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IMF Myanmar Answer to Inner City Press Seemed Positive But Things Are More Nuanced

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

SDNY COURTHOUSE, Nov 18 – When the International Monetary Fund held its biweekly embargoed press briefing on November 18, Inner City Press asked about post coup Myanmar, specifically:

"On Myanmar, since my question and the answers in previous IMF briefings, have the authorities in Myanmar provided anymore disclosure of where the IMF's million have gone? What steps are being taken by the IMF on this?"

  To this, IMF Spokesman Gerry Rice said that while the IMF has not recognized the new government - that step would require one half of the IMF's members' votes - the IMF wants the world to know that the government in control in Myanmar is, in fact, reporting data.

  Inner City Press followed up, asking if this answers seeming "positive" on the new government meant that it was complying with the reporting commitment of the previous, overthrown government. Rice chaffed at his answer being called positive, saying the IMF just tries to report facts. This will be on IMF video and transcript. For now, 4 minute podcast here.

  Within the constraints of the time between Rice's answer and the 10:30 am lift of the embargo, Inner City Press has found out a bit more. It seems the new government was angry at reports that it was not reporting any data, and was by implication stealing money.

  In fact, it is reporting some data, although even close observers troubled by development but eager to avoid more sanctions on Myanmar acknowledge there is a ways to go on the procurement data, beneficial ownership of payees and the like that is missing in Fund recipients like Cameroon.

 That said, it is pointed out that things were hardly a paradise of disclosure even under the Aung San Suu Kyi government, and that gets lost in much of the reporting.

Here is some of the cited reporting: Quarterly spending report. The COVID spending report for Q2 FY 20-21 (here) was published on September 23, 2021.

Annual audit report. The FY19-20 audited COVID-19 expenditure report (here) was published in August 2021.

Procurement information. Information on procurement of vaccines (until November 2021) has been published (here).

  Inner City Press is firing up its Google Translate to pour over those reports which have been issued by the government. The reporting issue is hardly likely to move the needle in terms of recognition of the regime. But it is not unlike the range of assessments of the Taliban government in Afghanistan. Apologist or propagandist, there should be an approach that is neither of these. Watch this site.

Back on November 4, Inner City Press asked the IMF about Ethiopia and Tigray, Chad and its Glencore debt, and the IMF's status with Zambia. Spokesperson Gerry Rice responded on each. Podcast here. Short video of Q&As on Twitter here.  IMF video here, transcript forthcoming.

   Answering on Ethiopia, Rice for the IMF said it is "difficult to move forward with program activities" at the moment. Can you say, Tigray? His answer on Chad did not include, as Inner City Press' question had, Glencore. And on Zambia there is not time frame, but talks begin today - virtually.

Back on September 16 Inner City Press asked Rice about crypto-currency legislation in Ukraine and again El Salvador, about the coup in Guinea and the role of the Venezuela talks in Mexico on release of the SDRs. YouTube of IMF video here.  Full transcript here.

Inner City Press asked, " what is the IMF's view of Ukraine's move to regulate crypto-currency? Also, the new legislation proposed in Panama, and the implementation of the El Salvador Bitcoin as legal tender bill?" When called on, Inner City Press added that Ukraine would use nuclear reactors' output for mining.

  Rice cited an upcoming virtual mission to Ukraine later this month, and said that on El Salvador, the talks are under Article 4, not for a program, as least at this point.

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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