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IMF Fudges on Ireland & Democracy, on Africa's Reduced Votes, Maldives Deferred

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, December 2 -- At the IMF's press briefing on December 2, spokesperson Caroline Atkinson took question after question about Ireland while deferring answers on the Maldives and East African Community and ignoring questions submitted about IMF chief Dominique Strauss Kahn's statement that his successor should come from outside the US or EU.

The IMF talks much about governance reform, but even under its much hyped recent changes, Africa as a continent will see its voting share drop from 5.9 per cent to 5.6 per cent. Inner City Press asked Thursday about this, and this was one question Ms. Atkinson took. She referred to “dynamic and emerging” economies -- apparently not in Africa -- but said that lower income countries would also have their voices amplified.

Inner City press had submitted this simple question: “In light of Mr Strauss Kahn's statement that next IMF chief should come from outside the US and EU, is he going to formally propose that to the Board or any other step?” The question was not taken or acknowledged. We'll see.

On Ireland, despite massive protests and statements by the opposition that they are not bound by the deal with the IMF, Ms. Atkinson said that the IMF had “discussions with the major, uh, the opposition parties” and was “satisfied” enough to present the deal to the IMF Executive Board.

But what does this mean? Are successive governments bound by IMF deals? Inner City Press had first submitted this question: “on Ireland, what is the IMF's position on approvals needed inside the country?” But the question was neither taken nor even acknowledged.

Protest in Ireland of IMF deal, democracy & answers not shown
  Also on democracy, Ms. Atkinson was asked about Ukraine's President vetoing an IMF suggested tax increase due to protest. Ms. Atkinson said she hadn't heard of it, but would provide information later if she did. Inner City Press had asked it. So again, we'll see.

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On IMF Quota Changes, Spin War Emerges, IMF Role in Debt of Sudan Questioned

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 18 -- After the International Monetary Fund's board agreed on November 5 to move six percent of powers to developing countries, the IMF says that “most commentary was positive.”

  But when Inner City Press asked UN Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Affairs Jomo Kwame Sundaram about it on November 16, he said that two thirds of the six percent comes from “other developing countries,” and that the quota system should be further reformed. Video here, from Minute 21:30.

  At the IMF's biweekly briefing on November 18, Inner City Press asked IMF spokesperson Caroline Atkinson about this criticism. She said she wasn't aware of it (since “most commentary was positive”) and argued that 80% came from “advanced economies” and the rest from “a small number of oil producing” countries which she said are technically classified as developing.

  Ms. Atkinson then said that of the 187 members, 110 countries saw their quotas increase, 102 of them emerging and dynamic countries -- another euphemism for developing?

  These two very different views of the changes turn on how one defines developing. While the UN often mis-classifies these, to rely entirely on the IMF to assess the seriousness of IMF reforms also seems unwise.

  Inner City Press also submitted two country specific question, the first of which on Sudan Ms. Atkinson read out and acknowledged, promising a later answer:

On Sudan, both Hillary Clinton and the UK's William Hague on Nov 16 said they are in talks about reducing the national debt as an incentive for the Southern Sudan secession referendum scheduled for January 9. Is the IMF involved in any such talks? Can the IMF play any role in reducing Sudan's debt?

UK's Hague and US Clinton, on Sudan debt talks, IMF not shown

On Democratic Republic of Congo, what is the IMF's reaction to the shortfall in Paris Club debt reduction (“82.4 percent reduction of Congo's debt stock, short of the 90 percent target”) and to the pace of reforms in the DRC?

Watch this site.

 Click here for an Inner City Press YouTube channel video, mostly UN Headquarters footage, about civilian deaths in Sri Lanka.

Click here for Inner City Press' March 27 UN debate

Click here for Inner City Press March 12 UN (and AIG bailout) debate

Click here for Inner City Press' Feb 26 UN debate

Click here for Feb. 12 debate on Sri Lanka

Click here for Inner City Press' Jan. 16, 2009 debate about Gaza

Click here for Inner City Press' review-of-2008 UN Top Ten debate

Click here for Inner City Press' December 24 debate on UN budget, Niger

Click here from Inner City Press' December 12 debate on UN double standards

Click here for Inner City Press' November 25 debate on Somalia, politics

and this October 17 debate, on Security Council and Obama and the UN.

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These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

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