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IMF Grants Kenya $2.3 Billion As Inner City Press Asks of SDRs and Vaccine Disparities

By Matthew Russell Lee, Patreon Video
BBC - Guardian UK - Honduras - ESPN

SDNY COURTHOUSE, April 2 – When the International Monetary Fund held its biweekly embargoed press briefing on March 25, Inner City Press asked about Pakistan, Costa Rica and African finance ministers' comments on SDRs and COVID vaccines. Video forthcoming.  Spokesperson Gerry Rice responded on each, below.

Now on April 2 to Kenya, this: "On April 2, 2021, the Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) approved 38-month arrangements under the Extended Credit Facility (ECF) and the Extended Fund Facility (EFF) for Kenya in an amount equivalent to SDR 1.655 billion (305 percent of quota or about US$2.34 billion) to support the next phase of the authorities’ COVID-19 response and address the urgent need to reduce debt vulnerabilities.  Approval of the ECF/EFF enables immediate disbursement of about US$307.5 million, usable for budget support. This follows Fund emergency support to Kenya in May 2020 (100 percent of quota, equivalent to US$739 million at the time of approval, see Press Release No. 20/208).  Kenya was hit hard at the onset by the COVID-19 pandemic. With a forceful policy response, the economy has been picking up heading into 2021 after likely posting a slight contraction of 0.1 percent in 2020. Even with this recovery, challenges remain in the return to durable and inclusive growth, and past gains in poverty reduction have been reversed.  The COVID-19 shock also exacerbated the country’s pre-existing fiscal vulnerabilities. Kenya’s debt remains sustainable, but it is at high risk of debt distress....

At the conclusion of the Executive Board’s discussion, Ms. Antoinette Sayeh, Deputy Managing Director and Acting Chair, stated:  “The authorities’ program charts a clear path to reduce debt-related risks. It will bring the primary balance below its debt-stabilizing level during the EFF/ECF arrangements and restore tax revenue – which had been falling even before the COVID-19 shock – back to levels achieved in recent years. The authorities should continue to provide necessary support to the economy and secure space for social and development spending even as they have appropriately reversed some extraordinary measures, including the temporary tax cuts which ended in January, 2021."

Back on March 25, Inner City Press asked, "On SDRs to low-income and middle-income countries, African finance ministers noted that IMF’s PRGT should be considered for this, that funding the PRGT with SDRs could facilitate the acquisition of vaccines by low-income countries - what is the IMF's response and view?"

  The IMF's Rice among other things cited $24 billion since COVID hit, including "recycled" SDRs.

Inner City Press asked, On Costa Rica, what are the IMF's comments on and reactions to protests ats the government tries to eliminate hundreds of “pluses” / supplementary payments that it pays employees - "it is all at risk if the IMF bill gets greatly watered down in the face of protests, according to Fernando Losada, director of emerging market research for Oppenheimer & Co. Inc.  “Execution risks remain high,” Losada wrote in a note.  IMF?

  The IMF's Rice said the bill is supposed to be passed in May and would bring "equity" to public employments.

Inner City Press asked, On Pakistan, what is the IMF's role in and response to that the government has decided to raise electricity prices considerably over the next few years, which many attirbute to the IMF? It's said the federal government will have increased the price of electricity by Rs 4.6 per unit by the year 2023.  In the short term, electricity price is set to rise by Rs 2.55 per unit by June 2021."

 The IMF's Rice said the reforms are the decision of Pakistan authorities. Full transcript to follow.

   Back on March 11 in a question Inner City Press, given what it has reported on for the past three days was compelled to ask, it sent and asked, "On Honduras, given mounting evidence including in the trial of Geovanny Fuentes-Ramirez that high government officials are implicated in narco-trafficking, what are the IMF's comments on current programs and safeguards in place?"

  As noted, Spokesperson Rice said that IMF does not comment on (pending) judicial proceedings. At least he took the question.

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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.

Berger responded about the IMF's work to provide lower income countries "breathing space." He said while the IMF generally welcomes the BRI it stresses the need for transparency, where the money is going.

(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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