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On South Africa, ICP Asked IMF About FM Firing, If Program, IMF Say No, Domestic Politics

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 6 – When the International Monetary Fund held its biweekly embargoed press briefing on April 6, Inner City Press asked Spokesperson Gerry Rice about South Africa, Zambia, Bosnia, Nigeria and the UN, Cameroon and other issues. On South Africa, Inner City Press asked "does the IMF have any comment on the recent firing of the finance minister? Separately, have there been any discussions of a possible program with South Africa?" Rice said that no request for a program has been received -- "the South African authorities have not requested a program from the IMF" -- and that the IMF normally does not comment on "domestic politics." He went ont to say, "it's important that institutions remain strong and the government can be united on policies for inclusive growth for all South Africans." We'll have more on this.

  On Bosnia, Inner City Press asked the IMF, among other things: "what the IMF's comment on opposition, from farmers and the Republika Srpska to the excise tax on fuel which it is reported is a condition for the IMF's program?" Early on April 6, prior to the embargoed briefing but there reiterated at it, the IMF's mission chief for Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), Mr. Nadeem Ilahi, said: "The IMF took note that the BiH parliament did not adopt the amendments to the law on excise tax and the new law on deposit insurance during a session held on April 5, 2017. This will have implications for mobilizing external financing for much needed infrastructure projects and for the authorities’ efforts to modernize banking sector legislation. Both are key requirements of the authorities’ program, supported by the IMF under the Extended Fund Facility (EFF). We now expect a significant delay in completion of the first review of the program.   In recent months, the authorities have made good progress in implementing economic reforms supported by the EFF, particularly by strengthening fiscal discipline, safeguarding financial stability, and improving business environment. We stand ready to assist the authorities in continuing the implementation of structural reforms to unlock growth potential and maintain macroeconomic stability, including through IMF advice and technical assistance.The authorities need more time to make further progress in a number of key areas of their program, such as securing financing for key infrastructure project, modernizing banking sector legislations, and improving corporate governance of state owned enterprises. In the period ahead, we will maintain close dialogue with the authorities and remain committed to assist them in their efforts.” We'll have more on this.

  Back on March 23 when the International Monetary Fund held its previous biweekly embargoed press briefing, Inner City Press asked Spokesperson Gerry Rice about Dominica, Belarus, Cameroon and other issues. On Dominica, Inner City Press asked: "the IMF's Mr. Guerson has referred to 'high Citizenship-By-Investment (CBI) revenues.' What is the IMF's view of fraud and / or AML dangers in that CBI program? Mr Guerson also called for the 'operationalization of the Eastern Caribbean Asset Management Company.” Can you say more: by when, and on what assets?" Shortly after the briefing, an IMF spokesperson responded to Inner City Press that "seaking more generally and not on Dominica specifically, the IMF has conducted extensive research on citizenship programs in the Caribbean including on the regulatory and governance challenges related to these programs. As a general principle, the Fund has stressed the importance of transparency in the design and implementation of these programs. When properly run, these programs can be an important source of additional revenue. Generally speaking we have called for receipts to be held for future generations, debt repayments and not to be used for regular operating expenses." Some in Domenica have asked if the Skerrit government's program is meeting this standard, for example with regard to Macau-based businessman Ng Lap Seng now facing a UN-related bribery trial in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York. But to emphasize: the IMF's answer is general.

On Belarus, Inner City Press asked: "requests have been publicly made to write to head IMF mission to Belarus Peter Dolman and advisor of the IMF mission in Minsk Julia Lysko to NOT give loans to the government. Has the IMF received such letters? If so, how many, and what weight does it give them and the issues raised in them?" Rice read out the question, then said he's not aware of any letters being received, but is aware of a petition from press reports. He said the IMF met Belarus' presidnet on March 16 and talks about a program will continue up to the IMF's Spring Meetings in April.

  On Cameroon, Inner City Press asked: "the IMF's Mr. Selassie said: 'there will be significant fiscal reforms that need to be effected as well as reforms to promote growth and we are working on developing those with a number of the CEMAC countries.' Please provide further specifics, particularly regarding Cameroon and the continuing financial impact of the now 65-day Internet shut down to the Anglophone areas including “Silicon Mountain” in Buea." We hope to have more on this.

Earlier in March, Inner City Press asked both the International Monetary Fund and the UN Security Council's president about the crisis in Cameroon's Anglophone areas on March 9 and heard that while the IMF acknowledges the financial risk, the Security Council does not see it as a threat to international peace and security. But the UN's Resident Coordinator Najat Rochdi has said nothing about the crisis, and blocks on Twitter the Press which asks about it. Is the UN system failing, in its new Secretary General's promise of increased preventative diplomacy?

 When the IMF's spokesperson Gerry Rice took questions on March 9, Inner City Press asked about Cameroon, specifically the crackdown in the northwest and southwest of the country. Inner City Press asked, "On Cameroon, after the mission led by Corinne Delechat, what is the status of talks for a program, and since the IMF cited “civil unrest in the neighboring Central African Republic,” please state the IMF's awareness of civil unrest and arrests in Northwest and Southwest Cameroon, also known as the Anglophone areas, and their impact." Rice read out the question and then said, among other things, that the risk factors for 2017 include a continuation of the "social and political events" in the "so-called Anglophone" areas of Cameroon. Interim video here.  On IMF site, here, from 34:56. IMF transcript below.

