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Angola's Economic Fate Hangs in the Balance: A Battle Against Inflation & Quest for Growth


Michael Chen

March 15, 2024 - 05:23 am


Angola's Central Bank at a Crossroads: Navigating High Inflation and Economic Growth

Inflation and Interest Rates in Angola

This Friday marks a significant day for the economic future of Angola as the nation's central bank convenes to make a crucial decision that will impact its economy for years to come. With soaring inflation rates reaching a 21-month pinnacle, the pressure is mounting on policymakers. They stand at an economic crossroads, weighing the prospects of growth against the urgent need to rein in escalating prices.

The Deliberation: To Hike or Not to Hike?

The central bank's Monetary Policy Committee faces a formidable challenge. Inflation surged to an alarming 24% in February, a rate not witnessed in over a year and a half. This dramatic rise has stoked a fiery debate among economists and policymakers alike. Observers are closely divided on the impending action the central bank will take. Some anticipate a significant interest rate hike, while others believe an approach of restraint will be chosen, maintaining the status quo.

Four of the foremost economic thinkers surveyed by Bloomberg offer a split forecast on the central bank's course of action. Notably, economists from esteemed institutions such as Absa Group Ltd. stand on one side of the spectrum. These experts envisage the central bank escalating the benchmark rate by a decisive 100 basis points, elevating it to 19%. If this prediction holds, rates would ascend to their highest crest in over a year.

On the other side of the debate lie economists holding the view that stability is key. They urge the central bank to retain the benchmark interest rate at its present level. Insights from these perspectives reveal that amidst the complexity of economic dynamics, there remains considerable uncertainty about the immediate future.

A Conservative Stance Amidst Inflationary Pressures

Central Bank Governor Manuel Tiago Dias stands at the helm of this economic ship, navigating through turbulent waters. After a rate increase to 18% in November, initiated as an inflation countermeasure, the governor has adopted a wait-and-see stance. The central bank, historically conservative, aims to assess the effectiveness of its previous actions on the inflationary spiral.

However, the pressure to act has been relentless. The kwanza's sharp depreciation, coupled with the government's phased elimination of fuel subsidies, have acted as catalysts to the prevailing inflationary pressures. Finance Minister Vera Daves de Sousa has recently reaffirmed the government's commitment to ending these subsidies, signaling a continued drift away from fuel price controls. This resolution adds yet another layer of complexity to the central bank's decision-making process.

Analysts' View: A Call for Hiking Rates

Yvonne Mhango, a renowned African economist at Bloomberg, has weighed in on Angola's economic conundrum with an assertive viewpoint. She strongly suggests that interest rates must be hiked. According to her, the central bank cannot rely solely on selling foreign exchange reserves to support the kwanza. Instead, a more proactive stance is needed to stifle inflation and stabilize the currency.

Opposing this outlook, Antonio Estote and Manuel Alves da Rocha, both distinguished economists within Angolan academic circles, advocate for sustaining the interest rate. They argue that to fuel the nascent economic growth, the central bank should resist the temptation to hike borrowing costs. Particularly, Alves da Rocha, speaking from Luanda, underscores the central bank's traditional cautious approach regarding rate increases. He believes that heightened borrowing costs are unlikely at this junction, a perspective that echoes qualms about stifling growth prospects.

The Growth Forecast Amidst Economic Programs

The Angolan economy, languishing with a modest 0.7% growth in the previous year, is positioned for a modest rebound. The central bank's governor forecasts a 2.2% uptick in the coming year, largely spurred by government initiatives aimed at stimulating the non-oil sector. These developments offer a glimmer of hope amidst a backdrop of financial uncertainties.

The pervasive sentiment of cautious optimism is rooted in the potential of these government programs to substantially contribute to economic resurgence. Nonetheless, the central bank's upcoming decision will significantly impact whether this potential can be fully realized. An increase in interest rates, though potentially beneficial for curtailing inflation, may also dampen the delicate growth momentum that is beginning to build.

The Balancing Act of Monetary Policy

Angola's central bank is thus engaged in a classic economic balancing act. On one hand, they must prioritize controlling inflation, which erodes purchasing power and can cripple economies if left unchecked. On the other hand, they have to foster an environment where the seeds of growth can sprout and flourish. This dichotomy forms the crux of their policy dilemma.

As expectations build around the central bank's rate decision, the impact of this choice extends beyond bankers and economists. It affects every Angolan citizen, from families struggling with increased living costs to businesses grappling with borrowing expenses. The outcome of the meeting will reverberate through the marketplace and society, forging Angola's financial path forward.

Anticipated Effects of a Rate Hike

If the central bank opts for a rate hike, borrowing costs will climb, and credit will contract. While this might effectively slow inflation, it could also suppress investment and consumer spending, key drivers of economic activity. Higher interest rates traditionally cool down overheated economies but may also hinder recovery efforts in struggling nations.

Conversely, by holding rates, the central bank signals confidence in the economy's ability to weather the inflation storm without aggressive intervention. This could maintain the momentum of economic growth and encourage continued investment, albeit with the risk of inflation persisting longer than desired.

The International Perspective

Internationally, all eyes are on Angola's monetary policy decision. As an emerging market, its choices not only have domestic ramifications but also signal to foreign investors the country's economic stability and policy predictability. A well-considered approach can enhance Angola's investment appeal, potentially attracting foreign capital necessary for long-term growth.

Investors are particularly sensitive to changes in monetary policy, as these shifts can forecast future economic conditions. A country adept at managing inflation and fostering growth is generally seen as a safer, more attractive investment destination.

Conclusion: A Pivotal Moment for Angola's Economy

As Angola's central bank gathers to determine the fate of its monetary policy, the nation stands on the cusp of a pivotal economic moment. The decision made this Friday will have far-reaching consequences, shaping Angola's financial landscape for the foreseeable future. Whether the bank chooses to hike rates or keep them unchanged, one thing is clear: the path ahead will require a strategic blend of caution, foresight, and adaptability.

The ensuing period will test the resilience of Angola's economy and the adeptness of its policymakers. In navigating these complex economic waters, decisions made now will either place Angola on the path to sustainable prosperity or expose it to further financial tumult.

As the meeting edges closer, anticipation mounts among those with vested interests in Angola's economy. From the bustling streets of Luanda to the corridors of power, the central bank's decision has become a focal point of national attention, encapsulating the challenges of managing an economy in the throes of transition.

With Angola's economic fortunes hanging in the balance, the outcome of the central bank's deliberations could herald a new era of financial stability or the continuation of present challenges. Regardless of the decision, one thing remains certain: Angola is at a critical juncture, and the world is watching keenly.

For the latest updates on Angola's central bank decisions and in-depth analysis of their implications, stay informed with Bloomberg L.P., your premier source for global economic news and insights.