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ICP Asks IMF Saudi Mission Chief Tim Callen About Yemen Operation, Budget Pressure

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 9 -- On the International Monetary Fund's embargoed conference call about Saudi Arabia on September 9, Inner City Press asked the IMF's mission chief Tim Callen about the impact of the military operations on Yemen.

Callen told Inner City Press, "it's clear that the operations are going to have an impact. It's going to be one of the areas of pressure on the budget as we move forward as the operations proceed."

  Inner City Press asked about after-operation costs and Callen said the IMF hasn't considered these.

The underlying IMF Staff Report says only that "the cost of military operations in Yemen is uncertain at this juncture."

  The three other questioners on the call were, from Riyadh, Reuters and a newspaper, and from Washington, the Financial Times. No more was said about the military operations on Yemen.

  Back on April 17 at the IMF's annual meeting, Inner City Press asked, "On Yemen, given the fighting, airstrikes and uncertainly, any update on the IMF's first review? Any contacts with Hadi government or Houthis since March 26? What is the IMF's view of regional economic impacts?"

 The IMF's Masood Ahmed replied that the IMF's first review remains “on hold until political situation clarifiies and until we can then assess impact on economy.”

  He said “the impact of the  crisis and conflict in Yemen is first and formost humanitarian, the real cost is the human cost. The economy is contracting, oil production is 40% lower, public spending and review is 1/3 down, reserves are down 1/4 this year.”

   And so, Masood Ahmed of the IMF told Inner City Press, “so leads us to have our own small voice to call trying to find quickly a solution to ending the conflict in Yemen so the efforts the government was already trying to make last year to improve economic situation could be continued.”

  But what are the prospects of Hadi returning to power? Now the UN has removed Jamal Benomar as mediator, slated to be replaced by one chosen by Saudi Arabia. Is that sustainable?

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

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

   Back on January 22, Murray had answered Inner City Press that while events in Yemen were not helpful, the review was not until Spring. Now it is postponed indefinitely.

   On March 26, Inner City Press asked Murray if the IMF has had any contact with the Houthis. No, seemed to be the answer - certainly not in recent days, Murray specified.

   Murray declined a follow up question about the impact on oil markets. Now on April 17 Masood Ahmed has provided some figures.

 Also on April 17 Inner City Press asked the IMF, "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 damages.” Video here.

  He said the IMF is working on the “macro economic framework” which may trigger more financing from Australia, New Zealand and other IFIs like the ADB and World Bank.

     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.

  And so it goes.


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