Estudos Económicos
Gabon

Gabon

Population 1.6 million
GDP 11,484 US$
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Synthesis

major macro economic indicators

  2013  2014 2015 2016 (f)
GDP growth (%) 5.6 4.3 4.0 3.2
Inflation (yearly average) (%) 0.5  4.5 0.1 2.5
Budget balance (% GDP)  1.8 2.7 -2.3 -4.8
Current account balance (% GDP) 11.6 8.1 -2.8 -7.2
Public debt (% GDP)  29.2 32.2 43.9 49.6

 

(f) Forecast

STRENGTHS

  • 5th largest oil producer in Sub-Saharan Africa; 2nd largest African timber producer; aiming to be the world's leading manganese producer
  • Economic diversification efforts undertaken under the “Plan Gabon Emergent”

WEAKNESSES

  • Economy highly dependent on the oil sector
  • Re-emergence of budget and current account deficits
  • High cost of production factors linked to infrastructure inadequacy (transport and electricity)
  • High unemployment and widespread poverty
  • Fragile political environment

Risk assessment

Growth hit by oil price collapse

Growth declined sharply in 2015 under the impact of falling oil prices and the significant drop in oil output as a result of strikes and the rehabilitation of a number of wells. There was then the impact of cuts in investment spending which the government was obliged to make to keep the public finances under control. Growth is expected to continue to decline in 2016 to 3.2%. However, the rise in spending to ease social tensions before the presidential election should boost private consumption, and foreign loans should reinforce investment projects in agriculture and value added industry. Public sector wage hikes in 2014-2015 fuel the increase in prices, therefore inflation should increase in 2016. Inflation should increase in line notably with the rise of the wage bill.
The discovery of new oil deposits did not compensate for the gradual depletion of older wells and the country has to deal with a decline in its oil production. Low oil prices prospects and the decrease in oil production are the source of the slowing down in public investment, thus efforts to diversify and modernise the economy, undertaken by the authorities as part of the Plan Stratégique Gabon Émergent (PSGE), could be impeded.
Despite the country’s oil wealth, poverty (30% of the population live below the poverty line) and unemployment levels remain high (19.7% in 2014). This wealth did not translated into a real improvement in living conditions of the population as a result of large number of obstacles to development such as inadequate infrastructure, in particular transport, shortages of skilled labour and poor business climate, constraints that could one day be overcome if the objectives of the PSGE are achieved.

 

Public and external accounts into the red

On the fiscal front, the fall in oil receipts, which provided over 45% of government revenues in 2014, forced the government to cut public spending as of 2014. The reduction reached 14% in 2015 but should be much smaller in 2016, as a result of the upcoming elections. Capital spending in particular has been regularly revised downwards although the government stated that it does not want to cut this too heavily in priority areas (transport and information and communication technologies). The budget surplus narrowed in recent years as a result of the huge increase in public investment resulting from the launch of the PSGE. With the fall in oil prices and the downward trend in oil production, this surplus turned into a deficit in 2015. Government debt has more than doubled since 2012, from 20% to 44% of GDP in 2015 (exceeding the 35% of GDP debt ceiling). Furthermore, Gabon has to deal with higher borrowing costs on the bond markets.
In 2015 the country recorded its first current account deficit since 1999 as a result of the sharp decline in oil exports (80% of sales of goods abroad until 2014), and this despite the fall in imports associated with reduced public demand and global prices for basic products. Exports are expected to keep declining, still affected by low oil prices and lower oil production, offsetting the growth of manganese and wood exports. Thus the current account deficit should widen even if imports could dip due to the fall in real incomes. The deficit in the balance of invisibles would slightly diminish as the slowdown in activity will reduce the demand for service imports

 

Deteriorating political situation since the August 2016 presidential election

The disputed re-election of Ali Bongo, in August 2016, triggered violent clashes between supporters of the opposition candidate and security forces in several cities across the country. The Constitutional Court, however, confirmed the victory of the incumbent President on September 23. This decision was coldly received by the international community, to which the opponent Jean Ping appealed. The European Union election observation mission regrets that the Court was not able to rectify the "obvious anomalies" observed during the counting of votes. Restoring public confidence in the country’s institutions will not be easy. The political situation is all the more volatile given that parliamentary elections are planned for December 2016.

 

Last update: September 2016

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