Saturday, December 12, 2009

Former Madagascar president stuck in Mozambique

MAPUTO, Mozambique — A former Madagascar president says he has been unable to return to his homeland since participating in talks in Mozambique that angered Madagascar's current leader.

Attempts to reach Albert Zafy in Maputo were unsuccessful Friday. Mozambican officials say he remains in their country.

Zafy told Mozambican state radio earlier this week that Andry Rajoelina refused to allow his return. Rajoelina told The Associated Press he had not blocked Zafy, though his supporters may have.

Rajoelina overthrew democratically elected President Marc Ravalomanana in March.

Ravalomanana and his two predecessors, Zafy and Didier Ratsiraka, met in Maputo and named ministers for a unity government Tuesday. Rajoelina boycotted the negotiations, and says the outcome amounts to a coup.


Norway Supports Mozambique's Environment Sector

MAPUTO (Mozambique), Dec 12 (Bernama) -- The Norwegian government has pledged US$1.3 million to the Mozambican Environment Ministry for a strategic evaluation of the coastal zone, Mozambique's news agency, AIM, reported.

An agreement to that end was signed here on Wednesday between Mozambican Environment Minister Alcinda Abreu and the Norwegian Ambassador, Tove Bruvik Westberg.

At the signing ceremony, Abreu explained that this agreement will deepen further the bilateral cooperation between the two countries, specifically in the area of the environment and climate change.

"With this agreement we intend to give priority to the appraisal of the environment in the coastal zone and the assessment of environmental impacts", she said. "This will permit the management and monitoring of environmental and socio-economic aspects, of the individual and cumulative impacts of the use and exploitation of natural resources, and of the impact of climate change".

The main challenges for the environment sector include ensuring that development initiatives are preceded by environmental impact assessments, and mitigating the negative impacts of climate change, said Abreu.

For her part, Westberg said that her country's government is happy about the strong commitment of the Mozambican authorities to the building of knowledge and management of the environment.

"It is important to increase the expertise and capacity in the various sectors dealing with the environment", she said, adding that "the signed agreement also envisages the development and transfer of technologies in the environment sector".

Madagascar negotiators marooned in Mozambique

ANTANANARIVO — Envoys from three Madagascan rival political movements were marooned Wednesday in Mozambique when air authorities in Madagascar denied them a plane home, an aviation source said.

"We're still in Maputo, we're waiting for a solution to try to return to Madagascar," Ange Andrianarisoa, an aide to former president Didier Ratsiraka, told AFP in Antananarivo by telephone.

Andrianarisoa said that the Mozambican government, which is trying to help bring about an end to a political stalemate in Madagascar, "has taken us in hand and has put us in a hotel."

On Tuesday in Maputo, the three Madagascan movements agreed on the sharing out of posts in a transitional government, and left some key portfolios for the fourth faction, headed by strongman Andry Rajoelina, who was not in Maputo.

But Rajoelina reacted furiously to this arrangement on Tuesday and issued a statement in Antananarivo accusing his rivals of "high treason," because they allegedly "desire to remove Andry Rajoelina from the helm of the country."

His rivals had been due to fly back to Madagascar on a specially chartered Air Madagascar plane on Tuesday night, but this flight was not authorised by the civil aviation authority, a source in the authority told AFP.

"The Madagascan aviation authority "sent a note to ban all air exchanges with Mozambique," added the source, who asked not to be named.

Ousted president Marc Ravalomanana and former presidents Didier Ratsiraka and Albert Zafy had ended five days of talks in the Mozambican capital with an agreement on how to divide ministries in a new government meant to lead the Indian Ocean island out of crisis.

Though they left portfolios for Rajoelina, who seized power with the backing of the army last March, the latter rejected the accord, apparently because it demoted him to the same level as other faction leaders in the proposed transitional administration.

Among those stuck in Maputo were consensus prime minister Eugene Mangalaza and the two co-presidents of the presidential council set up under a previous agreement in Addis Ababa in November.

Ratsiraka and Ravalomanana, who both live in exile, left the Mozambican capital after the negotiations, which were mediated by Mozambican former president Joaquim Chissano.


Mozambique: CMH "Best Company" in Country

Maputo — The Mozambican Hydrocarbon Company (CNH) was "the best company" in Mozambique in 2008, according to the consultancy and auditing firm, KPMG, in its annual survey of the Mozambican economy.

Previously the KPMG annual publication, "The 100 Top Companies in Mozambique", has looked at companies solely in terms of their size, and has made no value judgments. This year it added a list of the 100 "best companies", using an index combining growth of revenue, growth of revenue per employee, return on revenue, return on equity, financial autonomy and general liquidity.

CMH is the vehicle for Mozambican participation in the exploitation and processing of natural gas at Temane, in the southern province of Inhambane. CMH is thus the Mozambican partner of the South African petro-chemical giant SASOL, which has the rights to the Inhambane gas fields. A condition of the deal with SASOL was always that Mozambicans would have the right to participation of up to 25 per cent.

