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IMF Holds Turkey Press Release for 18 Days Then Praises State Banks But Halkbank Not Mentioned

By Matthew Russell Lee, CJR PFT NY Post

NEW YORK CITY, Dec 27 – When the International Monetary Fund held its biweekly embargoed media briefing on November 7, Inner City Press submitted questions including on Equatorial Guinea, see below.

On December 27, the IMF issued a strange press release about an Article IV review of Turkey concluded 18 days before. Was there some editing (with the country) issue? And the release spoke of state owned banks but not Halkbank, sued criminally in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York for Iran sanctions violations. We'll have more on this. Here's from the IMF release: "On December 9, 2019, the Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) concluded the Article IV consultation with Turkey. [1]  In the wake of the global financial crisis, growth in Turkey became increasingly dependent on externally-funded credit and demand stimulus, and, as a result, Turkey’s economy began running above potential with a large current account deficit and high inflation. These imbalances left the economy susceptible to a change in market sentiment that ultimately triggered sizeable lira depreciation and was accompanied by a recession in late 2018.  Economic growth has since resumed, buoyed by expansionary fiscal policy, rapid credit provision by state-owned banks, and more favorable external financing conditions. The lira also recovered as market pressures abated. Import compression and a strong tourism season have contributed to a remarkable current account adjustment.  Inflation has fallen sharply, and the central bank cut policy rates by 1,000 basis points since July 2019. Inflation peaked at around 25 percent—five times the target—in October 2018 due, in large part, to high exchange rate passthrough and rising inflation expectations. But strong base effects, relative lira stability, and a negative output gap have since contributed to a steep inflation decline, although inflation expectations remain well above target.  Fiscal discipline, a longstanding policy anchor, has been gradually weakening. After declining for several years, the central government primary balance recorded a deficit in 2018, for the first time in almost a decade. Fiscal stimulus continued in the first half of 2019, in contrast to the consolidation planned in the late-2018 New Economy Program.  State-owned banks are supporting rapid credit growth. While private banks have cut back on their lending, state-owned banks have engaged in a major credit expansion which picked up pace in early-2019." Halkbank?  Shameful, but not as bad as UNSG Antonio Guterres' on Sutton Place in Manhattan while he bans Press from the UN and benefits from immunity despite links to convicted UN briber CEFC China Energy. The UN's failure to live up to the principles it preaches to others will bring it low.

On November 7 Inner City Press asked: "On Equatorial Guinea, what is the status (and dollar volume) of the IMF's consideration of a program, and the weighing if at all on the length of time Obiang has been in power? "The loan, the amount of which has not been revealed, is scheduled to be considered by the IMF executive board in December."

 From the IMF's November 7 transcript, with video on page: "There's another question from Matthew, which I'll take on Equatorial Guinea, asking what's the status and the volume of the IMF's consideration of a program for Equatorial Guinea and the weighing, if at all, length of time that President Obiang has been in power. On that, I can say that just recently on October 21st, the Equatorial Guinea authorities and an IMF team reached staff level agreement on a three-year arrangement. Again, under the extended Fund facility, which is the more concessional arm of the IMF's lending. The authorities are working on an agreed set of measures that could allow the new program to be considered by the IMF's Executive Board in December. And Matthew had asked about the volume. We're looking at the program that could be supported by approximately $280 million. So, that's four [sic] Equatorial Guinea.  And anything else in the room?"

On September 26 Spokesperson already then Gerry Rice,  for new Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva, on Turkey said "this is also from Matthew, he has asked ' On Turkey, what is the IMF's response to ruling AKP deputy chair Numan Kurtulmuş criticizing a meeting between IMF & opposition parties, saying Turkey has "closed the topic with the IMF."'

  Then Rice said it is normal to meet with opposition - except in Cameroon, apparently - and that there has been no indication from the Turkish authorities they are looking for a program.

  On September 12 Inner City Press asked the IMF: "On Zimbabwe, please confirm or deny IMF's Patrick Imam saying that "it is clear, compared to the projections of the original SMP, which did not foresee the severity of the drought and its secondary impact, nor the electricity shock, that growth is almost certainly going to be revised downwards and inflation upwards compared to the original SMP forecasts." And what is the IMF's view of the (economic) impact of the crack down on protest and human rights defenders?"

  Spokesperson Gerry Rice said that the IMF team is in Harare, from September 5 to 17. On human rights, he said the IMF "focuses on economics" and that such questions should be directed to... bilateral creditor. At least he didn't say the UN, which under Guterres doesn't care.

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