In his end of year message, President Joaquim Chissano has predicted economic growth of 9.5 per cent for 1998.In 1997 the economy grew by 6.6 per cent, which is above the planned five per cent.The President pointed out that inflation had been targeted at ten percent, whilst actual inflation in 1997 was 4.3 per cent. The metical, the national currency, devalued by less than one per cent.
The government will continue to promote foreign investment, and improve mechanisms which will allow for a rapid and sustainable growth of national business class.
President Chissano said the government will continue its monetary policies to consolidate the control of inflation, reduce of foreign economic imbalances, as well as promote the modernisation and efficiency of the banking sector.
Other measures included the encouragement of credit policies, taking into account small credit concession, as a means to promote a sustainable national economic growth.
Chissano stated that 1997 had been a positive year in all aspects, mostly because of the government and the nation's notable efforts to promote the country's image, as well as the strengthening of cooperation with other countries and institutions.
At the international level, he said that "our country is mentioned the world over with admiration and respect as an example".
He said that the success results from a joint effort between the diverse Mozambican society for national development.
"Transition from an economy stagnated by a war which destroyed infrastructures, pitting brother against brother, to a dynamic economy where the spirit of national reconciliation and solidarity prevails is a matter of national pride", he said, urging all citizens to contribute even more to the success of the Economic and Social Plan for 1998.
He pledged that government would continue the task of modernising and stabilising Public Administration, adding that public order and security area will receive more support in order to guarantee and promote legality and a better judicial administration.
He said that his government will concentrate efforts on professional training, placing an emphasis on those which aim at reducing job accessibility imbalances between men and women.
The Mozambican government has earned more than $335 million from 757 National Direct Investment projects, between 1985 and 1997.
The Mozambican Investment Promotion Centre (CPI) said that more than $105 million came from 125 projects where Mozambican businessmen took part in joint-ventures with foreign investors.
Between 1985 and 1991, investments averaged less than $4.5 million a year. However in 1992, after the signing of the peace accord between the former rebel movement Renamo and the Mozambican government, the volume of investments went over $55 million.
Although 1993 was a "poor" year, when only 27 projects were approved, generating $7.6 million, the subsequent years improved, averaging $49 million a year.
Meanwhile, Mozambique lost more than $54.8 million in cancelled investments.
The CPI revealed that the most sought after areas of investment are: industry, with 218 projects that earned the government $143.7 million; agriculture and agro-industry, with 134 projects that brought $62 million; and tourism, that contributed more than $33 million corresponding to 76 projects.
The building and construction sector had 42 projects that earned the state $30.7 million. The source added that of the 757 projects, 258 are already running and generated $128.7 million, whereas 198 are still being implemented, 257 have not yet stared off, 31 are pending approval, and 13 have been cancelled.
Hopes that the cholera epidemic in southern Mozambique has been brought under control have been lowered following rains which create conditions conducive to the spread of the disease. In response to the epidemic the European Union has banned imports of fish from East Africa.
The first case of cholera was reported on 13 August 1997 in Maputo. Since then, the epidemic has claimed 269 lives countrywide, among 9,463 cases diagnosed in the southern provinces of Maputo, Gaza, Inhambane, and Manica in the centre of the country.
Epidemiologist Avertino Barreto, of the Ministry of Health, has warned that rains which began on 7 January in the city of Maputo and its satellite Matola present favourable conditions for the spread of the cholera epidemic.
Speaking to the press on 9 January, Barreto said that two more people died of the disease during the previous 48 hours in the country, one in the Maputo Central Hospital, and the other in the district of Chibuto, in the southern province of Gaza.
During the previous 48 hours, 93 more cases were reported, 38 in Maputo Central Hospital, 29 at the level of Maputo province, one in the special ward in the Machava central prison, in one of the Maputo suburbs, and 24 in the province of Gaza.
Barreto described the situation as stable "but rains are a serious problem because they create a favourable environment for the surge of more cases of cholera".
Barreto said that because the number of cases had been declining, the health authorities had thought of closing down the Machava mobile ward, but they changed their minds because of the rains and the risk of more cases.
He said that the health authorities also consider it almost certain that there will be an increase in the number of cases of malaria. "As of late, many cases of diarrhoea are associated with malaria, and not necessarily with cholera", said Barreto.
"To avoid the risk of contamination it is necessary that people who live in flooded areas build ditches to drain out the water to a single site, where the water will be treated with insecticides", he said.
As for medicines for malaria, Barreto said that the Ministry of Health has enough quantities, and a shipment of more medicines is expected to arrive soon.
Barreto stated that the health services have already used 150,000 litres of the rehydration serum to treat patients.
