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IMF Talks Up Ukraine Program, On Libya No Answer, Of Yemen's Poor

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 19 -- At the International Monetary Fund's biweekly embargoed briefing on February 19,  Inner City Press asked IMF spokesperson Gerry Rice for the IMF's view of the economic impacts of the Libyan crisis on that country, the region and the world.  No answer was given.

  Instead, the IMF insisted that its assumptions for proposing over $17 billion to Ukraine would be met; Rice said the IMF's program has no "conditionality" about stopping or even slowing the war.

  Inner City Press also asked, twice, about Georgia, where "Economy Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili has said the country has approach the IMF for assistance to stabilize the Lari - can you confirm and what would be the next steps?" This was not answered either.

  Following up on Ghana, on which he answered last week, Rice said an IMF team is in Accra from today to February 26. Inner City Press had asked, "Ghana's head of IMF Negotiation Team Kwesi Botchway has said most of the issues with the IMF have been concluded and to expect action at the April 2015 IMF Executive Board meeting. Is that where things stand?"

  On Yemen, Inner City Press asked, "how does the ongoing political stand-off impact the IMF's program? Who are the IMF's interlocutors in Yemen at this time?" The interlocutor question was not answered. Rice took a question he said was from Yemen -- then corrected, "Saudi Arabia" -- and said the IMF is concerned about the poor.

  Amid a flurry of questions about Greece and a possible Grexit, Rice said, I'm wrapping it, it's a wrap. But the questions will continue.

* * *

 Previously, on February 5, Rice answered on the IMF's process in Ghana (and in Mongolia, see below).

  Inner City Press asked "In Ghana, President Mahama on Feb 3 said, 'Ghana is committed to securing an IMF programme and we are confident that we will reach agreement with the IMF by the end of this quarter.' What is the process / status at the IMF?"

  IMF spokesperson Rice said there has been "good progress," and mentioned "cleaning up the payroll" and "medium term reforms," as well as considering the impact of declining oil prices.

 On August 28, 2014 on Ghana Inner City Press had asked “Convention People’s Party chair Samia Nkrumah has said, 'It will be erroneous to accept the fact that IMF conditionalities could not be rejected since in 1965, Ghana, under the First President, Dr Kwame Nkrumah, rejected the proposal of the IMF when they recommended the sale of national assets such as factories in exchange for a loan.' What is the IMF's response?”

  Rice then said that the IMF team will be in Accra in September. Things have moved since then.

  On February 5 about Mongolia, Inner City Press asked, "what is the process forward on their request for an IMF stand-by arrangement? When will a visit to the country take place?"

  Rice replied, "The IMF has received a request from the Mongolian authorities to begin discussions of possible support to Mongolia. The IMF will be sending a team to Ulaanbaatar soon to initiate these discussions."

 The February 5 briefing began with drama and a guest: Christine Lagarde on Ebola, in English and French, taking two questions then out.

The IMF said, "subject to Board approval of requests from the individual countries, it is expected that the CCR trust would provide grants-for-debt relief of close to $100 million for the three countries affected by Ebola in West Africa –Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea. These funds would come in addition to the $130 million of assistance provided in September 2014 and to
a second round of new concessional loans amounting to about $160 million to be considered soon by the Executive Board."

 Lagarde said that one country, which she left unnamed, has made a commitment that they will be announcing. She cited non-Paris club members, naming only Russia as a creditor of Guinea. She said there'll be more at the G20 in Istanbul.

  After that, there were seven questions to Lagarde's spokesperson Gerry Rice about Greece -- he declined to comment on the ECB further squeezing Greece -- then two on Ukraine, where the IMF is said to be in line for only $6 billion of the $15 billion now requested. US John Kerry is in Kiev today, including on IMF. Then the Inner City Press two questions, and one not answered on Sri Lanka:

In Sri Lanka on bank consolidation, new Central Bank Governor Arjuna Mahendran has said “I have also asked the IMF to send some technical experts to look at these issues from an international perspective and they have agreed to do so.” Can you confirm that? Would it be in connection with IMF visit at the end of February?

  On Sri Lanka, which was not answered during the IMF briefing, the new government is cutting off payments to Lagarde's predecessor Dominique Strauss Kahn, who once out through the revolving door (of a Manhattan hotel) sold his services to the Rajapaksas. Any comment, or future safeguards, on that?

 After the briefing and expiration of the embargo there was this answer by Gerry Rice of the IMF: "“We have been discussing with the authorities a multi-faceted technical assistance mission on financial sector issues. Looking at financial system stability and supervision in the context of the ongoing consolidation process is one element. We are currently putting together a team to send to Colombo, but will discuss with the CBSL specific needs in the next week so that we can select the best experts and structure the mission. It will likely take place after the staff visit in February, as this is a separate, technical assistance exercise.”


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