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IMF Speaks on Iraq Budget Approval After Inner City Press Asked Of Corruption

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SDNY COURTHOUSE, Dec 24 – When the International Monetary Fund held its embargoed media briefing on December 3, Inner City Press posed questions including on Kenya and Mozambique, which got answered.

  IMF Spokesperson Gerry Rice read out two of Inner City Press' questions, see below.

  Now on December 24 on Iraq the IMF has this, from Tokhir Mirzoev, Mission Chief for Iraq:  “The COVID-19 pandemic and the sharp decline in oil prices and output have aggravated Iraq's economic vulnerabilities. Severe fiscal financing constraints and challenges with meeting external and domestic payment obligations, including wages and pensions, necessitate a decisive recalibration of economic policies to maintain economic stability.  “In this context, we welcome the Iraqi Council of Ministers’ approval of the draft 2021 budget, which, we understand, envisages important fiscal reforms. While difficult, these reforms, combined with the recently announced devaluation of the exchange rate, are critically important steps to help reduce Iraq’s large external and fiscal imbalances and ensure the country’s economic stability. The authorities’ plans to significantly increase targeted cash transfers to the poor as well as to enhance the health-related spending will be essential to mitigate the impact of the COVID crisis on the most vulnerable.  “While providing relief from immediate financial tensions, the authorities’ short-term plan will need to be followed up with further reforms, including deeper structural reforms, to strengthen economic resilience, create further fiscal space for critical reconstruction and social spending, and lay the ground for higher, job-rich and more inclusive medium-term growth. The IMF stands ready to support the authorities’ reform efforts at this challenging juncture.” We'll have more on this.

IMF's Rice on December 3: "On Kenya, the finance ministry says it is discussing a $2.3 billion lending program with the IMF, including an initial disbursement of $725 million from IMF in the first half of 2021. What is the status of talks and what is the IMF's view of the Standard Gauge Railway from Mombasa to Nairobi has a budget of a full Sh 327 billion, which some say indicates that the budget for this project was padded?"

 Rice said discussion are underway and it should go to the IMF Board in early 2021. He referred to an earlier IMF report on the railway - more on that in transcript, and video here.

 Rice also read out this, from Inner City Press: "On Mozambique, what is the impact on the IMF's approach of the decision by the EU on €100 million in direct support to the State Budget, with “monitoring and transparency” clauses? Does the IMF include similar clauses, in Mozambique and elsewhere?"

  Rice said yes, such clauses were included in the IMF's disbursement to Mozambique in April. Again, transcript here, video here.

 When the IMF  addressed Asia and the Pacific on October 20, Inner City Press attended and posed a number of questions. Now on October 21, here are two IMF answers:

Inner City Press Q: On Thailand, new BoT Gov. Sethaput Suthiwartnarueput said the country's economy faces severe shocks from the pandemic, with a recovery expected to take at least two years. What is the IMF's view? 

Answer from IMF Thailand team: Thailand’s economy has been extensively affected by the Covid 19 pandemic through its impact on tourism and global value chains. The IMF’s October 2020 WEO projected a GDP contraction of about 7 percent this year followed by a 4 percent recovery in 2021. The recovery is expected to be gradual given the continued challenges for the tourism sector and highly uncertain path of the pandemic. Staff supports the authorities’ multi-pronged package of monetary, fiscal and financial policies to manage risks from the pandemic outbreak and to
safeguard financial stability.

Inner City Press Q: What is the IMF's response to that Indonesia Investments' MD van der Schaar says the IMF expects to see a rebound for Indonesia in 2021, back above 5% (y/y). "My problem is that these optimistic outlooks are based on the availability of a COVID-19 vaccine in early 2021. However, based on what I read, it takes years to develop a safe and effective vaccine."    

Answer from the IMF Indonesia team: Our growth forecasts are not predicated on the assumption that a vaccine will be available in early 2021. They are based on the assumption that the pandemic situation will gradually improve and that the economic reopening continues. More economic sectors will recover further and operate at greater capacity as a result. Together with an improving external environment, the further reopening will result in a rebound in economic activity. In addition, a technical factor is an important reason why annual growth in 2021 is forecast to be somewhat higher than the growth around 5 percent seen in recent years. The technical factor, or base effect, reflects the contraction in real GDP in the first half of 2020. 

 Inner City Press has also asked, "On Sri Lanka, what is the IMF's view on news that Sri Lanka intends to turn to China for a loan and the analysis thatthst confirms China 'as lender of the last resort to the strategically located South Asian island nation(s)'?"    

When the IMF addressed sub Saharan Africa on October 21, Inner City Press posed questions on Cameroon and on Cote d'Ivoire.

Inner City Press asked the IMF's Abebe Aemro Selassie, Director, African Department: "On Cameroon, in light of the October 21 announcement of additional COVID-related aid, what safeguards are in place to engage a lack of corruption in distribution, and to prevent the torture which many human rights groups allege?"

  His answer involved assurances that the beneficial owners of companies getting government contracts, for COVID and otherwise, should be made public. Video here.

  Inner City Press also asked about Cote d'Ivoire, where IMF alumni Ouattara is running for a third term. The answer was largely praising Cote d'Ivoire economic diversity. Here's the transcript.

 Earlier in the week, Inner City Press asked the IMF: "What is the IMF's assessment of the turmoil in Kyrgyz Republic? Can or will the IMF to do anything to assist, including on continued COVID-19 response as well as debt to China / Eximbank?"  

His answer, interim video here, recounted the IMF's pre-turmoil assistance to Kyrgyzstan. here

 Inner City Press also asked, "On Yemen, what is the status of the use of the new riyal banknotes printed by the Central Bank in Yemen, and any actions taken by the IMF?" and, when called on by video for a follow-up, about the Nagorno Karabakh conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia.  Video on YouTube here.

  On the latter, Jihad Azour cited the IMF's Technical Assistant center set for Almaty, Kazakhstan and said the IMF joins in calls for a ceasefire (which have been mouthed by but not followed up on by the UNresponsive UN). We'll have more on this.


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