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UN Throws NGO's Tax Body Mascot Out, Days After Threw ICP Files Onto 1st Ave

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 18 -- Amid the Panama Papaers and UN bribery scandals, now linked, Inner City Press went to the April 18 press conference of the Civil Society Organization, Financing for Development (FfD) Group.

 There, while the group's "Tax Body" globe mascot stood on stage, photo here, a UN staffer who participated in the eviction of Inner City Press' longtime UN office on April 16 (video here and here; petition here) came in and waited.

  After saying, "I am not reading your laptop," the staffer stepped forward and pulled the globe mascot off the podium.
  Inner City Press asked about it, and Tove Maria Ryding said the groups had an agreement with the UN that the mascot could be on the podium. But the UN is lawless. It is not the UN staffer's fault - this rot comes from the top.

 Inner City Press asked about the presence in the Panama Papers of Macau-based businessman Ng Lap Seng and his South South News, which paid money to the UN Correspondents Association then at the UN Ball at Cipriani's was given by UNCA a photo op with Ban Ki-moon.

  Moderator Stefano Prato answered about the corporate capture of the UN's public spaces - an apt description of UN DPI's Cristina Gallach letting Ng-funded Global Sustainability Foundation take over the Visitos Lobby for an event that broke UN rules. If you pay, you are invited. The Global Tax Body and investigative Press? Show them the door! More to follow.

In the run up to the Financing for Development conference in Addis Ababa, and the transition from the MDGs to the Sustainable Development Goals, Inner City Press on July 7 asked UN DESA's Wu Hongbo if corporate tax avoidance will be addressed in Addis, and how debt burdens impact funding for the MDGs, SDGs and development generally. Video here.

  Wu Hongbo, to whom Inner City Press was not called on to ask a question during his July 6 press conference about the MDGs, said the tax piece is under negotiation, and debt remains a problem.

On debt relief, since the Nepal earthquake, Inner City Press has been asking the International Monetary Fund if it would move to relieve the country's debt burden. Inner City Press resubmitted the question for the IMF's embargoed June 25 briefing, and during it, IMF spokesperson Gerry Rice read out the question and answered it. Transcript here; video here from 47:50.

  Inner City Press' question: "On Nepal, in the run up to the June 25 International Conference of Nepal’s Reconstruction, and with the World Bank announcing $500 million, is the IMF intending to do anything beyond the $50 million (one year) and $124 million (overall) in its response in the last briefing? Through the IMF's Catastrophe Containment and Relief Trust?"

  Rice said the IMF is represented at the conference in Katmandu -- contrary to some reports, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is NOT there -- and could be the request for the $50 M / $124 M to the Board in July. He emphasized this would be zero interest under the RCF but said Nepal is NOT eligible for the CCRT, GDP damage is not enough.

  Inner City Press would ask, should that threshold be lowered?

  On Jordan, Inner City Press asked: "On Jordan, having seen the IMF's announcement about the end of July, has there been any movement on the criticism by the head of UNHCR and others that the IMF and World Bank in treating Jordan (and Lebanon, etc) as “middle income” can't or don't do enough to provide support given the volume of refugees they have received?"

  Rice said, in essence, that the IMF has been flexible and has given fiscal space to deal with the refugee issues (we'll add the transcript later). 

  Back on June 11 Rice said that Nepal had made a request to the IMF under the Rapid Credit Facility, and that the IMF will send a mission to the country coinciding with the donors' conference on June 25. He said Nepal could be eligible for $50 million annually, for a total of $124 million. We'll see.

   Rice also answer questions Inner City Press submitted on Ghana's Eurobond and about Jamaica. (He said these questions, “from the UN in New York,” remind of other things in the IMF briefing room other than Greece and Ukraine).

  On Ghana, Rice said that the Eurobond was “envisioned” in the recently agreed program. But what is the status of any talks about it? Inner City Press asked, “Ghana's Minister of Finance, Seth Terkper, says the government intends to issue a $1 billion 10-year Eurobond in 2015. What are the status of talks with the IMF in this regard?”

  On Jamaica, Inner City Press asked, “On Jamaica, please comment on criticism that the percentage of people in under the poverty line has grown alongside the IMF's program and that 'last year, Jamaica paid the IMF over $136 million more than it received.'”

   Rice acknowledged that in 2014-15 there was a negative flow out of the country to the IMF, of $163 million. But he said with the new program that has reversed, to in-flow into Jamaica of $127 million in 2015-16, projected to rise to $176 million in 2017-18. Rice acknowledge the rise in the poverty rate from 9.9% in 2007 to 20% in 2012, but said this had to do with the global financial crisis and is the reason for the IMF's program. We'll see.

   Inner City Press had also asked for updates if any on Yemen and Burundi -- apparently there are no updates -- and one on a quote from Romania's National Bank Governor Mugur Isarescu saying the IMF's “communication has sometimes been problematic.” Still, three answers are appreciated.

  On Greece, for the record, Rice said there are major difference between us, with little to no progress made in narrowin them. On Ukraine, he said the IMF can lend to a country that has arrears to private creditors provided other conditions are met. Ukraine certainly has Western political support.


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