THE president, Ismaël Omar Guelleh, and the newly appointed government of his coalition movement, Union pour la majorité présidentielle, will remain firmly in power over the forecast period following Mr Guelleh’s re-election in April 2005. The government will remain formally committed to IMF-recommended economic reforms but is likely to make slow progress in carrying out any major structural reform. As a consequence of the US and French military presence and construction work on a new port at Doraleh, real GDP growth is forecast at four per cent in 2005 and 4.5 per cent in 2006. The Djibouti franc will remain pegged to the US dollar at the current rate of Dfr177.72:US$1 and is expected to remain reasonably stable against the euro in 2005 and 2006.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has still not published its decision on Djibouti’s request for a three-year poverty reduction and growth facility. New data for 2004 show that the fiscal deficit remained high, despite the government’s promise to the IMF that it would freeze expenditure. Spending is reported to have risen by ten per cent owing largely to a 60 per cent increase in capital expenditure.
Real GDP growth is estimated to have fallen to three per cent in 2004, owing mainly to a decline in port activity due to bottlenecks at the port, declining trade with Ethiopia and the virtual elimination of transshipment business following the decision by Pacific International Lines of Singapore to transfer its custom to Aden, Yemen, in October 2003. Nevertheless, overall economic growth in 2004 was sustained by the presence of foreign troops stationed in Djibouti—Spanish and German as well as US and French—and their use of local services, and by the strong growth of public and private investment, particularly in port infrastructure.
Real GDP growth is expected to rise over the forecast period as investment in new port equipment and systems helps to overcome handling problems at the existing port, and as public and private investment goes into developing the new port complex at Doraleh. The project, estimated to cost around US$ 400 mn over 5-7 years, comprises three main elements: a commercial and industrial free zone, a container terminal, and an oil terminal. Work on the free zone was inaugurated in June 2004, the oil terminal is expected to be completed in mid-2005 and the feasibility study for the container terminal was due to be completed in early 2005. Therefore the real GDP growth will accelerate over the outlook period, to 4.5 per cent in 2006.
Exports are forecast to rise steadily in 2005-06, but rising investment will result in a sharper increase in imports and a consequent widening of the trade deficit. However, rising inflows on the services account, as activity at the new free zone and oil terminal takes off, will keep the services account firmly in surplus, and this, together with small surpluses on the income and current transfers accounts, will limit the increase in the current-account deficit to just under nine per cent of GDP in 2005 and 9.2 per cent of GDP in 2006.
Over the course of 2005 the government has been actively encouraging and facilitating the development of Djibouti’s international hotel capacity. This is part of a strategy aimed at promoting Djibouti both as a regional conference venue, initially for African countries, and an international tourist destination.
The president, Ismaël Omar Guelleh, has personally approved a number of new projects that would double Djibouti’s hotel capacity. Many of these projects involve overseas investment, especially from Dubai, Kuwait and Uganda. A Djibouti businessman, Abdourahman Mahamoud Boreh, is leading a Djibouti-Dubai consortium that plans to build a 400-room US$50 mn Intercontinental hotel to rival the smaller Djibouti Sheraton. This in turn has announced plans for a major refurbishment of its existing site.