April 18, 2012 / 11:16 PM / 6 years ago

Congo's Kabila taps finance minister for premier post

* Nomination comes a month after previous government resigned

* Ponyo seen as good steward of Congo business environment

By Jonny Hogg

KINSHASA, April 18 (Reuters) - Democratic Republic of Congo President Joseph Kabila named finance minister Matata Ponyo Mapon as his new prime minister, the government said on Wednesday, in a move aimed at improving the central African state’s business environment.

The nomination comes more than a month after the former government resigned to allow Kabila, who was re-elected in November in elections broadly criticised by observers for fraud and organisational chaos, to form a new team.

“I can confirm that (Ponyo) was named prime minister this afternoon,” said Richard Muyej, acting government spokesman. “In my opinion the current preoccupation is with the economy... He’s well known internationally,” Muyej continued.

Ponyo became minister of finance in 2010 and oversaw 7 percent growth in the economy last year.

The country has been praised by the IMF for its fiscal management under Ponyo, although a report released last week by the World Bank warned that weak institutions and illegal taxation was slowing expansion.

“His appointment could be a positive sign, if he’s able to run the government effectively. Hopefully he can also improve the business climate,” a Western diplomat said.

Congo is Africa’s second largest copper producer but also lies bottom of the UN’s development index - a measure of wealth, health and education - with much of the population mired in poverty after decades of corruption and conflict.

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