Angola ready to help Portugal amid debt crisis: Dos Santos

17th November 2011, Comments 0 comments

Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos said Thursday his country is ready to help former colonial ruler Portugal as the crisis-hit European country's prime minister made a visit to drum up investment.

"We're aware of the difficulties the Portuguese people have faced recently to end the crisis," Dos Santos said after meeting Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho at the presidential palace in Luanda.

"Angola is open and available to help Portugal face this crisis to the benefit and advantage of both countries," he told a press conference.

"In this difficult moment of financial crisis hitting Portugal, it's important to remember the good relations that exist between our two countries, based not only on circumstantial interests but on historic ties, friendship, cooperation and even our shared blood."

Passos Coelho, who arrived Wednesday night on a visit of just over 24 hours, is looking to strengthen trade ties and discuss the booming former colony's interest in buying shares in Portuguese state companies.

"We should take advantage of this moment of financial and economic crisis to strengthen our bilateral relations in the different sectors of our respective countries," he told AFP.

"Angola is in the middle of rebuilding its democratic institutions to establish its young democracy after many years of armed conflict."

Angola won its independence from Portugal in 1975, but descended into a 27-year civil war that ended only in 2002.

It has been rebuilding at breakneck speed in the nine years since, thanks largely to oil deposits that make it Africa's second-largest petroleum producer.

Its economy is set to grow 12 percent next year, while Portugal's is facing a 2.8-percent shrinkage.

That gloomy outlook has forced Portugal to sell off state companies under a 78-billion-euro ($105-billion) International Monetary Fund bailout deal.

Air carrier TAP, utilities company Energias de Portugal, the failing Banco Portugues de Negocios, and national grid operator Redes Energeticas Nacionais are all on the block.

Passos Coelho, who lived in Luanda as a child, when his father was a colonial-era doctor, said the countries would hold their first-ever strategic and economic summit in 2013 on the theme of sustainable development.

He later addressed a meeting of Portuguese and Angolan business leaders on economic relations between the two countries and the Angolan government's outstanding debt to Portuguese construction firms.

Angola fell behind on payments to the companies when oil prices dropped in 2009. It owes Portuguese contractors $2.0 billion, according to Finance Minister Carlos Lopes, but has been working to pay them back with the help of a $1.4-billion IMF loan.

© 2011 AFP

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