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On Nepal, ICP Asks IMF If Any Debt Relief, New CCR Trust "Possible"

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS / DC, April 30 -- At the International Monetary Fund's embargoed media briefing on April 30, Inner City Press asked, "In Nepal after the earthquake, will the IMF use the CCR Trust? What of the $54 million Nepal owes to the IMF, with $10 million due this year and $16 million in 2016? Any debt relief?"

IMF spokesperson Gerry Rice replied to Inner City Press that

"we’re assessing the situation, we’re seeing exactly what the needs are. We will be looking at all options and all instrumentalities, all instruments that are available to us to respond as effectively as possible to the situation facing the people of Nepal. There are a number of different instruments that could be used, as you know.

"There is the Rapid Credt Facility, for example, which is our zero interest rate facility, provides financing very quickly, limited conditionality aimed at low income countries facing urgent budget balance or payment needs, due to an external shock including natural disasters. So that’s one. That’s one option. And as I said, we’re looking at all options, including potential availability under the new CCR trust."

  This CCR was set in earlier this year, limited to disasters which  destroy more than a quarter of a nation's productive capacity, impact one third of its people or cause damage larger than the size of the country's economy. How the IMF will apply it to Nepal is not yet known.

 At the IMF's annual meeting's Asia and Pacific press conference on April 17, Inner City Press asked, "on Vanuatu, it's said that even after Cyclone Pam the country is not eligible for the IMF's Catastrophe Containment and Relief Trust. Is that true, and what could be done given that only two small-island states are eligible, despite high debts and storm risks?"

 The IMF's Hoe Ee Khor replied that "We have a mission in Vanuatu right now. We are in the process of trying to draw up the program. The amount we have access to is 22 million SDR. It's small relative to the size of the damage and the losses that it suffered, it’s true.  But the amount of money that the IMF is able to provide will be able to capitalize financing assistance from all the other countries, especially Australia, New Zealand, and the other IFIs like the World Bank and the ADB.” Video here.

 (SDR was discussed at the April 30 embargoed media briefing, with insistent questions whether central bank independence, for example in China, is considered. Yes, Rice said, but it is not only of the headline criteria. The IMF Board meeting on it has been deferred, as has an answer on Syria. Inner City Press also asked about Burundi and Ghana and is told responses are coming.)

     There is a similar problem at the World Bank, with countries like Lebanon and Jordan and some in West Africa not eligible for financing needed to deal with refugees. And now more refugees are being created, for example from Yemen.

Back on March 26 amid the ongoing airstrikes in Yemen, Inner City Press asked the IMF again about the status of its program in the country.

   IMF Deputy Spokesperson William Murray said that the first review is postponed until things clarify.


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