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IMF Hands $268M of $1B to Uganda As Answers Inner City Press on COVID-19 Theft in Cameroon

By Matthew Russell Lee, Patreon Video
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FEDERAL COURTHOUSE, June 28 – When the International Monetary Fund held its biweekly embargoed press briefing on June 24, Inner City Press asked about crypto-currency and El Salvador, and institutions' attempts to stay relevant, and about COVID-19 lack of transparency in Cameroon, and the letter to the IMF by civil society (not Biya government) representatives there. IMF video and transcript forthcoming.  Spokesperson Gerry Rice responded on each. [And on Indonesia, below]

Now on June 28 on Uganda the IMF says, "On June 28, 2021, the Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) approved a 36-month arrangement under the Extended Credit Facility (ECF) for Uganda in an amount equivalent to SDR722 million (200 percent of quota or about US$1 billion) to support the post-COVID-19 recovery and the authorities’ plan to increase households’ incomes and inclusive growth by fostering private sector development.  Approval of the ECF arrangement enables immediate disbursement of about US$258 million, usable for budget support. This follows Fund emergency support to Uganda under the Rapid Credit Facility (RCF) in May 2020 of SDR361 million... At the conclusion of the Executive Board’s discussion, Mr. Tao Zhang, Deputy Managing Director and Acting Chair, made the following statement:  “Uganda’s economy has been severely impacted by the COVID-19 global pandemic, which reversed decade-long gains in poverty alleviation and opened up fiscal and external financing gaps. The authorities’ program, supported by a new arrangement under the Extended Credit Facility, focuses on keeping public debt on a sustainable path while improving the composition of spending and advancing structural reforms to create space to finance private investment, foster growth and reduce poverty." Bobbi Wine?

On June 24 Inner City Press asked, "what is the IMF's comment or response to analysts saying that the adoption of BTC might stop El Salvador from accessing a $1 billion program from the IMF. "The IMF expressed legal and economic concerns about the adoption. The president of El Salvador countered that his government had not only made its plan more than clear but said outside support would have been “nice” to have but “we really don’t need it."

For the IMF, Rice reiterated legal and financial concerns about crypto, and said that discussions with El Salvador about a program continue.

Inner City Press followed up, beyond El Salvador, on the critique that institutions like the IMF, and the Federal Reserve, are all for innovation as long as they would remain relevant. This one, Rice deftly sidestepped.  More to follow.

Inner City Press on Cameroon asked, among other things, "On Cameroon, what is the IMF's response to calls by human rights groups that the program(s) be specifically conditioned on ending corruption in COVID-19 procurement? The audit found, for example, that the government had bought 16 ambulances from the company for US$1,6 million and none had been delivered.  In light of these findings, 20 prominent Cameroonian women also urged the IMF not to approve any additional funding until those complicit in the corruption and mismanagement of the loans were held accountable." Will the $335 million just disappear into the ether?

The IMF's Rice noted the investigation, and said that beneficial owners of those given procurement contracts should be disclosed. He said the letter has been received and the IMF wants to meet with the women leaders. There was no direct response on accountability. Again, more to follow.

Inner City Press submitted a question on Indonesia: "On Indonesia, what are the IMF's comment or response now that the Supreme Audit Agency (BPK) has warned the government over a potential decline in its ability to service its increasing debt, after it hiked state spending in 2020 to finance economic stimulus measures as part of the national pandemic response. BPK chairman Agung Firman Sampurna said that interest payments on national debt relative to government revenue stood at 19.06 percent last year, much higher than the 7 percent to 10 percent recommended by the IMF."

Inner City Press later received this, from Gerry Rice: "We have not yet had an opportunity to review the BPK report. We are not in a position to comment on the IMF recommendation cited by you without having seen the report.  Let me use the opportunity to highlight our assessment of fiscal policy and public debt in Indonesia, as laid out in our latest Article IV report issued in February 2021, just a few months ago:  Ø  First, Indonesia has appropriately and forcefully responded to the pandemic. A bold and comprehensive policy package has prevented a more severe economic contraction in 2020, reduced economic and social hardship from the pandemic, and prepared the way for economic recovery.  Ø  Second, Indonesia bold response required higher budget deficits in 2020 and 2021. In our assessment, Indonesia has the fiscal space for temporarily higher deficits. The debt sustainability analysis presented in the Article IV report shows that Indonesia’s external and public debt remain moderate and sustainable.  Ø  Third, the government’s plan to return to the budget ceiling of 3 percent of GDP by 2023 is a welcome commitment to the fiscal rules. It should be backed by a medium-term fiscal strategy, which would help anchor expectations, and should include revenue measures.  Ø  Fourth, the IMF has long called for comprehensive revenue reform to improve and sustain revenue mobilization. A credible medium-term revenue strategy would be essential to enable higher spending on medium-to-long development while maintaining debt sustainability."

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Back on January 8 Inner City Press asked the IMF's Helge Berger, Mission Chief, about China's so-called Belt and Road Initiative: "Your Article IV report cites China's "overseas lending projects" amid "rising geopolitical tensions and economic and trade frictions." How does the IMF think that rising debt levels among African countries, and increased skepticism about the "Belt and Road" will impact or be addressed going forward? -Matthew Russell Lee, Inner City Press. Video here.

(An aside: Inner City Press has reported on the CEFC China Energy Fund Committee's activities in Chad and Uganda and in the UN, on which the UN is UNresponsive.)

Other questions included China's digital currency (Inner City Press also reports on crypto-currency cases in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York and elsewhere). Berger said when used overseas an issue is that residents could start using another country's currency, if it is easier.

We'll have more on this.


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