  But a few hours later when Inner City Press asked the month's UN Security Council president Matthew Rycroft of the UK, who had just been in Cameroon, about the crisis, he said it is not a threat to international peace and security. From the UK transcript:

Inner City Press: In Cameroon there’s an issue that has been existing since November in Anglophone areas which have no internet for 52 days, there’s been teachers arrested, no schools. So I’m wondering as one Council member said, it did somehow come up in meetings, but was the issue raised at all, and what response was given by the government to this ongoing cut off of internet and abuse in this area?
Amb Rycroft: It came up informally in our contacts with members of the Government of Cameron but as far as I recall it did not come up in any formal meeting, and I think that makes sense because we were going there to look at the threat to international peace and security, and Boko Haram, and related issues, but in private, informal discussions with ministers in the Government of Cameroon it came up and they gave us the benefit of their perspective on the issue.
Inner City Press: Is there any Security Council role that can be played in trying to preventively deal with this issue?
Amb Rycroft: I don’t think it’s an issue on our agenda per se, we keep our eye on our radar across the world, but we have to make a judgement about whether something is a threat to international peace and security, and at the moment, I think our judgement would be that issue is an issue that is confined within Cameroon without international aspects.

  But the UN Resident Coordinator does nothing about it, says nothing, blocks the Press. Inner City Press asked the UN's holdover deputy spokesman Farhan Haq, UN transcript here:

Inner City Press: the answer you sent about Mr. [Francois] Louncény Fall saying that he would raise issues to the authorities.  Can you say whether the issue of the internet being off in two provinces for 52 days has been raised?  And, secondarily, I wanted to ask you this.  You announced from this podium that Najat Rochdi is going to Central African Republic as Resident Coordinator.  What's the process to appoint a new Resident Coordinator for the UN system in Cameroon?  And is it… is it… is it… can it be public in any way?  It seems many people have complained that, while she was there, she never raised the Anglophone issue.  And, in fact, I found that she blocks Inner City Press on Twitter, so I'm unable to ask her why this issue has not been raised.  But what's the process to replace… and you can smirk, but should a UN official in their official account…?

Spokesman:  That's an unrelated thing.  I mean, obviously, all people… all individuals, not even just all UN officials, are free to block whoever they want on Twitter.  That's within their rights.

Inner City Press:  Including missions?  So you think a peacekeeping mission should pick and choose which media can follow it?

Spokesman:  Organizations will respond… are supposed to respond to press requests.  Individuals can do whatever they like with their Twitter accounts.

Inner City Press:  What's the process of replacing the Resident Coordinator in Cameroon?

Spokesman:  It's the same as in any other place.  There's a process that goes… that you go through, and the Resident Coordinator's selection process is supervised by the UN Development Programme (UNDP).

  This is at odds with the UN's claims to be transparent in its use of public money, and to be open to the press and impacted public, and will be pursued at Rochdi's next assignment at the UN in Central African Republic. But it raises the question: how are UN Resident Coordinators selected? Inner City Press reported on Ban Ki-moon's son in law Siddharth Chatterjee getting multiple promotion under Ban, including being named UN Resident Coordinator in Kenya by Ban himself. (Inner City Press was evicted by Ban's UN, and remains restricted under Ban's successor). But shouldn't Anglophone Cameroonians have some input into the UN's next Resident Coordinator in their country? This is a project for the Free UN Coalition for Access, @FUNCA_info. Watch these sites and feeds.

From the IMF's March 9 transcript:

"There is a question of Cameroon, from Matthew Lee, "After the Mission what is the status of talks for a program; and since the IMF cited civil unrest in the neighboring Central African Republic, please state the IMF's awareness of civil unrest and arrests in Northwest and Southwest Cameroon? And also known as the Anglophone areas, and their impact?"

So, the background here is, I think important the context. So, the Fund's engagement here in the CEMAC Region, CEMAC is the six Central African Economic nations that comprise the Central African Economic and monetary community. They met in Yaoundé on December 23rd. The Managing Director was there. And in that meeting, heads of state discussed the economic situation, the severe shocks that have hit that CEMAC region in recent years, including the sharp decline in oil prices, and decided to act collectively and in a concerted manner. And the heads of state requested the assistance of the IMF to design economic reforms needed to reestablish macroeconomic stability in each country and in the region as a whole.

So, again, context: I can tell you that the funders already sent missions to Gabon, Republic of Congo. And a reminder to you, that we already have programs with Central African Republic and Chad. Okay?

Now, we also have sent a mission to Cameroon, which is the question. And we did issue a press statement, which the question referred to, just on Tuesday. That was the Corrine Delechat reference.

So, the specific question, to turn to that. We are indeed aware of the events in the so-called Anglophone regions of Cameroon. The macroeconomic impact of any event that could affect production and/or consumption, is typically felt with a certain lag. So, these events started in November last year, and thus are likely to have not had a significant impact on production in 2016.

For 2017, the risks to our growth outlook include a combination of external and domestic factors, including continuation of the sociopolitical events in the northwest and southwest regions of Cameroon. And as our press release the other day indicated, our view is that the medium-term outlook for the Cameroonian economy remains positive, subject to the implementation of appropriate policies."

We'll have more on this. Watch this site.


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