The Mozambican government has revised its forecast for economic growth this year down to 3.7 per cent, says Minister of Economy and Finance Adriano Maleiane.

He told an investment conference organized by Britain’s Financial Times newspaper here Wednesday that the initial target, at the beginning of the year, was for a growth rate of 7.0 per cent. “Then we revised the rate, in the amended budget in June, to 4.5 per cent, The last assessments we made, in September, indicate that growth will be 3.7 per cent.”

Even that may prove optimistic and Maleiane admitted that, if peace did not return to the country, “it will be difficult for us to reach the 3.7 per cent”.

A peace deal depends on the talks in the Joint Commission set up between the government and the Renamo rebels, which will not resume until Nov 10. So far there is no sign of Renamo, which is also the biggest opposition party in Parliament, disbanding or disarming its illegal militia.

Maleiane also told the conference that the terms of reference for the independent international audit into the three quasi-public companies — Ematum, Proindicus and MAM — which benefited from enormous loans illegally guaranteed by the previous government, are almost complete. The following phase is the hiring of an independent external auditor.

The audit is a key condition for the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and Mozambique’s other western partners, resuming normal relations. Maleiane said the audit would reveal what has happened to the more than two billion US dollars lent to the three companies, and whether it can all be accounted for in the assets they have acquired.

“Because we, as a state, gave the guarantees, we have the obligation to be concerned. It’s good for all of us, for the previous government and for this government, at least to know what the independent audit says about what was done,” said Malejane.