One of the world’s poorest countries, Comoros is made up of three islands that are hampered by inadequate transportation links, a young and rapidly increasing population, and few natural resources. The low educational level of the labor force contributes to a subsistence level of economic activity and a heavy dependence on foreign grants and technical assistance. Agriculture, including fishing, hunting, and forestry, accounts for 50% of GDP, employs 80% of the labor force, and provides most of the exports. Export income is heavily reliant on the three main crops of vanilla, cloves, and ylang-ylang; and Comoros’ export earnings are easily disrupted by disasters such as fires and extreme weather. Despite agriculture’s importance to the economy, the country imports roughly 70% of its food; rice, the main staple, accounts for the bulk of imports.
Authorities are negotiating with the IMF for triennial program assistance. The government – which is racked by internal political disputes – is struggling to provide basic services, upgrade education and technical training, privatize commercial and industrial enterprises, improve health services, diversify exports, promote tourism, and reduce the high population growth rate. Recurring political instability, sometimes initiated from outside the country, has inhibited growth. Remittances from about 200,000 Comorans contribute about 25% of the country’s GDP. In December 2012, IMF and the World Bank’s International Development Association supported $176 million in debt relief for Comoros, resulting in a 59% reduction of its future external debt service over a period of 40 years. In late 2013, a US-based investment company invested $200 million in a project to explore for hydrocarbons in Comoran territorial waters, the largest financial investment in the country’s history.
Source: Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Library