The largest shareholder in CMH is the publicly owned National Hydrocarbon Company, with 70 per cent of the shares, followed by the Mozambican state itself with 20 per cent, while private companies and individuals own the other 10 per cent.

In 2008, CMH had revenue of 48 million US dollars, and profits of around 20 million dollars. The CMH managing director, Estevao Pale, told reporters "We are a small company, but with great financial rigour. We are working to make the most of the money of our shareholders".

The top ranking in the KPMG list "is a recognition of work we have been undertaking in recent years. We are trying to keep a light structure in the company".

In the more orthodox ranking of the 100 top companies by revenue the MOZAL aluminium smelter remains top of the list, with revenue of 1.3 billion US dollar (but because of the fall in the aluminium price in 2008, this is a decline of 16 per cent on the 2007 figure).

In second place, and a long way behind MOZAL, comes the publicly owned mobile phone company M-Cel with revenue of 277.8 million dollars, followed by the state-owned fuel company Petromoc, with 277 million dollars.

In fourth place is Hidetoelectrica de Cahora Bassa (HCB), the company that operates the Cahora Bassa dam on the Zambezi, with total 2008 revenue of 239 million dollars.

When companies are measured in terms of their profits, MOZAL is still in the lead, but the second position is held by HCB. In third position is the country's largest bank, the Millennium-BIM, while the brewing company CDM has the fourth largest profits. The same companies headed the ranking by profit in the 2007 survey.

The survey has some methodological problems. Participation is entirely voluntary, and there is no way to compel companies to take part. Nonetheless, a respectable 207 companies answered this year's questionnaire from KPMG. The survey also relies on the companies telling the truth about their performance. There is no independent confirmation of the figures.

Despite such reservations, the KPMG annual survey brings together in one place a wealth of statistical information that covers most of the main players in the Mozambican economy.

Addressing the Thursday ceremony at which the survey was unveiled, Prime Minister Luisa Diogo called on Mozambican businesses to use their capacity, and their innovative and proactive spirit to reduce poverty.

"The business class can contribute to poverty reduction by making the best use of the country's natural resources", she stressed.

Mozambique can unwind stimulus measures in 2010: IMF

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Mozambique can start unwinding temporary fiscal and monetary policy measures as of next year in the face of an expected pick-up in economic activity, the International Monetary Fund said on Tuesday.

In a review of Mozambique's performance under a one-year $176 million IMF loan, the Fund said the economy had shown "unexpected resilience" during the global economic downturn of the past year.

It said it expects economic growth in the southern African country to strengthen to 5.5 percent next year from about 4.5 percent in 2009.

Overall, the country's performance under the one-year Exogenous Shocks Facility has been on track, the IMF said.

"Most of the key quantitative targets for end-June 2009 were met -- though net credit to the government and reserve money growth were higher than envisaged -- and there has been good progress in implementing structural reforms," the IMF said.

Mozambique: Sena Line Suffers Further Delays

Maputo — The deadline for concluding the reconstruction of the Sena railway line, linking the central Mozambican port of Beira to the Moatize coal basin in Tete province, has been extended yet again, this time from December to the end of January.

According to the director of the Sena Line Reconstruction Brigade, Candido Jone, cited in Friday's issue of the Maputo daily "Noticias", work on the line is now going at a "very bad" pace, sometimes coming to a halt for days at a time, because the contractor, the Indian consortium Rites and Ircon International (RICON), has run out of material.

The main problems are the shortage of concrete sleepers and the delay in supply trains reaching the work front.

The Sena line is 574 kilometres long, and there are just 32 kilometres left before the reconstruction reaches Moatize. But there has been a drastic slowdown in recent weeks. Since the last week of October, only 22 kilometres of track has been relaid, instead of the target of 1,400 metres a day.

Jone said that the production of reinforced concrete sleepers in factories in the towns of Dondo and Sena has fallen because of a shortage of steel. Only this week did supplies of steel for the two factories arrive at Beira port on a ship from India.

Once the line does reach Moatize, that is far from the end of the job. Putting the finishing touches to track alignment, the drainage system and the rehabilitation of some of the bridges could continue throughout 2010, said Jone.

The Sena line was completely paralysed for 26 years, due to sabotage by the apartheid-back Renamo rebels in the early 1980s. The reconstruction has allowed the line to reopen to passenger trains between Beira and the Dona Ana bridge over the Zambezi. In addition the branch line to the sugar town of Marromeu has also reopened.

But the publicly owned ports and rail company, CFM, is less than happy with RICON's performance. Jone says the contractor was told to rebuild the stations, provide houses for the rail workers, and a water supply and sanitation system by 15 December.

But so far none of this has been done, he added, even though 2.5 million dollars was available.

"The stations have not been rehabilitated, there are no shelters for the passengers, and there are no decent working conditions for the staff", protested Jone.