Ivory Coast Economy Remains `Solid' Despite Challenges, PM Says

(Bloomberg) -- Ivory Coast’s economy is strong despite challenges including a slump in cocoa prices and social unrest, according to Prime Minister Amadou Gon Coulibaly.

“The fundamentals of the Ivorian economy are solid, as evidenced by the growth that we’re experiencing,” Coulibaly said in an interview on state TV late Thursday. “But we’re confronted with numerous challenges.”

The government of the world’s biggest cocoa producer cut this year’s budget by a 10th to deal with lower-than-forecast income from the crop as a worldwide cocoa surplus has slashed the price by more than 40 percent in the past year. At the same time, a mutiny and a strike by civil servants forced the government to make unforeseen payouts this year.

The government is still in negotiations with public worker unions over the unresolved issue of salary arrears, Gon Coulibaly said.

“I’ve decided to receive them this week and continue the talks,” he said. “I’m convinced that we’ll find an agreement and that they will understand that in our current context, they’ll have to drop that demand.”

Tax Breaks

Gon Coulibaly said improving the business environment and boosting industrialization to create jobs will help the government overcome the challenges. Plans include tax breaks for cashew-processing companies, he said. Ivory Coast wants to process half of its cashew-nut output by 2020.

Even though the social unrest at the beginning of the year was the worst since President Alassane Ouattara took office in 2011, Ivory Coast is among the fastest-growing economies in Africa, with growth probably remaining at 8 percent this year.

“We need to work harder so that the fruits of growth are shared more equally and everybody can feel that,” Gon Coulibaly said.