Page last updated at 12:03 GMT, Friday, 9 October 2009 13:03 UK

Downturn grounds Congo ministers

President Denis Sassou Nguesso
It is not clear if the president will also cut down on his foreign trips

Congo's president has stopped ministers and senior civil servants from going on foreign trips, to save money.

A decree from President Denis Sassou Nguesso says only "urgent" trips would be allowed until the end of the year.

Presidential adviser Ernest Ndalla told the BBC that officials could not be sent on foreign trips simply for their "pleasure".

Congo is a major oil producer but most of its people live in poverty after years of conflict.

"There has been an inflation of trips by ministers and senior civil servants," Mr Ndalla told BBC Afrique.

He said all proposed trips would have to be co-ordinated and only those deemed "profitable" would be approved.

The AFP news agency reports that Congo is trying to qualify for debt relief from donors and says the travel ban could be intended to prove that the government is trying to cut costs.

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