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IMF Answers on Kenya and Costa Rica As Inner City Press Asks of Lending Status

By Matthew Russell Lee, Patreon Video
BBC - Guardian UK - Honduras - ESPN

SDNY COURTHOUSE, Jan 14 – When the International Monetary Fund held its biweekly embargoed press briefing on January 14, Inner City Press asked for the status of programs with Kenya and Costa Rica. Spokesperson Gerry Rice answered on each, video here.

 On Kenya, Inner City Press asked about public debt disclosure and "On Kenya, does the government re-raising taxes including on individuals make an IMF program more likely?"

  Rice said the IMF is pushing a "pause on fiscal adjustment" for the year, for health spending, and that it might go to the IMF Board in early 2021.

  On Costa Rica, Inner City Press asked about the talks that began January 11 and "what is the status, and what is the IMF's response to statements that that "the public employment law, sale of assets, among others, are measures that must be taken"?

  Rice said the virtual talks have begun and will, he said, include civil society. Now the transcript:

Inner City Press: I wanted to ask about two programs or possible programs that seem to be kind of in play. One is in Kenya. It's reported, at least, that $1.5 billion program is getting near. There seems to be a lot of issues with the Paris Club. This sort of re-raising of taxes, at least as I understand it. And maybe -- it's reported, and I'd like you to confirm or deny the IMF asking for great public debt disclosure. Can you say, what are the issues from the IMF's point of view at to Kenya? 

And on Costa Rica, if there's no program, there's no plan B. That's, like, a big headline over there. But what is the status of the talks that began January 11, and what's the IMF's thinking about the sale of assets and other issues? Where does it stand with Costa Rica? Thanks a lot. 

MR. RICE: Thank you, Matthew. On Kenya, and on the status and plausibility of an IMF program, we are in discussions with the Kenyan authorities on the possibility of a program to support the next phase of their response to the crisis. We had a mission there towards the end of last year, and reached agreement in many areas, so that technical work is continuing. And we hope that will lead to something being presented to our board for consideration in early 2021.  Clearly, Kenya continues to face an unprecedented external shock that will severely challenge the economy's underlying health and the policy path forward. We have actually -- we are recommending a pause in fiscal adjustment this fiscal year to accommodate increased health spending and support for the economy during this shock. And we're also recommending continued supportive monetary policy response, as has been the case in Kenya.  And then as we move beyond the crisis, it will be critical that the authorities resume the pursuit of fiscal sustainability, fiscal adjustment. Especially now that the shock has increased the debt vulnerabilities, as you mentioned, Matthew. So we would be talking in those terms about a reduction of the fiscal deficit through a well-balanced policy mix. That's on Kenya.  On Costa Rica, again, status update. What can I say? The government did request an IMF program last year, again, to help fight the pandemic, put the economy on a growth path, protect the most vulnerable, and so on. I can tell you, Matthew, that an IMF staff team has begun virtual discussions this week, January the 11th, on policy priorities and economic plans that could underpin a potential IMF supported program.  And the staff team will be meeting with government officials, parliamentarians, civil society, the private sector, and academics. And again, discussions began this week, and we'll update you as those discussions progress.  Thank you for your questions, Matthew

Watch this site.

Back on January 8 Inner City Press asked the IMF's Helge Berger, Mission Chief, about China's so-called Belt and Road Initiative: "Your Article IV report cites China's "overseas lending projects" amid "rising geopolitical tensions and economic and trade frictions." How does the IMF think that rising debt levels among African countries, and increased skepticism about the "Belt and Road" will impact or be addressed going forward? -Matthew Russell Lee, Inner City Press. Video here.

Berger responded about the IMF's work to provide lower income countries "breathing space." He said while the IMF generally welcomes the BRI it stresses the need for transparency, where the money is going.

(An aside: Inner City Press has reported on the CEFC China Energy Fund Committee's activities in Chad and Uganda and in the UN, on which the UN is UNresponsive.)

Other questions included China's digital currency (Inner City Press also reports on crypto-currency cases in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York and elsewhere). Berger said when used overseas an issue is that residents could start using another country's currency, if it is easier.

We'll have more on this.


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