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IMF on Zim, Backtracks on Greece, Rebuffs Questions About Pakistan, Gbagbo, Lanka

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 18, updated -- The IMF board will vote tomorrow on Zimbabwe's request to regain voting rights, the IMF's David Hawley said at the organization's biweekly media briefing on February 18.

  While not taking any online questions, Hawley fielded repeated questions about Greece, essentially backing away from Dominique Strauss-Kahn's previous blustered about the IMF being ready to intervene. Pundits says the Europeans want to keep the IMF out -- Germany because it wants to retain the centrality of a European process it is about to head, France's Sarkozy because he does not want Strauss-Kahn to become any more prominent before the 2012 elections.

  While Strauss-Kahn's IMF preaches to developing and troubled countries, it cannot comply with its commitment to conduct an online media briefing every two weeks. On February 18, the IMF's David Hawley presided over an ill-attended session in the organization's new briefing room.

  His colleague Caroline Atkinson had inaugurated the room by saying it should make online participation easier and more seamless. But on February 18, despite online questions being submitted by Inner City Press and surely others, Mr. Hawley did not acknowledge or answer a single online question. Nor in the twenty minutes between the briefing and the expiration of the IMF's embargo did the IMF answer a request for an explanation of the freeze-out.

Here were the three questions Inner City Press submitted:

On Pakistan, does the IMF's recent announcement mean that the bank supervision and power tariff goals have been met?

Regarding Cote d'Ivoire, how does the IMF view the suspension of the government and further delay of elections by Laurent Gbagbo?

With an IMF team in Sri Lanka, what is the IMF's thinking on the EU's suspension of the GSP Plus tariff treatment, and/or the arrest of opposition politician Sarath Fonseka?

IMF's Strauss-Kahn, online questions rebuffed, coy on campaign

   On other matters, Hawley said he would not speculate or comment about the motivations of Central Banks. Fine -- but why can't the IMF, despite the spending on its new briefing room, manage to acknowledge and answer online questions about its operations? Watch this site.

Footnote: While the IMF took some online questions on February 4, after Ms. Atkinson said the IMF would provide an answer about Yemen, none has been provided in the fortnight since...

Update: after publication at embargo time of the report above, the IMF indirectly justified its refusal to even acknowledge the three online questions above:

Subject: Re: Three online questions ignored at 930 "online" briefing, please explain and answer, thanks
From: Murray, William
Date: Thu, Feb 18, 2010
To: Inner City Press, "Atkinson, Caroline, Hawley, David

I have asked the press officers to review your questions and get back to you where possible. Most of the questions contained stuff that fell far afield of the IMF's role or mandate. So where we can answer we will, but a big chunk of your questions could be better answered by institutions not focused on financial and macroeconomic issues.

Well, no. As linked to in the questions above, the IMF has a team in Sri Lanka, has opined on power tariffs and bank supervision in Pakistan -- in fact, Inner City Press got answers on those questions on a previous IMF conference call -- and is reviewing Cote d'Ivoire.

  The IMF's attempt to portray itself as divorced from politics, conditionality, and governance is ham-handed and illegitimate. It is not for the IMF to decide which questions to acknowledge or not. Or, who in the IMF makes these decisions, and on what basis? Watch this site.

Update -- after the IMF's embargo expired, and after the above was published, responses came in to two of the three above questions, which the IMF had tried to argue somehow where not relevant:

Mr. Lee: The following statement can be attributed to Adnan Mazarei, mission chief for Pakistan:

The reforms to strengthen the effectiveness of banking supervision in Pakistan are proceeding as envisaged. The parliament is discussing amendments to the banking law. The lower house has approved the amendments and they are being discussed by the upper house. Electricity reform is also proceeding, but somewhat slower than planned earlier due to delays in implementing certain tariff adjustments.

Kind Regards, Olga Stankova, Sr. Press Officer


Matthew, Further to your question on Côte d’Ivoire, I’m afraid it’s still too early to say. You can attribute the following to me if it’s helpful.

“The IMF, through its resident representative, continues to monitor the situation in Côte d’Ivoire. It is too early to assess any impact on the authorities’ IMF-supported economic program.”

Best regards, Alistair Thomson, Press Officer - External Relations Department

   Apparently the question about Sri Lanka, where the IMF current has a team on the ground, was deemed even less IMF relevant that this. Watch this site.

* * *

IMF's Strauss-Kahn Coy on Opposing Sarkozy and Intervening in Greece, IMF and Greek Denials, Yemen Deferrals

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 4, updated -- The managing director of the International Monetary Fund Dominique Strauss-Kahn bragged Thursday to radio station RTL in his native France that he might leave the IMF early -- and perhaps challenge Nicolas Sarkozy for the French presidency -- and that if asked by Greece, the IMF could "intervene" in the country.

  Questions about both comments were dodged later on Thursday by the spokesperson for Strauss-Kahn and the IMF, Caroline Atkinson. Strauss-Kahn is quoted that "As it stands... I am planning to see out my mandate. But if you ask me whether in certain circumstances I could reconsider this question, the answer is yes, I could reconsider this question."

  This is consciously leaving open the door to reconsider and leave. But Ms. Aktinson emphasized only his "planning to see out my mandate" and called everything else "hypothetical."

  On Greece, Strauss-Kahn said regally, "I have a mission on the ground to provide technical advice requested by the Greek government. And if we're asked to intervene, we will." He added, "I understand that the Europeans don't want this for the moment."

Inner City Press on Thursday morning asked Dimitris Droutsas, Alternate Foreign Minister of Greece, to describe his government's thinking about IMF help. Mr. Droutsas responded on the record, "Categorically may I state, any idea of the IMF... there is no idea about that."

Still, at Thursday's IMF biweekly briefing, Ms. Aktinson emphasized the "the IMF" -- not just Strauss-Kahn -- "had a technical team in Athens because the Greeks are very interested in getting any help from us on the technical implementation of the plan."

  Later on February 4 Droutsas told Inner City Press, on camera, that he was unaware of any IMF team having been in Athens. Video here, last question. One wag wondered, has the IMF become like the CIA, or Xe / Blackwater, whose presence is alleged and denied?

   But the IMF under Strauss-Kahn brags about being present. As with the wider UN, the rush to be relevant.

Strauss-Kahn, ready to "intervene" in Greece, could leave IMF - "hypothetically"

   It was surprising, then, that when Inner City Press asked Ms. Aktinson about Yemen -- using as the lead in a quote by UK Foreign Secretary (Ivan Lewis) that "we address the economic problems that face Yemen, especially through the IMF program" -- Ms. Atkinson said she didn't have information about Yemen and would have to respond later to Inner City Press. But as February 4 hit midnight, no information was provided. Yemen is in the news, and one would expect the omnipresent Strauss-Kahn to be all over it. We'll see.

Ms. Atkinson gave a pro-IMF spin in responding to Inner City Press' question about the IMF's new loan to Haiti, but we'll be writing about that later, along with the IMF's Yemen response. 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.

* * *

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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