The Ministry of Health is expecting to receive, within days, a further 220,000 litres of the serum, ordered from India. In addition, a group of Portuguese businessmen have offered 50,000 litres of the serum to the Ministry of Health, which is due to arrive soon.
A special ward has been set up in the district of Chibuto, in Gaza province, for the treatment of cholera. 11 people are still under medical care, suffering from cholera in Gaza: six in Xai-Xai, four in the city of Chokwe, and one in the district of Chibuto.
One person has died in the provincial hospital of Xai-Xai in the province of Gaza, bringing the death toll in the province to seven.
So far 288 cases of the disease were diagnosed in the whole province since the first case was reported in November.
The Maputo town council has notified the vendors of the informal markets within the city centre to leave the sites they are occupying, before 31 January.
The measure affects the markets of "Estrela Vermelha", near a secondary school of the same name, the "Barracas do Museu", near the natural history museum, a high school and a commercial school, in the suburb of Polana, "Mandela", and "Malhangalene".
These markets sell vegetables, clothes, household appliances, liquor, and cooked food. Interviewed by AIM, most vendors expressed their apprehension over this measure, as this is their way of making their daily bread.
Elisa Vilanculos, of the vendors' commission at the "Barracas do Museu", says that she was taken by surprise, and "the time given to us to leave this site is to short".
"The town council wants to allocate us in other markets where allegedly there is place for us, but we know that those markets were abandoned because clients do not go there", said Vilanculos.
She suggested that the vendors should associate and open another market somewhere else, in a site indicated by the town council.
The European Union has banned the import of fish from various eastern African countries, including Mozambique, because of the cholera epidemic in the region.
The affected countries, namely Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya and Mozambique, earned a total of $100 million in 1996 in fish exports to the European Union.
In South Africa, which has a common border with Mozambique, the health authorities reported the first three cases of cholera at the beginning of the year.
Workers at the factory "Zuid-Indatec", manufacturer of fridges and sewing machines, resumed demonstrations on 8 January, to demand the payment of four months back wages.
The demonstrations, which started in early December, were interrupted after the employers had promised to pay the wages in arrears before the end of the year, which did not happen.
The secretary of the company's trade union committee, Orlando Simbine, told reporters that the company's managers, Ismael Mashomed, and Matias Xavier, do not want to meet the workers, and nobody knows of their whereabouts. All attempts to contact the two of them were fruitless.
The company, which employs 70 workers, is now paralysed because the electricity and the water supply companies have cut off their services due to non-payment.
Italian Ambassador in Maputo, Ugo de Mohr, has announced that his country will donate $20 million aid to Mozambique, most of which will go on demining projects.
He said that his country will support three mine clearance programmes that are to start during the first few months of 1998 in the districts of Tambara, Guro, and Macossa, in the central province of Manica, Caia and Maringue in the central Sofala, and Matutuine, in the southern province of Maputo.
"In demining, it is necessary to give priority to areas that are important for people, where they cannot produce, where they cannot walk, where schools or health posts are not built, and where people cannot resettle because of the land mines", said de Mohr.
President of the Assembly of the Republic, Eduardo Mulembue, has fixed the date of the opening of the eighth ordinary session of that organ for 27 February 1998. The parliament's governing body, the Standing Commission, will meet on 2 February to prepare the agenda.
Among the matters to be included in the agenda is the conclusion of the debate of the Labour bill, which started in the last session.
Other proposed issues for discussion are the bills on industrial licensing, commerce, the restriction of the use of cheques, and Muslim holidays.
"Besides the bills we will have, during this session there will be the usual briefing on the general state of the Nation by the Head of the State, as well as a briefing by the Attorney General's office on its activities during the last year", said the Standing Commission's spokesman, Alcido Nguenha.
The governor of Maputo province, Soares Nhaca, on 9 January visited the locality of Beloluana, in the district of Boane, about 40 kilometres west of Maputo, where works have started to prepare the site for the building of an aluminium factory.
The factory, named "Mozal", will be built by a South African aluminium company, in the context of the Maputo Development Corridor (CDM).
Various projects are planned in the context of CDM, the most important of which is the rehabilitation of the Maputo port and the railway line between Maputo and South Africa, and the building of a highway to link Maputo to the industrial centre of Witbank in South Africa.
Road access to the district of Lugela, in the central province of Zambezia, was interrupted in early January due to heavy rains that have been falling since December.
The bridge over the Lugela river, the only road access to that district, has been submerged. Residents of Lugela have to use canoes to travel, even to harvest their crops in the higher grounds of the land.
In the neighbouring district of Mocuba, with about 89,000 inhabitants, most of the roads have also been interrupted due to the heavy rains.
