African Countries Note Productivity Growth

Introductory Remarks At the Conference
on the Role of the Private Sector
in Economic Development and Regional Integration in the Maghreb

By Murilo Portugal
Deputy Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund
Tunis, Tunisia, November 28, 2007

1. Ministers, Governors, and distinguished guests,

2. I would like to thank the Tunisian authorities for hosting this important conference on the Role of the Private Sector in Economic Development and Regional Integration in the Maghreb and say how pleased I am to be here. I would like to express my appreciation to the delegations of Algeria, Libya, Mauritania, and Morocco for attending the conference. I would also like to extend a special welcome to representatives from the private sector, whose presence is essential to the success of this gathering.

3. The new Managing Director, Mr. Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who knows the region very well, fully supports this initiative to energize discussions for a deeper integration of Maghreb countries and collaboration toward a prosperous future for the region. He asked me to convey to you his best wishes for success in this important endeavor.

4. I am confident that this forum, by bringing together private and public sector representatives from all five Maghreb countries, can be a catalyst for regional cooperation and a base for developing new regional initiatives aimed at expanding the private sector, thereby strengthening its positive impact on growth. The quality of the discussions that took place during the technical meetings over the past two days is certainly encouraging and I would like to thank the experts that participated in these meetings for their productive preparatory work.

5. This is my second visit to the Maghreb as Deputy Managing Director of the IMF. During my first visit to Morocco and Tunisia in April 2007, I was able to see first-hand the impressive achievements of this region, its great potential as well as the many challenges that it faces. All the Maghreb countries have undertaken important growth-enhancing reforms over the past two decades, placing considerable effort into achieving macroeconomic stability, liberalizing trade, strengthening the financial sector, and improving the business climate.

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