an Employment Development Fund which we would simply call, because of the origin of the amounts, “Marimbondos Fund”. This Fund would receive part of the recovered assets and would use them to finance initiatives to promote employment such as the one presented here. Money withdrawn in the past from the economy would return to this one to foster work for the new generations.

With this self-financing model, any constraints imposed by the International Monetary Fund or the need for budgetary restraint would be removed. The promotion of employment would have its own funds resulting from the fight against corruption. There doesn’t seem to be a better destination for money than that.

Fig. No. 4- Financing the pilot Design


[1] https://www.ine.gov.ao/

[2] https://www.ine.gov.ao/images/Idndicador_IEA_III_Trimestre_2020.PNG

[3] Arthur M. Okun, The Political Economy of Prosperity (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution, 1970)

[4] https://www.imf.org/en/Countries/AGO#countrydata

[5] https://www.ox.ac.uk/news/2020-11-02-world-s-first-universal-jobs-guarantee-experiment-starts-austria

Sonangol and the reinvention of the Angolan economy

This is a time of reinvention for Angola. Sonangol is no longer the engine of the Angolan economy and it is necessary to find a new driver. There are two reasons for the need to overcome the economic model based on a single product – oil.

The first reason is Sonangol itself. The results for 2019, presented by the Angolan oil company, are structurally discouraging. Although they show a profit, this profit derives from unrepeatable extraordinary results and the essential elements of the oil operation are stagnant: production does not increase, sales do not exceed the level of previous years. The company’s net income was USD 125 million. However, revenues remained stable compared to the previous year. Sonangol produced around 232 thousand barrels of crude oil per day, a number similar to the past and made sales of USD 10,231 million, which represents a 4% reduction compared to the 2018 financial year.

In short, oil exploration no longer adequately supports Sonangol. Not supporting Sonangol means not supporting the country.

In addition to this stagnation at Sonangol, there is the fact that oil is being increasingly viewed with skepticism, seeking to invest in alternative energies and moving away from the use of black gold. This is obviously not a short-term process, but it will have been accelerated with the Covid-19 pandemic. Oil will still have price rises, possibly peaks in higher demand, but everything indicates that the gluttonous years will be over, as other energy sources will emerge that will more or less gradually replace oil. Just note that in the last few months the price of the Brent barrel has fluctuated between USD 53 in October 2019, USD 60 in January 2020, USD 12.78 in April or USD 40.7 recently. However, he never returned to the 2014 figures where he was often above USD 100.

These two reasons mean that the Angolan economy has to reinvent itself, and more quickly than it thinks. It is not just a matter of restructuring Sonangol and focusing it on the oil business. It is not enough, because this business is stagnant. It is the economy itself that needs restructuring, which in the official jargon of the Angolan government is called diversification.

The problem is that diversification implies the creation of a new offer in the Angolan economy, of the production of goods and services that did not exist in the recent past. And for production to exist, investment is necessary. Investment requires, obviously, the contribution of capital.

And here we face another issue that affects the Angolan economy, which is the lack of capital and the recessive policies that intensify this scarcity. Following the parameters chosen by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the neoclassical orthodoxy of the economy, a program to contain / reduce public debt and reduce the deficit is being imposed on Angola.

We have many doubts as to whether such a program is justified in the case of the Angolan economy, especially considering the doctrinal contributions in Modern Monetary Theory, but the fact is that such a program to cut spending and increase taxes is being followed. However, the pursuit of such a policy ends up limiting the availability of capital for investment, whether public or private. Therefore, it prevents the so-called diversification that is so necessary to overcome Sonangol’s stagnation.

Thus, the outlook facing the Angolan economy at the moment is difficult. On the one hand, its engine – Sonangol – is stalled, on the other, the creation of capital to mobilize productive investment to diversify the economy is being strangled due to the recessionary policies adopted. This has obvious repercussions on the economy’s figures. GDP growth is negative – 3.6%. Unemployment assumes a staggering number of 32.7% and inflation of 22.8% (similar in August 2020). None of these numbers are encouraging.

The Angolan economy needs political courage to reverse this state of affairs.

Sonangol has to be restructured, but as an energy company and not merely an oil company. In reality, it is not enough to focus on oil, you will have to present yourself with a modern renewable energy company, taking advantage, for example, of the sun. If the United Kingdom recently announced that it wants to become Saudi Arabia by the wind, Angola may be Saudi Arabia by the sun. Therefore, an imaginative restructuring of Sonangol is necessary.

At the same time, recessionary economic policy must be abandoned. Although there should be budgetary discipline and not paying works twice or paying wages to phantom employees, as well as not contracting public debt to feed private pockets, the fact is that the policy of financial rigor must be complemented by a policy of fiscal stimulus that allows building a sufficient capital base to carry out the necessary reproductive investment. A public and private pro-investment tax policy is fundamental in reinventing the Angolan economy.