Gabon - Economic development
Economic liberalism tempered by planning is the basic policy of the Gabonese government, which seeks to make the most of the country's rich natural resources. Priority is being given to the agricultural sector, to reduce imports, and to diversify the economy. Limiting migration to the cities is also an important element in this strategy. Industrial development efforts are centered on resource processing industries. Building the infrastructure is also an identifiable priority.
The devaluation of the CFA (Communauté Financière Africaine) franc in 1994 did not stimulate local production and discourage imports as expected. Realizing the need for structural adjustments to restore economic competitiveness, the government developed a new strategy in 1995 that encouraged private sector development, promoted privatization of state-owned enterprises, and increased the government's efforts in providing health and education services. A 1997 International Monetary Fund (IMF) report on Gabon criticized the government of overspending and failing to meet structural reform schedules. The government negotiated an 18-month Stand-By Arrangement with the IMF in 2000, which expired in 2002; Gabon met few of its targets.
Oil production fell in 2001, and non-oil activity rose by 4%. Oil prices were high in the early 2000s, and Gabon's current account balance improved from a deficit of 8.8% of GDP in 1999 to a surplus of 3.2% in 2000; it fell to a deficit of 1% of GDP in 2001, in part due to lower oil exports. The IMF in 2003 encouraged Gabon's government to develop the non-oil sector as a way of replacing the oil and government sectors as the primary catalysts for economic growth and development.