BERN, The Mozambican and Swiss governments have signed an institutional framework agreement for development co-operation following official talks in Bern between delegations of the two countries, led by Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi and his Swiss counterpart, Alain Berset.

Nyusi told the media that the agreement would form the basis for driving co-operation between the two countries. In the economic area, we should stress the importance we give to the private sector, and we praise the meetings which have taken this week between Mozambican and Swiss business people.”

Both governments, he added, have the political will to support the private sector.

Berset said the agreement signed here Wednesday as Nyusi ended a three-day visit to the country, would strengthen still further the relations of co-operation which go back more than four decades. We spoke of the extremely good relations between our countries, and how we can strengthen our relations in economic matters,” he added.

Among the matters discussed was what has become known as Mozambique’s hidden debt — the loans totalling more than two billion US dollars which three companies — Ematum (Mozambique Tuna Company), Proindicus and MAM (Mozambique Asset Management) — took from two European banks, Credit Suisse and VTB of Russia, with illegal guarantees granted by the previous government under Nyusi’s predecessor, Armando Guebuza.

The loans were contracted in 2013 and 2014, but most of the debt did not become public knowledge until April 2016. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) then suspended its programme with Mozambique, accusing the government of failing to disclose the country’s true macro-economic situation.

All 14 donor nation which had been providing direct support to the Mozambican State budget also suspended their disbursements, including Switzerland. Berset told the media that the Swiss government would not resume budget support until the question of the hidden debts was completely clarified.

However, Swiss project aid to Mozambique has continued. Berset said this aid is concentrated on the three northern provinces of Nampula, Niassa and Cabo Delgado, in the areas of health, education, water supply and infrastructures. This project aid is budgeted at seven million Swiss francs (4.4 million US dollars), for the 2017-2020 period.

Berset added that Switzerland would be willing to help the Mozambican government renegotiate its public debt with the creditors.