Seven and a half million school books for the 1998 academic year are to arrive from Canada in the coming days.
The Administration and Finances director of the Ministry of Education, Antonio Chambale, told AIM on 9 January that the ships bringing the books have already left Canada.
The books were printed by Trans-Continental, the Canadian company that won the tender launched by the Canadian government to produce books for Mozambique for two years from the second term of 1996, in the context of an agreement with Mozambique.
The books will be unloaded in the ports of Maputo, in the south, Beira and Quelimane in the centre of the country, and Nacala, in the northern province of Nampula. They will be sent directly to the warehouses of the School Material National Distributor (DINAME) for distribution from the second week of February.
The publicly-owned Maputo Public Transport company (TPM) is to introduce by the end of January a passenger counting system in its buses to control each bus' money collections.
Chairman of the TPM management board, Luciano Sitoe, said that this is the first time this system will be used in the country. He explained that the system records the time and the number of all passengers boarding the vehicle.
Sitoe explained that the devices will allow the company to know the number of passengers that board each bus, facilitating the estimation of each bus' daily collections.
Renamo President, Afonso Dhlakama, on 8 January appointed Joao Alexandre as the new secretary general of his party, to replace Francisco Xavier Marcelino (better known as Jose de Castro).
A Renamo source told reporters that Dhlakama's party "needs a new dynamic, in order to have a dignified participation in the oncoming municipal elections".
Citing Dhlakama, the source said that another reason for the sacking of Castro was that he was also working as a member of the National Election Commission (CNE), which "makes it impossible for him to work full time for the party".
Asked whether, according to Renamo's statutes, a secretary general is appointed or elected, the source said that he should be elected, but "the present case is an exception", because such an election is made in a congress, and the party is not prepared to hold such a meeting, because of the oncoming elections.
In October Dhlakama had expressed his intention to sack Castro, when Castro stormed into Renamo's radio station, "Radio Terra Verde" with armed men. Dhlakama had then labelled Castro as "incompetent".
Deputy secretary general, Albino Faife Dukuza, who was sacked at the same time, has not been replaced.
Castro held the post of secretary general since 1995, when he replaced Vicente Ululu, after Ululu's election as member of parliament.
The new secretary general, Joao Alexandre, 50, was born in the central province of Manica. He is the first Renamo secretary general who did not take part in the war of destabilisation, since he formally joined this party only in 1992, after the signing of the peace accord between Renamo and the Mozambican government.
The governor of Tete province, Virgilio Ferrao, has stated that the high tariff of electricity supplied by the Cahora Basa dam is a stumbling block to the country's development.
Ferrao says that many Mozambicans resort to electricity from Malawi because it is cheaper. He says that the high charges of Cahora Basa electricity do not allow the development of small industries. Even for grain mills, people have to travel to neighbouring Malawi, because no miller can afford the high tariffs of Mozambican electricity.
Ferrao said that the Tete government is presently discussing the issue with the Ministry of Mineral resources and Energy because "we think that allowing easier access to the electricity of Cahora Basa would enhance the development of the province".
He said that the border areas of Mulonguene, in Malawi, and Zobue, in Mozambique, are supplied with electricity from both countries, and it was found that the Mozambican tariff is higher.
Paradoxically, Tete is home to Cahora Basa, the supplier of electricity to countries in the region, such as Zimbabwe and South Africa.
About 40,000 tonnes of cotton have already been traded this year in the northern province of Nampula, in what Mozambican authorities describe as the best harvest for the last five years.
According to the Mozambican Cotton Institute (IAM), the family sector contributed with 33,000 tonnes of the product.
All the cotton that has been bought so far has already been carried to the ginning factories. It is thought that about 2,000 tonnes of cotton are yet to be bought from the producers in the districts of Ribaue and Mecuburi, and this is at risk of deterioration.
The cotton company CANAM, that operates in those two districts plans to buy 6,000 tonnes of cotton, but, due to lack of funds has only managed to buy 4,000 tonnes.
The districts that traditionally most produce cotton in Nampula are Monapo, Meconta, Namapa and Mecuburi.
The Swedish government has granted 45 million Crowns (about $6 million) to support Mozambiques balance of payments.
The objective is to support Mozambique in its efforts to attain stability and economic growth, as well as curbing poverty, through the restructuring of the country's economy, according to the Economic and Social Restructuring Programme (PRES) adopted by the Mozambican government.
This contribution is in the context of the Swedish Economic Cooperation for Development for the period between 1996 and 2,000 which is estimated at two billion Crowns (about $260 million).
With this money, Swedish contribution to Mozambican balance of payments totals 177.5 million Crowns.
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