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On Poland IMF Says Investors Could Lose Appetite If Relations With EU Deteriorate

By Matthew Russell Lee, CJR PFT NY Post

NEW YORK CITY,  February 6 – When the International Monetary Fund held its biweekly embargoed media briefing on January 17, Inner City Press submitted six questions including two on Yemen and Zimbabwe which the IMF answered, see below. On February 6, the IMF issued this on Poland: "the Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) concluded the Article IV consultation with the Republic of Poland.  The Polish economy experienced a strong upswing in growth during the past two years. Three coincident cycles—a rebound in euro-area activity, a substantial increase in EU transfers, and new large social benefit programs—boosted GDP growth from 3.1 percent in 2016 to more than 5 percent during 2018. The resulting gains in employment were achieved by reducing unemployment to a record low and attracting inflows of foreign workers. Recent data suggest that the economic cycle has now begun to moderate alongside slowing external demand. For 2019, growth is projected to be a still-strong 3½ percent, underpinned by buoyant private consumption and continued absorption of EU funds. Over the medium term, the economy is projected to expand by around 2¾ percent per year, reflecting the dampening effects of a shrinking working-age population, subdued private investment and tepid productivity gains. While headline inflation has been persistently below the mid-point of the target, core inflation is expected to edge up gradually from the current very-low level. The current account balance has shifted from a surplus in 2017 to a small deficit in 2018, and is expected to widen gradually over the medium term, while remaining broadly in line with medium-term fundamentals.  In recent years, macroeconomic policies have facilitated a further narrowing of fiscal and external imbalances, while also supporting growth. The policy interest rate has been on hold at a historically-low level for more than three years amid persistently low inflation. Substantial fiscal adjustment has been achieved through strengthened revenue administration and automatic savings from low rates of expenditure indexation, with part of these savings used to fund new social spending programs. Credit continues to grow at a moderate pace, although unsecured consumer lending is expanding strongly. Profitability of Polish banks compares favorably with systems in other European countries, despite a tax on financial institutions’ assets. New legislation to amend the governance structure of the financial supervisor gives representatives of ministries and the President a primary position on the Board, while potentially improving budgetary independence.  Looking ahead, the Polish economy faces important challenges in the near term and beyond. On the external side, an escalation of global trade tensions or a disruptive Brexit could impact Poland’s trade and financial flows and dent growth. Renewed turbulence in global financial markets could abruptly tighten financial conditions in Poland and lead to exchange rate depreciation that feeds into inflation. Poland could also face severe labor shortages if foreign workers were to leave in response to new opportunities elsewhere in the region. On the domestic front, a larger footprint of the state in the economy could slow productivity growth, while investors’ risk appetite could be lowered in the event of slippage from prudent policies and sound governance principles, or if relations with the European Union were to deteriorate." Back on January 17 Inner City Press asked, "On Yemen, does the agreement in Stockholm between the Houthis and the government / Saudi and Emirati led Coalition make it more likely that the IMF can provide the assistance it has said it wants to? What is the IMF doing now?" Spokesperson Gerry Rice said while advising donors to address the humanitarian crisis, the armed conflict makes it difficult for the IMF to do more. He mentioned the Central Bank, offering technical assistance, and the procurement of needed food. On Zimbabwe, Inner City Press asked "On Zimbabwe, what is the status of the country's debt arrears to the IMF and others, and what is the IMF's comment on the recent unrest / crackdown there?" Rice expressed concern and added that as long as the country is in arrears, there can be no program. Here's from the transcript: RICE: question about the status of where we are with Yemen. And said did the agreement in Stockholm between the Houthis and the governance, the government of Saudi and Emirati led coalition make it more likely that the IMF can provide the assistance it has said it wants to? So what is the IMF doing now?  I don’t have a great deal of update on Yemen from what I said the last time which is that, you know, given the armed conflict and the humanitarian crisis, you know, we can only, we the IMF, can only have a limited role in Yemen. We are of course encouraging the donor efforts to focus on the humanitarian situation there which is of great concern and the UN of course is in the lead.  What we are doing is continuing to provide technical assistance to the Central Bank to identify any major capacity gaps and supporting the authorities and donors in identifying measures that would help mitigate that humanitarian crisis including by facilitating imports of basic food staples and paying the civil service wages in the whole of Yemen.... I'll take one more online and that's about Zimbabwe and asking for the status of where we are with the countries debt and relation with the IMF and did we have any comment on the unrest and the government crackdown there is the question.  So in answer to that, I would say that of course Zimbabwe is facing major challenges and just in terms of the unrest, we encourage all stakeholders to collaborate peacefully in developing and implementing policies that will stabilize the economy and promote sustainable and inclusive growth.  On the overall economic situation, debt and the IMF, there has been no real change in what I have said here recently which is Zimbabwe continues to be in a difficult situation regarding debt with protracted arrears to official creditors including multilateral creditors such as the World Bank which severely limits Zimbabwe's access to international financial support.  In terms of the IMF, Zimbabwe has in fact cleared its arrears to us, to the Fund, but our rules preclude lending to a country that is still in or under arrears to other international financial situations. So until that particular situation is resolved, we would not be moving forward with a financial support for Zimbabwe.  I said here the last time that the authority's economic policies we felt were headed in the right direction broadly in terms of addressing the fiscal deficit and monetary policy and so on. I won't repeat what I said the last time but that’s where we are on Zimbabwe." Inner City Press also asked about Cameroon...


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