Implementing MTEFs in Niger
Posted by Ian Lienert.
Should low-income countries adopt MTEFs? The answer to this question is that “the train has already left the station”. The question is no longer whether MTEFs should be adopted, but rather how officials and governments of developing countries should take further steps to improve the operation of existing MTEFs.
On March 26, 2009, the Ministry of Economy and Finance (MEF) of Niger in Niamey hosted a seminar on Medium Term Expenditure Frameworks (MTEFs). The all-morning event was attended by over 70 officials from various government ministries. The principal objectives of the seminar were to: (1) share international experiences of MTEFs; (2) expose participants to the existing situation in Niger, which includes the preparation of three “sectoral MTEFs” for education, health and rural development; and (3) discuss how the MTEF process can be taken forward by the Niger government and administration.
The opening address was delivered by the Commissaire responsible for Development, who provided participants with the MEF’s vision for further developing MTEFs in Niger.
An IMF technical assistance team then provided an assessment of “where Niger is” with regard to MTEFs. The most urgent need is to prepare a “global MTEF”, which includes three-year indicative spending ceilings for each ministry. At the moment, the three sectoral MTEFs quantify their financial needs -- in education, health and rural development -- to achieve medium- to longer-term targets, especially those of the Millennium Development Objectives for reducing poverty by 2015. The sectoral MTEFs are not subject to any budget constraint: sectoral MTEFs are not aligned with the “traditional” input-based annual budget. Spending ministries see their MTEFs as sectoral planning documents that are useful for presenting to donors, in the quest of additional funding to finance pressing social needs and achieve poverty-reducing objectives.
There was considerable discussion on the international experience with MTEFs, which covered the use of MTEFs in:
• OECD countries
• Anglophone African countries
• Francophone African countries.
Not surprisingly, there was much interest in MTEF developments in neighboring countries, especially Benin, Burkina Faso, and Mali. There was also considerable interest in the lessons from anglophone countries which, in some cases, indicate a high political level of “ownership” of MTEFs. Participants were also interested to hear of the case of France, whose experience with sectoral MTEFs is barely beginning.
The Niger MEF has formed a team of officials to take the MTEF process further. A representative of this team clearly presented the MTEF methodology, and indicated how MTEFs are to be linked with key strategies and objectives of the Niger government, especially those specified in the Government’s Strategy for Reducing Poverty, which was updated in 2007 to cover the period 2008-12.
Overall, the seminar was successful in achieving its objectives. There was agreement that there are considerable challenges for developing MTEFs further and a prudent approach should be adopted, given the relatively low level of capacity in the Niger administration and the imperfect execution of the annual budget.
The seminar’s agenda and presentations (in French) are attached.