External sector estimates, indicate that the
overall balance of payments (BoP) position narrowed by US $15.0
million to negative US $382.0 million at end-2002 from negative US
$397.0 million at end-2001. This was on account of an improvement in
both the capital and financial account and the current account. The
capital and financial account balance increased by US $163 million to
US $603 million reflecting an increase in project assistance grants.
The current account balance narrowed by US $81.0 million to negative
US $649.0 million. The current account balance improvement stemmed
from the lower deficit on the merchandise trade balance, which
narrowed by US $78.0 million to negative US $284.0 million.
The narrowing of the trade balance was
largely on account of increased non-traditional exports (NTEs) coupled
with a decrease in merchandise imports.
Estimates indicate that the stock of
external debt fell by 2.4% to US $7,116.4 million in 2002. The
decrease in the debt stock was due to principal loan repayments and
debt relief under the Enhanced Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC)
initiative. Reduction of the external debt burden to sustainable
levels remains a major challenge. To this end, the country is expected
to reach the Completion Point under the Enhanced HIPC Initiative in
2003 at which time maximum debt relief will be received from both the
multilateral and bilateral creditors.