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Wikileaks Cable 26: Louis Paul Motaze Charms Garvey with Sweet Talk on Economy 

This unclassified cable praises Cameroon’s former minister in charge of the Economy, Planning and Regional Development, Louis Paul Motaze. Though the underlying intention is to shore up confidence in the economic growth plans of the regime, it thinly betrays the regime strategy in using sweet-talking diplomacy to keep foreign observers on a short leash. — During the early days of her mandate in Cameroon, Ambassador Janet Garvey went on the usual hunt for information to better understand the political and economic climate of her new work environment. Among the battery of regime stalwarts targeted for the purpose, Ambassador Garvey enlisted a trip to the relatively young, jocund and generally jovial Louis Paul Motaze appointed minister in 2007 to steer the affairs of the economy.

As could be expected, Louis Paul Motaze stole the chance to score some points for the regime, but above all, draw some attention to himself as well. And as the title of this cable evokes, Ambassador Janet Garvey was struck more by the personality than the economy. “Cameroon’s New Minister of Economy: Dynamic and Focused on Business Climate,” Garvey’s title bellows, demonstrating how well Motaze gave a good impression of himself as the little messianic figure that has come to perform a miracle on Cameroon’s ailing economy.

Little doubt, Garvey’s cable after the meeting is replete with baroque descriptions of Motaze: “results-oriented”, “refreshingly dynamic”, “maverick in his thinking”, “decisive, committed, and sure of where he wants to go”. Such hallowing remarks clearly demonstrate how well a regime baron can take advantage of personal charisma and eloquence to shield the failures of the system they work fro from the prying eyes of strangers. It shows how agents working for a corrupt regime can also employ their charm to impress outside observers, win their confidence and get them believing that the government of Cameroon is up to the task; serving a noble cause in history.

Later during her stay in the country, Ambassador Janet Garvey had an opportunity to encounter President Paul Biya for a tour d’horizon on politics, diplomacy and the economy. That encounter was subject of another cable published earlier by (See Wikileaks Cable 1). In that same cable, unlike Garvey trumpet-blaring about Motaze, President Biya took a scornful jibe at the relatively youthful minister. “He talks a lot. I do not like his lack of discretion”, Biya educated Garvey on the sweet-talking talent of his Economy minister. Although Ambassador Garvey did not venture into an analysis of the damning remarks of a man she literally adulated upon arrival in Cameroon, it appeared clear from her negative remarks in the cable about the economy that Motaze’s charm eventually evaporated after the Biya encounter.

Beyond the scope of this cable, regime officials in Cameroon have a legendary reputation at employing very soft persuasive strategies to hoodwink foreign diplomats whose support they wish to enlist for both the collective good of the government as well as self-aggrandizing goals. For many observers, the approach seems to be part of official diplomatic policy in acting out scenes to hit an emotional connection with strangers and conjure images of progress. Louis Paul Motaze’s example falls squarely within that logic.

Subject: Cameroon’s New Minister of Economy: Dynamic and Focused on Business Climate

In a January 8 courtesy call by the Ambassador, Minister of Economy, Planning and Regional Development (MINEPAT) Louis Paul Motaze highlighted the need for more decisive action to spur economic growth and improve Cameroon’s business climate.  He was anxious to engage on the MCC, which he planned to discuss with the Prime Minister.  He identified infrastructure and agricultural modernization as priorities and hoped the 2005 census would be published in February.  Dynamic and results-oriented, Motaze could be a strong ally in improving the country’s investment climate and getting progress on key MCC economic indicators.  End summary.

Motaze hoped for 4.5 to 5.5 percent GDP growth in 2008.  He was pleased that President Biya’s New Year’s speech stressed the need for action in pushing economic growth. Motaze urged patience in the GRC’s economic approach to the economy, saying that he hoped for better prioritization and more action (enough studies have been done, he said), while recognizing that problems exist and corruption cannot be eliminated over night.  He hoped to spur speedier decision-making, arguing it was better to make bad decisions and correct them than to make no decisions.  Ambassador hoped the GRC would lighten the burdens on foreign investors, who are looking for concrete improvements.  Motaze agreed there was an urgent need to improve the business climate, saying he would focus on reducing the time to open a business, improving the judicial process, and facilitating business finance.
The MINEPAT Minister said he was attending a meeting called by Prime Minister Inoni on January 9 to discuss economic issues, including the MCC.  Ambassador noted that the PM’s office informed us it was taking the lead on the MCC (which was news to Motaze) and she emphasized the need to make progress on the MCC indicators.  We do not need to see progress on all fronts at once, but are looking for concrete results in as many areas as possible and hope to see Cameroon get on track for MCC threshold status, Ambassador added.  The Minister agreed there was too much confusion in the GRC’s Washington lobbying efforts on MCC, and that the government’s priority needed to be tackling its problems here in Cameroon.  He also saw a need for improved communication about Cameroon’s achievements to date.
The Minister’s priority "road map" for 2008 focused on energy, roads, telecommunications, and special sector development (such as palm oil and wood).  Agriculture needs to be modernized, with greater value added, he said. The government is reviewing what to do when the IMF/World Bank-backed Poverty Reduction Strategy Program (PRSP) expires on June 30, he said, concluding that the government will probably stay on track with the adjustment requirements of the program.  He disliked the focus on poverty reduction, preferring to focus on wealth creation over a 10-20 year period.
Ambassador asked whether the results of the 2005 census will be released soon.  Motaze said he had recently met with the head of the National Statistics Agency (under his ministry), urging her to better communicate to the public the difficulties encountered in finalizing the census.  He acknowledged some problems with the UN Population Fund and finances but hoped the final census results would be published this February.
While still new and largely untested in his current job, Motaze was refreshingly dynamic and somewhat maverick in his thinking.  He came off as decisive, committed, and sure of where he wants to go.  He was both eager and realistic about the MCC.  He has a strong track record of delivering results as General Manager of the National Social Insurance Fund prior to becoming a minister in September 2007.  Reportedly close to the President, with work experience in Cameroon Airlines and Cameroon Shipping Lines, and a French law degree, he could prove to be a strong ally in efforts to improve the commercial climate.

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