December 5, 2017 / 5:00 PM / 11 days ago

IMF begins talks with Congo Republic over bailout package

BRAZZAVILLE, Dec 5 (Reuters) - The International Monetary Fund said it had begun talks on Tuesday with Congo Republic over a bailout to help the oil producer reduce its rapidly rising debt.

Total government revenue has slid by nearly a third since 2015 due largely to lower global crude prices and public or publicly guaranteed debt spiked this year to 110 percent of GDP, the IMF has said.

The debt crisis has led credit rating agencies to judge Congo at risk of default on its $363 million Eurobond, a situation exacerbated by a $1 billion legal dispute in a United States court.

“We have come to negotiate an economic and financial programme supported by the IMF,” mission head Abdoul Aziz Wane told reporters in the capital Brazzaville at the start of two weeks of planned talks.

“This objective can only be achieved in a transparent context, in which information about the management of the natural resources of the state is made available to the Congolese population,” he said.

Campaign groups frequently criticise the government for alleged corruption and the opacity of state-run enterprises, charges the authorities reject.

Congo’s fiscal woes come despite increasing oil production, which is expected to see it leapfrog Equatorial Guinea next year as sub-Saharan Africa’s third-leading crude producer. (Reporting by Christian Elion; writing by Aaron Ross; editing by Alexander Smith)

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